Editor’s note: This is the 29th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON — When the first settlers arrived in the Ohio River Valley they found a river that, as one settler famously described it, seemed in some places “a mile wide and a foot deep.” Travel on the river was possible only when heavy rains or snow melt provided a surge of water. When steamboats debuted on the river, they often had to tie up for days or even weeks awaiting a surge of high water.
Following the Civil War, river traffic - especially coal shipments - dramatically multiplied. After studying how to produce a reliable navigation depth on the Ohio, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that building a system of locks and dams to form pools of water was the best solution.
The 1895 construction of the Davis Island Lock and Dam on the Ohio at Avalon, Pennsylvania, proved the idea was workable, and so in 1910 Congress authorized construction of 50 small locks and dams along the length of the river. Thanks to political bickering and funding delays, it was 1929 before all 50 were completed.
One of the 50 was Lock and Dam No. 28, located on the Ohio between West 26th Street in Huntington and the community of Sybene in Ohio, as shown in this vintage postcard.
Beginning in the 1940s, as steamboats were replaced by powerful diesel-powered towboats, it became clear the network of small dams ultimately would need to be replaced by larger dams that would create longer and deeper navigable pools. And that’s exactly what happened. As new larger dams were built, the old dams were no longer needed and so were demolished.
When the massive Greenup Locks and Dam was completed at Greenup, Kentucky, in 1962, it eliminated any need for the four small dams located just upstream from it. And so Dams No. 27, 28, 29 and 30 were demolished.
With the demolition of Dam 28, the facility’s former powerhouse (the large red brick structure on the Ohio side of the river) was turned into a senior center.
For more Lost Huntington stories, visit www.Herald-Dispatch.com. Click on “News,” then “Lost Huntington series.”