Historical Photos

Col. Charles Gratiot, Chief Engineer, Detroit District 1817-1818. He later served as the Chief Engineer for USACE from 1828-1838.
A nearly complete Davis Lock in 1914. The lock opened for business in October that year. To the right you can see very early work on the Sabin Lock which opened five years later in 1919. These two were the longest locks in the world when they opened.
The Lake Michigan Area Office in Grand Haven sits on the spot where in 1911, land was acquired by the U.S. government.
There were minimal structures on site, but a frame building on the one acre site was eventually used as a carpenter shop.
In 1925, a floating plant moved a one story frame field office building “The Sheboygan House” and a warehouse building from Sheboygan, Wisconsin via barges to the Grand Haven, Michigan site. Built in 1836, “The Sheboygan House”, Sheboygan’s first hotel, was used as the facility manager’s home with office / warehouse buildings nearby. Until the 1930s just about all federal navigation structure construction and repair, along with dredging was performed by government plant and hired labor in the Grand Haven area.
January 28, 1896, crews were busy at the Soo Locks finishing up the new 800-foot-long Poe Lock. The Lock is named for Orlando Poe, commander of the Detroit District who oversaw construction of this lock as well as several distinctive lighthouses on the Great Lakes. Poe died a few months before this photo was taken as a result of injuries he sustained while inspecting the work.

Detroit District 175th Anniversary

In 2016, the Detroit District celebrates 175 years of public service to the Great Lakes region.  The Detroit District continues to provide essential navigation, engineering, water management, ecosystem restoration and construction services to support the economy and environment of the Great Lakes region.

Detroit District Historical Timeline

1820 -- The Treaty of the Sault was signed by Native Americans in the Sault Ste. Marie area and the American government, represented by Michigan Territory Governor Lewis Cass, giving 16 square miles for a military reservation.

1822 -- The United States, in order to preserve peace along the new northern border established a fortification at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. by Col. Hugh Brady with a contingent of infantrymen. Known as Fort Brady it was constructed on the edge of an old common campground at the base of the rapids.

1841 – The Topographical Engineers along with the Great Lakes Survey grew to be known as the Detroit District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

1841 -- Fort Wayne authorized to be built on the Detroit River at the foot of Livernois Avenue.

1881 –On June 6, ownership of the St. Marys Falls ship canal passed from the state to the federal government. On September 4, the first vessel, the steamer City of Cleveland, passed through the new lock eventually called the Weizel lock.

1886 -- The Duluth District was established in 1886, but in May 1955, the Duluth District was consolidated with the St. Paul District and made an Area Office under St. Paul District.

1896 – a new lock, under construction since 1887, is completed in 1896 and called the Poe Lock.. It was named after Colonel Orlando M. Poe, Detroit district engineer (1870-1873 and 1883–1895)

1906 -- The original United States power plant at St. Marys Falls was constructed in 1906-07 adjacent to and north of the navigation locks as part of the federal project for improvement of the St. Marys River.

1908 -- Construction of the third lock, or Davis Lock, began in1908 and was completed in 1914. The fourth lock, the Sabin Lock, began in 1913 and was completed in 1919.

1911 – The Lake Michigan Area Office in Grand Haven sits on the spot where the land was acquired and buildings placed by the federal government. This location was used by U.S. Engineer Department floating plant crews for repair work and storage.

1943 -- MacArthur Lock was officially opened to traffic on July 11,

1943 -- despite sub-zero temperatures during the winter of 1942-43

1968 – Second Poe Lock completed.

1980 – Duluth Area Office and the field offices in Appleton and Kewanee become part of the Detroit District as part of a USACE wide realignment.

1999 - Longest continuous stretch of below average water levels on Lake Michigan-Huron begins, lasting 15 years

2001 -- Fort Wayne Flood control project was completed

2004 -- Fox Locks turnover, the largest locks/land transfer in Corps history

2013 – In January, Lake Michigan-Huron set a record low monthly mean water level surpassing the previous record low occurring in 1964.

2013 -- Cat Island project completed where three islands were constructed for the placement of dredged material from the Green Bay navigation channel. These islands restored and protected more than 1,000 acres of wetlands that were destroyed in the 1960s.

2014 - Lake Michigan-Huron rises above average in September for the first time in 15 years and by December completes the 2nd fastest 2 year water level rise in recorded history.