Henry River Mill Village
Henry River Mill Village is a small textile village in Burke County, North Carolina. It is an important remnant of the change in American lifestyle from an agrarian society to an industrial society. It is the most intact and unaltered example of an early industrial environment in Burke County. Today the remaining buildings of the Henry River mill village speak eloquently of the industrial heritage of Burke County, North Carolina.
Built as a planned community, Henry River Mill Village was a self-contained complex with its own mill, dam, water and fire-protection systems, and company store. In later years the village gained amenities such as walkways, terraced green spaces, and field stone retaining walls. Today most of the village's original buildings remain sited along a small gorge of the Henry River, just west of Catawba County, North Carolina. The site is private property but can be driven through via Henry River Road. It is located a short distance from Interstate 40 via Exit 119 which is named the Henry River exit.
In 1904 Michael Erastus Rudisill laid out the mill and village on a 1,500-acre tract, chosen for its hydro power potential. Rudisill, along with his brother Albert Pinkney Rudisill, built the village and engineered the dam and mill building along with David William Aderholdt, Miles R. Rudisill, and Marcus Lafayette Aderholdt. The mill was incorporated as the Henry River Manufacturing Company. The company manufactured fine cotton yarns. Beginning in 1905, a 30-foot reinforced concrete dam was constructed with a three-story brick mill building. In its early years, the mill operated 4,000 yarn-making spindles. By the time it shut down in the late 1960s, the mill had 12,000 spindles and produced fine combed yarn for lace. The mill building burned in 1977.
The residential area of the village consisted of approximately 35 small worker's cottages. Twenty-one are still standing today. These 1-1/2 story duplex houses were laid out along the steep contours of the river's northern bank. The workers lived in boarding houses or workers' cottages built by the company, which were leased at nominal fees.
Around 1907 the four mill owners, the Rudisills and the Aderholdts, built new homes for themselves just outside the village. Although one burned in 1935, three of the four houses are still standing today.
Since the loss of the main mill building, the centerpiece of the village today is the two-story brick company store building. This building served as a mill office with the upper floor used as a school room and for church services from 1907-1917.
In 1912 a steel truss bridge engineered by the Rudisills was built across the Henry River. When built, it was reputed to be the highest bridge in the state. During the 1916 flood this bridge was one of the few not destroyed. In 1960 a new concrete bridge replaced the steel truss bridge.
The Henry River Mill originally ran on waterpower. In 1914 a steam plant was installed then in 1926, the mill was converted to electric power. The mill was closed for several years and was purchased by Wade K. Shepherd in 1976. Equipment and materials were stored in the mill building when it burned in 1977.
The mill and village are designated to the North Carolina Study List of the National Register of Historic Places. Late in 2002, through the Burke County Partners in Economic Development's Heritage Preservation Committee, efforts began to explore development of the historic site for the benefit of all Burke County citizens. Early in 2003, the formation of a Henry River Mill Village Committee has begun looking into working with the property owner to devise ways of preserving the mill village intact. Suggested uses for the Henry River mill village have been as a residential community, as a restored historic mill site, or as a cultural heritage center showcasing artisans of North Carolina and their crafts.
The presence of the site on the North Carolina Register Study List put it one step closer to eligibility for North Carolina and Federal tax credit programs. The property can be developed for commercial or private uses. Using preservation covenants and following the Secretary of Interiors standards for restoration, buyers can take advantage of either 40% commercial tax credits or 30% private tax credits. The PEG's Heritage Preservation Committee is actively working to encourage interest.
The Hunger Games
The 72 acre village was used as the filming location of many scenes of the 2012 film The Hunger Games, which itself was filmed entirely on location in North Carolina. Henry River Mill village was the site of filming for the movie film production Artemis, which is the working title for the movie based on the novel The Hunger Games. The novel is part of a trilogy of books from author Suzanne Collins.
The town lost its textile economic base in 1987 and is currently for sale for $1.4 million, with the 87 year old owner of the village complaining of too many visitors, saying "I'm just bombarded with people."
A book about the town and its people—Henry River Mill Village—written by Nicole Callihan and Ruby Young Keller is published by Arcadia Publishing in July 30, 2012.
- Mickie Vacca, "Voice of the Foothills" Newspaper, February 2003
- Lauren Williamson, The News Herald, Morganton, NC—March 27, 2005
- Sharon McBrayer, Hickory Daily Record, Hickory, NC - May 9, 2011