Hickory and Henry River Village, North Carolina

Hickory

Hickory is located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Catawba River, along I-40 between Charlotte and Asheville. It has a small town charm and big city amenities.

Hickory’s name comes from a tavern built of logs beneath a huge hickory tree near a stagecoach junction by Henry Robinson during the 1850’s. The spot was known as “Hickory Tavern.” The Town of Hickory Tavern was established in January 1870 by Henry Robinson and “Dolph” Shuford. The name was changed to the Town of Hickory in 1873, and to the City of Hickory in 1889.

Hickory began as a small city whose growth and development moved it from a late nineteenth-century trading center on the Western North Carolina Railroad to a thriving twentieth-century manufacturing center for furniture, hosiery and textiles.

The history and development of Hickory has been divided into five stages of growth. The earliest phase began at the end of the eighteenth century and ended with the outbreak of the Civil War (1769-1860).

The second phase began when the Civil War ended and the city’s population and economy expanded as well as cultural and educational facilities (1861-1900). This second phase lasted until around 1901, when the establishment of the first large-scale furniture plant made permanent changes in the manufacturing business. From 1901 until the onset of World War I in 1917, many furniture factories as well as hosiery and textile mills were built in the city which increased population, service industries and building activity.

During World War I, construction in the city declined but not long after the war there was a large increase in population and housing needs, growth of businesses and manufacturing companies, and an extension of public services. Growth since 1940 to after World War II Hickory continued growing and by 1961 the city had forty-six furniture plants, eight-nine hosiery mills, twenty-seven other manufactures, and a population of 37,000 people. A urban renewal project as well as redevelopment also was occuring during this period of growth. Much of the historic fabric of Hickory’s downtown was removed or drastically altered in the 1960s and 1970s.

UNION SQUARE

As the Central Business District, downtown Hickory is filled with a variety of unique retail shops, restaurants, corporate headquarters, professional offices, and entertainment venues, all in a park-like setting in the heart of Hickory. 

Union Square is an example of maintaining the historic feel of the Square while at the same time modernizing the space to encourage visitors to spend more time in downtown. In November 2018 the City Council approved plans recommended for renovating Union Square. A central pathway connecting two large lawn areas, additional seating areas called garden rooms or parklets, a new public restrooms and multi-purpose shade structure over the parking spaces nearest the store fronts were added.

The day I was in Hickory was in May 2020 and during the panademic. The day was overcast and scattered rain showers so it was pretty quiet at Union Square other than a few people popping in to pick up orders or food curb side. I could picture how it would be on a nice Spring or Summer day to be out shopping, grab some lunch and be able to sit outside by oneself or with family and friends enjoying the day.

An elevated, multi-tiered structure was added for the display of the 210 MM German Howlitzer.

This 210 MM German Howitzer sits on a brick base in a grassy area. In front of the cannon sits a marker with an inscription that details the importance of the cannon and the memorial as a whole. Originally the cannon was placed to honor those from the community who served in World War I. Later, it was rededicated to honor all veterans from the area who served their country. The rededication of the cannon is noted on a metal plaque that is in the bottom right corner of the marker.

210MM GERMAN HOWITZER / SURRENDERED TO U.S. 1918 / PLACED HERE IN MEMORY THE / MEN FROM THIS COMMUNITY WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE WORLD WAR

ERECTED BY HICKORY / AMERICAN LEGION / POST NO. 48 5-30-27.

Plaque in bottom right corner: REDEDICATED BY AMERICAN LEGION POST 48 AND / VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS POST 1957 / TO ALL VETERANS MEN AND WOMEN OF THIS AREA / MAY 24, 1998

First Presbyterian Church

Built in 1905-1906 this church is the most outstanding example of the Romanesque Revival style in Catawba County. The granite church is complemented by the 1928 three-story granite education building of Romanesque Revival influence and the modern two-story granite education building erected in 1957. Originally the church was to have been faced with brick, but the building committee decided in May of 1905 that “Belgian Block Veneer”, a specific face cut of granite, should be used instead. The Church was completed at a cost of $14,060 and was dedicated on December 2, 1906. The exterior of the church remains virtually unaltered from its original appearance. Its medieval Romanesque character is emphasized by the rough stonework, the steeply pitched roof lines, the corner tower, and the round-arched openings.

HENRY HENRY RIVER VILLAGE GHOST TOWN – MOVIE LOCATION OF THE HUNGER GAMES

Located about an hour east of Asheville along I-40 and 10 minutes from Hickory, North Carolina, this was a interesting place to visit and after touring the place I can see why it was a good location for the setting of Katniss’ home of District 12 in the movie “The Hunger Games” in 2011. My visit here was a few months after the onset of COVID-19 so the first thing all guests had to do was sign a disclaimer of any liability to the owners. The owner, Calvin Reyes and his family purchased the 72-acre village in the fall of 2017. Their plans are to renovate the homes into vacation rentals and open a restaurant in the former store. I met Calvin while I was there and talked with him bit about the property and their plans, he loves to share the history of the village with visitors. I think it is awesome he is saving not only the buildings but also the stories of residents that lived and worked there. Items found in the homes are also being collected for the on-site museum in house 16, which is where the tour takes place and the filming occurred as the home of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games

The Hunger Games takes place in an unidentified future time period after the destruction of North America, in a nation known as Panem. Panem consists of a wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts. District 12, where the book begins, is located in the coal-rich region that was formerly Appalachia.

Guests were then free to wander on their own and check out the rest of the property. I peered in a few of the cabin windows and got a few pictures of the inside. Most are not safe to enter due to collasping roofs, porches and floors. This place was interesting as I mentioned, but its also kinda of eerie.

The village Company Store served as Mellark’s Bakery in The Hunger Games. They filmed for nine days in Henry River. One of the mill houses was sacrificed during an explosion for the movie. Plans are to transform the store into a restauant that will feature recipes from the village!

Henry River History

The Henry River Mill Village is a prime example of a typical textile mill village in the Carolinas. Originally erected in 1905, The Henry Mill Village was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 9, 2019.

In 1904 Michael Erastus Rudisill laid out the mill and village on 1500 acres. The location was chosen for its hydropower potential. The Aderholdt and Rudisill families partnered together to establish the Henry River Manufacturing Company, which was a cotton yarn manufacture that opened it’s doors in 1905. The company built a planned community with 35 worker houses, a two-story boarding hourse, a bridge, a brick company store, a power prouducing dam, and the original 3 story mill building where the yarn was produced. Until 1914, all operations were fully powered by waterpower. Later this was converted to steam power and electricity as technology advanced and upgrades were made to increase production. By 1963, the company had tripled its initial production from 1905 from 4,000 yarn-making spindles to 12,000 spindles and produced fine combed yarn for lace. Due to economic pressures from overseas, the textile industry had begun a downward spiral until the mill ceased operation shortly after. The mill was closed for several years and was purchased in 1976 by Wade R. Sheppard. In 1977 the main mill building burned to the ground along with the equipment and materials that were stored in the 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.


History tells us that one would have thought this was the end of Henry River Mill Village, but it wasn’t, the community still prevailed. Many former residents of the Village remember the last native moving out in the late 90’s or early 2000’s. That’s something that may be difficult to comprehend, since the village still has no running water, and no sewer system. Henry River is an example of history that seems so distant, yet it can still be seen, touched and heard with our own eyes and ears.

While stories vary in detail from one village resident to another, the one consistent theme is “Community”. Throughout the entire history of the Henry River Mill Village, there is story after story, example after example, of Village residents coming together in a time of need to help one another.  Henry River was more than a group of workers that happened to live in the same neighborhood, raising their families, and minding their own business. Instead, Henry River became a large family, a village network, that valued the strengths they had as a community over the strengths they had as individuals.

UPDATE 2021

I was googling on the internet one day and was wondering if in the past year if the owners had been able to start realizing the dream they had for this place and found that you can now stay in the fully renovated 1905 mill house #12 with pieces, fixtures and details that reflect the era. The house is divided into 2 units that each include a queen bed, two twin beds, a kitchenette with microwave and refrigerator, and two full bathrooms.

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