Virtual Travel: The TVA and the Clinch River

Mystery Photo Reveal: March 23, 2020

As many of you correctly guessed, this photo was taken in the Volunteer State -- Tennessee. The railroad bridge spans the Clinch River, which was the site of the TVA's first impoundment: Norris Lake and Dam, named for Nebraska Senator George Norris (pictured). 

Norris (a Republican, perhaps in name only) was a great ally of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal legislation. Described by FDR as a "knight of American progressive ideals," Norris introduced the Senate version of the TVA Act, which became law in May 1933. (Monday's email incorrectly linked Norris to the Ways and Means Committee -- untrue; that committee only exists in the House of Representatives. That's our corrected testimony!)

The Norris Dam would ultimately power the "Secret City" of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which played a key role in the Manhattan Project.

The Manhattan Project was the secret work of the United States government during World War II to create an atomic reaction, and, ultimately, weapon. State-of-the-art laboratories, along with accommodations for 30,000 employees and their families (though the population was over twice that by 1945), were tucked away in the sparsely populated, mist-shrouded hills of Tennessee. (The other secret cities established were Hanford, Washington, and Los Alamos, New Mexico).

Finally, an interesting connection to our region . . .

The TVA constructed an entire town to build and administer Norris Dam and Lake; this new town was called Norris. A TVA staff "landscape engineer" named Earle Sumner Draper drew up the design for the town, which featured curvy, winding streets, and large wooded lots. Draper's earlier landscape design work can be seen today in some of our region's most famous (and charming) residential neighborhoods: Druid Hills (Hendersonville), Myers Park (Charlotte), Hayes Barton (Raleigh), Sequoyah Hills (Knoxville) - and the layout of the hotel and "resort" complex at Lake Lure, NC.

Posted on March 25th in Virtual Travel Series