Soo Locks visitors will see more than $100,000 in improved lock model displays in the coming years thanks to local partner support and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Handshake Partnership Program.
Currently, the park features two original 3-D models dating back to 1893 and 1912, showing locks built on the facility over 100 years ago. The models sit in concrete and glass cases with cracked panes and openings in the bases allowing air, moisture and insects to get inside.
The oldest model was built to test the original Poe Lock plans in 1893 as evidenced by a photo discovered by Chief Park Ranger Michelle Briggs while working with historic photos.
“I was doing some research when I found a photo dated March 1893 of the workmen posed with the model of the original Poe Lock, which I recognized from the park,” Briggs said. “I am sure this model was finished shortly after the picture was taken since one of the workmen is still holding a paint brush.”
The other model was built in 1912 to test plans for the Davis and Sabin Locks, twin locks currently being replaced by a second Poe-sized lock.
The historic models will be conserved, repairing original pieces as much as possible and accurately replicating all others. Archival paints will protect the models and match the colors of features at the Soo Locks. New, airtight cases with domed safety glass will further protect the historic models while allowing visitors to see them, Briggs explained.
The plan also calls for adding a new 3-D model to the displays. The new model will give a bird’s eye view of the entire Soo Locks facility including the second Poe-sized lock currently under construction.
“One of the most important parts of this project is adding interpretive exhibit panels with each model. The exhibits will share the history of each model and the locks they depict to help visitors better understand how the locks work as well as the history of this National Landmark facility,” Briggs noted.
This project was possible through a Handshake Partnership program within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that provides funds for projects with strong public support to improve Corps parks and natural resources. Briggs worked with the Soo Locks Visitor Center Association (SLVCA), to identify and recruit project partners in the community and throughout the region.
The SLVCA and area partners raised more than $83,000 in funds and in-kind services toward the project. Briggs then competed for ‘gap’ funds through a lengthy application process showing the value of the project and partners’ commitment to improve visitor experiences at the Soo Locks. The application was one of 13 Handshake Partnership Program winners, adding an additional $25,000 for the project.
“This project shows that the Corps, the community and regional stakeholders can work together to preserve and share the history of the Soo Locks with the hundreds of thousands of people that visit each summer,” Briggs said.
To find more information on the Soo Locks, visit the Detroit District Website: www.lre.usace.army.mil.