Monday, June 24, 2013

Abandoned Lock and Dam Valve House, Leavenworth, Indiana

Abandoned but largely intact, this old building in Leavenworth, Indiana was the valve control house for the now demolished Dam 44.  Built to withstand flooding and hard use, this structure has survived nearly forty years of neglect.

Built in 1925, the dam 44 complex was one in a series of around 50 dams that ran along the length of the Ohio River,  Designed and run by the government, each of these dams and their connected locks would be responsible for controlling the depth of the nearby river.  These efforts kept the river navigable, and also helped limit floods along the river.

An aerial view of Dam 49 near Mount Vernon, Indiana.  Each lock in the series was projected to cost a little less than two million the 1920s.
The building for Dam 34 in Chilo, Ohio.  Unlike the one in Leavenworth, this structure has been preserved as a museum, showing off the riverfront heritage of the region.  While red colored on the outside, the interior of this building is made of the same yellow brick as the one in Leavenworth.  (Picture from the website below)

Another view of the building at Leavenworth.  The setting sun gives the building an especially dark look.  The fence is cosmetic only, the distant side having been partially cut away.
Located on the ground floor, this steam boiler is the first thing you see upon walking in.  It was apparently intended to power or heat something on the second floor, making the dam and lock system somewhat energy independent.
The steam or water would've traveled up to the second floor through these pipes.
A side shot of the large steam engine or pump located on the second floor.  Sadly, every window in the building is broken, those in the background being no exception.

The same engine, shown from a different angle.  The large grooved wheel probably held a belt of some kind.
A close up of the crankshaft for the engine.  The two connection rods run to pistons located inside the motor.  The large S shaped piece would be rotating at high speed when it was running.

Rockwood Manufacturing, located at 1926 English Avenue, in Indianapolis Indiana made this motor and pulley system.  Their primary business was manufacturing equipment such as this.  Indiana corporation records indicate that the business was dissolved in 1987.  Nothing remains at its former location up in Indy. 
A water container and its stand, also on the second floor.  Graffiti covers nearly every available surface of the interior.
While not readily apparent from this photo, this large bay window actually overlooks the river.  From this exact spot those in charge of this facility would've observed and controlled traffic along their section of the river. 
The same bay window, as seen from the front.  This set of stairs runs all the way down to the river, much like the building at Chilo show above.  The white and black line, painted to the left of the door, is for measuring the floodstage of the river.
The effort put into some of the graffiti is beyond explanation.  Each one of these faces appears to be hand done, as no two are the same size or shape.  Had this same effort been expending elsewhere on the building, it wouldn't be featured on the website today.  While the concrete and brick can endure a great deal, it is the wish of the authors that this place be restored before anything more than paint and windows are required.
A final departing shot of the valve house.  Dam 44, like all of the others in the series were shut down and replaced in the 1960s and 1970s in a "modernization" project.  One lock and dam, located in Cannelton Indiana replaced the three upstream from it, including Dam 43 at Pilcher Landing, Kentucky, Dam 44 in Leavenworth Indiana, and Dam 45 in Addison, Kentucky.  Upon closing, most of the dams were removed with explosives and heavy equipment, dramatically ending this period of river history.

For further reading, check out this interesting site on the history of the locks and dams located along the Ohio River.  Lock and Dam 52 History


  1. My grandpa worked there and retired from there before the dam was taken out.

  2. In the 1950's our parents would take us to Leavenworth for picnics.
    Great memories.

  3. I've been there and it's really neat to me. I explored it with my mom because we live in the area