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Lock House Renovation Nears Completion
Creating Living History
The Fox-Wisconsin waterway was meant to be the major route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. The river proper was unfit for navigation because of the raging rapids to be found in the Lower Fox portion of the route. Canals were built around these rapids, hydropower dams were constructed to harness the energy provided by mother nature, and locks were constructed to make it possible for boats to “step down” the steep drop. The locks were built in the late 1800’s to accommodate major shipping vessels as they made their way to the Gulf.
These historic locks and the adjacent lock houses, that gave shelter to the men who operated the system, still remain today. As the set of 17 locks are getting closer and closer to being completely operable once again, the houses are asking to come alive as well.
But what to do with them? Through experience, we know that historic house museums do not pull in the visitors like they used to, and so we are introducing a preservation concept that is not only sustainable, but will help bring additional economic activity to this area.
The Parkway will be providing the public with a comfortable, inviting, and historically authentic lodging facility along the river, in which individuals and families may experience what it was like to be a lock tender on the Lower Fox River in the 1930s.
The furnishings, the appliances, even his uniform in the closet and his log book on his desk, will make you sure that he still is alive and well and living in this house. He must have just left for the weekend and was kind enough to give you a place to sleep. And at other times, area school groups will come and visit and experience the lock tender’s way of life as well.
With strong support from Wisconsin’s State Historic Preservation Office, the Parkway is restoring the first of several homes to its original glory. This home is located in Little Chute, a small Dutch Village in the Fox Cities area of Northeastern Wisconsin.
The home is adjacent to one of only two hand-operated lock systems still working in the U.S. Inside, interpretive exhibits illustrating the stories of the river will be on display to help bring the stories to life. Descriptions of why the system was constructed in the first place, its significance to the state and the nation, as well as the challenges faced, will be woven into the overnight experience.
September 2016 Update
The house is completed! We hope to host you in our lock house very soon! Visit our posting to see availability and pricing. (Hint: Parkway members receive great discounts!)
September 2015 Update
Progress has started again – we are in the process of stripping the maple hardwood floors! And completing the rest of the finishing work around the interior doors and windows. We are still on track for an opening date of May 2016. We are saving the first month or so of rentals for the volunteers and donors that have made this project possible. But we are planning a fundraiser/ sneak peek/ thank you event in early November. We will post details soon.
May 2015 Update
It is coming time to do the finish work on the house, believe it or not! Putting the final clear coat on the newly stained woodwork, putting in the trim and the base boards, placing another railing, getting a shorter faucet for the kitchen sink so the water doesn’t flood the floor, redoing the stairs to the second floor.
And putsy work – finding all the various pieces needed for full operation of the windows, hanging lights, installing the push button switches, buffing the wood floors.
Our volunteers are being pulled in their summer directions, and our goal of being ready to open in May of 2016 looks like it is going to require hiring out some of this last labor. Please consider a donation to help us finish up this labor of love.
The Lock House at Little Chute has talented volunteers gifting hours upon hours to it, bringing the actual monetary need down by tens of thousands of dollars. We have been truly fortunate in the community that has risen around this project.
A big thank you to: Rebuilding Together for helping us paint and landscape, Faith Technologies for donating the electrical work, Tri City Glass & Door for donating half of the window glazing, and JJ Magge for donating a dumpster!
March 2015 Update
We have been gifted being part of Rebuilding Together’s Project Day! Dozens of volunteers will be at the house May 9th to paint and landscape. We are more appreciative and grateful than we can express!
Add to that a group of volunteers from Coca Cola! They are going to come April 25th to strip the remaining woodwork that is around the doorways. Our regular volunteers, who worked for months on stripping the windows, are thrilled for this help!
We just received the estimate for insulation, and it is quite a bit more than we expected – over $7,000 due to some unique construction issues. We are putting a call out for donations for that, in a very timely way so we are still able to have the walls ready to paint May 9th.
But we are getting close – estimated date of rehab being finished is June 1. Then it is on to furnishings ……
January 2015 Update
We are making great progress, despite the cold. 5 windows are in place, radiators are all painted, walls behind the radiators are washed, plastered, painted and ready for the radiators to return to their rightful place. We are raising money to put the insulation in the attic, place the rest of the windows (didn’t quite meet our end of November goal, more to do than we planned on – always!) and then the heating system will be hooked up again and the boiler fired up. We are well on track for structure to be finished by fall of this year. Stay tuned! Here are some views from inside the house, looking out.
November 2014 Update
We have completed the stripping and refinishing of all the windows. Half of the windows have been glazed and are back home, the other half of the windows are being glazed at this time. We were in need of some antique glass for the second batch of windows. Another miracle happened and we found most all of the glass we needed from a house remodel job down in the Milwaukee area. It was so unusual to find the size of glass we needed on such short notice, not to mention at the time we needed it…and the best part was….they donated it all to us!!! Another BIG thank you!!! We are working towards our goal of having the windows in their frames by the end of November.
The radiators have been removed and are being sanded and repainted.
Excitement mounts as we have been fortunate to be collecting some of the furnishings for the house already. We have had a kitchen table, a Hoosier cabinet, a tin cake/bread box and a metal bed donated to us. How awesome is that???
We got some GREAT prices on a gorgeous 1930’s refrigerator that has been restored as well as a wonderful stove. We couldn’t be happier to see how everyone is pulling together to get this home back to livable condition. It is so exciting to watch the progress!!! Thanks everyone for all your help and donations! We couldn’t do this without you!
It actually is beginning to feel like Christmas. Once the heat and plumbing are completed, we could actually spend a night and watch for Santa!!
The Parkway purchased 42 antique doors and wood molding from a 1920’s dormitory that was part of a teachers college in Union Grove Wisconsin. These doors will now be present at each house, ushering people to step into the history that each house holds. And can you believe they each still had their original skeleton key? Along with the doors and wood molding, the Parkway has also acquired four claw foot tubs, 6 sinks, and push button light switches. All of the items will help to set the tone for these one of a kind pieces of history.
If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about the house, the locks, or the lock tenders, please contact us.
If you are already a fan of the Lock House at Little Chute and would like to help out, a little or a lot, please use the donate button below.