US Army Corps of Engineers
Savannah District Website

Architecture of the Dam

On June 26, 1937, the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam was officially dedicated after three years of construction. The architecture of the dam is utilitarian with few architectural details. The operations building featured an understated modern style, including minimized engaged Doric pilasters and a smooth tapered design. The tapered design can also be seen in the piers of the dam separating the five lift gates.

The lock and dam was constructed to make commercial navigation of the river easier. Even after the lock opened, demand for its services never arrived. Traffic peaked in the 1960s, as railroads and highways replaced rivers for business transportation. Commercial navigation of the lock stopped in 1979.

Workers operated the lock and dam from inside this building. The lock’s mechanical equipment was housed on the upper story of the operation building in case of high water. The building features a curvilinear east elevation, while the west elevation mimics the smooth tapered design of the gate piers. It was constructed in a Modern Style, as seen in the minimal architectural features, except for the engaged Doric pilasters, frieze, and triglyphs, 1935. Operation building, 2020.
The dam was constructed on wooden piles with an interlocking steel sheet pile driven into the clay under the site. It is classified as a movable type dam, which means that the water is released under the dam, by the lifting the gates. There are five lift gates that stop debris and allow for easy water release. This image shows the operation building on the left and the future dam on the right, 1935. Operation building and the dam and lift gates, 2020.
The lock chamber is located on the Georgia side of the river and measures 56 feet wide and 360 feet long with a vertical lift of 15 feet. Upstream side of the lock gates, 1935. The upstream lock gates, 2020.
Diagram of lock and dam
How much material built this lock and dam