Built for the People
In its early days, TVA valued form as well as function. It even hired a staff artist, Robert Birdwell, to capture its work on canvas. His work adorns the visitor center at Fort Patrick Henry Dam.
TVA’s wartime dam-building program was mighty, but demand for electricity didn’t stop with the ceasefire. Boone Dam, authorized in 1950, would help energize the baby boom.
The aerating labyrinth weir below South Holston Dam in upper East Tennessee has multiple benefits—chief among them creating the oxygen-rich water that has fostered a world-class brown trout fishery.
Butler, Tenn., was constantly inundated with floodwaters from the Watauga River—that is, before TVA built Watauga Dam and moved the whole town to higher ground.
In dedicating the massive Kentucky Dam, President Harry S. Truman summed up the success of TVA, a formula comprised of modern science, good management and common sense.
Before TVA built Chickamauga Dam, Chattanooga—the Valley's most flood-prone city—suffered from massive economic damage and moquito-borne health crises because of the untamed river.
Hiwassee Dam and the reservoir it created are both known for beautiful scenery, canoeing and rafting. But in the 1940s and 50s, Hiwassee also played a key role in serving the nation’s defense.
When floodwaters threatened to overwhelm Paducah, Ky., construction workers from Guntersville Dam boarded a steamer and set out to offer aid. Along the way, they rescued a rooster who would become Guntersville's mascot.
In 1950, after construction on Watts Bar Dam was complete, an enterprising Michigander bought up the construction workers’ housing and launched a wildly successful resort.
At the outset of World War II, Congress approved the Douglas Dam Bill to provide power for the war effort. On a crash schedule, TVA workers toiled day and night, and—amazingly—the dam was finished in just over a year.
Isolated Apalachia Dam made a big contribution to wartime airplane construction. Today, it’s an off-the-beaten-path paradise for trout fishermen looking for big catches and scenic views.
To help crank up aluminum production for the war effort—and to provide energy for the Manhattan Project—TVA put two dams on a crash construction schedule. Cherokee was one, and it was built in 16 months.
Spurred by wartime necessity, TVA put up Fontana Dam, the tallest dam east of the Rockies with record speed. The dam no one could get to eventually became the most visited in the TVA system.
What’s in a name? When it comes to TVA dams, nothing less than a pocket history of the Tennessee River and the people who settled the Tennessee Valley region.
When Ocoee Dam No. 3 was built to meet wartime energy needs wartime, it was thought there would be little recreational interest in the project. Flash forward fifty years, and you get an Olympic whitewater course.
During WWII, Ernie Pyle described the common man’s fight in simple language. But his fame began before the war, when he set out to explain the American experiment called TVA, under construction in Norris, Tennessee.
In 1936, the Unified Development of the Tennessee River System laid out a plan for TVA to build dams and transform the poverty-stricken, often-flooded Valley into a modern, electrified and developed slice of America.
There’s no doubt that TVA’s dams transformed the Valley and made life easier for its residents. For some, though, the unified plan meant sacrificing home and community to the greater good.
A modernistic quilt, made in the 30s by wives of men working on Wheeler Dam near Muscle Shoals, Ala., represents support and guidance of the African-American community by TVA.
As TVA brought public power to the Tennessee Valley, TVA architect Roland Wank put design to work for the people—starting with his visionary plan for Norris Dam.