National Register of Historic Places – Walter Hill Dam

September 4, 2018, National Register of Historic Places

The ‘National Register’ is a phenomenal source of information regarding historic homes.  Search their database and you will find 49 properties as of September 1, 2018.

The following ‘Register’ entry is dated November 7, 1990:

The Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station is located in Rutherford County (population 95,948) on the East Fork of the Stones River.  The site is located via a two hundred foot access road just off U.S. Highway 231, one half mile south of Walter Hill, and approximately six miles north of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Although a conundrum exists concerning the exact date, 1912 appears to be the most likely year for the construction of a small power station built by the Murfreesboro Light and Power Company at Walter Hill, on the East Fork
of the Stones River, a mill site since 1804.  After a flood in 1918 damaged the dam the Southern Cities Power Company purchased the site and built the extant power station soon thereafter.  In 1926 the property was transferred to the Commonwealth Southern River Company.

A photograph from around the same date shows a two story frame mill building with gable supported by a stone foundation as firmly abutted against the hydroelectric station, most likely the housing for electrical transfer machinery.  This helps explain the missing third wall of the structure.  Likewise, a superintendent’s office stood nearby.  The picture is a graphic representation of the move towards electrification and the modernization it represented, and of cultural lag seen often times in such periods of fundamental transition in mores and ways of doing things.  The old mill building and what appears to have been a brick factory in the distance most likely utilized the new hydroelectric power.  Power continued to be produced at the Walter Hill site until 1934 until a subsidiary of Commonwealth Southern River Company, Murfreesboro Light and Power, shut down the generator.  1939 marked the acquisition of the property by the TVA, which continued to produce power until September 26, 1940 when the site was sold to the city of Murfreesboro.  It ceased producing electricity in 1941.  The site is currently leased by the City of Murfreesboro to the Tennessee Highway Department which manages it as roadside park.

The Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station is significant under National Register criterion C for engineering because it represents the kind of hydroelectric engineering projects typical at the time of its construction on the smaller rivers of the State of Tennessee.  Its design and size, while not unique among its class in the Volunteer State, display the
characteristic vertical emphasis of what can be called “early hydro-style.”

It provided the electric needs of the town of and environs of Murfreesboro until 1941 it ceased operation.

The Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station is likewise significant under National Register criterion A, as it represents a change in the business of trading, commerce, services and commodities, and the gradual introduction
of electricity into everyday human existence during the early twentieth century in Tennessee.

The dam is a concrete gravity structure approximately fifteen (15) feet high and 250 feet long with an overflow spillway section approximately 180 feet long.

The steel reinforced concrete foundation supports a brick powerhouse, approximately eighteen feet by twenty-four feet, located on the right (north) side of the Stones River. It originally housed a 192-kW vertical turbine and generator.  The turbine intake consists of three openings, five feet wide in the powerhouse headwall which were controlled by three slide gates.  The dam and power house were considered by the TVA “to be in good condition considering the age of the project.”

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