In the 1910s the Louisville office of the Army Corps of Engineers began construction of a series of small, low-level, navigation dams along the Ohio River. As part of this effort, Lock and Dam 38 was built in McVille beginning in 1926. Boone County residents welcomed the construction jobs, although the presence of African-American workers from other areas of the state caused some racial tension. The dam also flooded some farmland and a small island used for picnics and camping.
In addition to the dam itself, the complex included four bungalow dwellings for workers, a lock house, storage buiildings and a water tank. The dam site soon became a popular gathering place for local residents, who liked to sit on benches, enjoy the cool river breezes and watch pleasure boats “locking through” the dam.
During the 1960's the small dams of the 1910's and 1920's were replaced by largher and more sophisticated structures. When the high-level Markland Dam was finished in 1962, Lock and Dam 38 was blown up; only a concrete walkway and small jetty now mark its place. The dam buildings were then turned into a boys' home, then a women's prison and halfway houses. Dam construction also raised the river level from a pool of 16 to 26 feet, leaving the Front Streets of Belleview and McVille underwater.