Committee searches for dam information
By Frank Ruggiero
The town of Boone needs some dam information.
In its attempt to place a historical marker at one of Boone’s most historic sites – the old New River Light and Power Company dam – the Boone Greenway, Parks and Gardens Committee has come up dry.
The dam, located on the present day Greenway trail, between the second and third bridges, supplied energy to Appalachian Training School from 1915 to 1924.
Remains of the stone housing that held the generator can still be found, and old support planks can still be seen underwater. The dam’s history, however, is a bit less clear, and the committee is turning to the public for help.
In particular, the committee is seeking information from people who may have worked at the dam or have memories of its construction or time in operation.
Saul Chase, committee chairman, said the intent is to install a marker overlooking the site, featuring historical information about the dam, as well as a photograph.
“We have some decent photos, but we’re hoping to get a better one that we could include in the marker,” Chase said.
In addition to the marker, Chase said that overgrowth surrounding the old generator building will be cleared and a small fence installed. The building was constructed of native stone and cement to house a rope-driven generator. Copper transmission lines connected the dam with the campus, along with six local residents.
The Aug. 26, 1915 edition of the Watauga Democrat reads, “The electric lights make the campus almost light as day these nights; both dormitories (Newland Hall and Lovill Home) are well lighted and the lights have been turned on in the administration buildings.”
The flood in July 1916 destroyed the machinery and weakened the dam, and power was lost for two weeks.
The elements struck again on March 23, 1923, when fire gutted the plant and totaled the machinery.
By July 1923, the structure had been repaired and operations resumed, though work had begun on a new plant on the Middle Fork of the New River. By Oct. 30, 1924, the new plant began operations.
With the new plant in operation, the South Fork dam was to be destroyed for safety precautions, but with its sound building, the dynamite reportedly blasted only several holes in the structure – just enough for water to pass through.
Those who know more about the dam and its history, or those who have photographs of the dam, should contact Saul Chase at (828) 264-9269.