By Eric Plaag, Chairman of Boone Historic Preservation Commission
The Town of Boone Historic Preservation Commission is pleased to note that August 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the electrification of Boone by the New River Light and Power Company.
In 1915, New River Light and Power built the Power House structure located on the west side of the South Fork of the New River, as well as its associated dam and an anchoring structure located on what is now private land on the east side of the river. This first hydroelectric dam in Boone, commissioned by Dr. Blanford Barnard Dougherty, the first president of Appalachian Training School, powered a 75-kilowatt rope-driven generator. In August 1915, the dam began generating power for Appalachian Training School and six residences in Boone. This generating station and dam was the principal source of electrical power in the area for nine years, until October 1924, when NRLP opened a new generating plant on the Middle Fork of the New River to replace the overburdened one built in 1915. Soon after, NRLP dynamited the South Fork dam, although evidence of it is still visible in the riverbed.
The ruins of the Power House are located on the Greenway Trail about 1,000 feet due south from the footbridge crossing the river at the water treatment plant. A protective fence and an interpretive marker were installed at the ruins of the Power House several years ago. The Historic Preservation Commission, meanwhile, is presently studying the ruins and their history with several interested citizens and hopes to explore cooperative strategies for further preservation of the site with the Town of Boone, Appalachian State University, and New River Light and Power.