A hydroelectric power plant that generated electricity for North Carolina textile mills in the early part of the 20th century is still going strong today, almost 100 years later.
Duke Energy’s Rhodhiss Hydro Station on the Catawba River in Burke and Caldwell counties was one of three Duke Energy hydro stations constructed in the mid-1920s to meet a commitment by James B. Duke, one of Duke Energy’s founders, to provide electricity to support the area’s rapidly expanding textile industry.
At the time, two textile mills were operating downstream. John Rhodes and George Hiss built the first mill in 1901 on the Caldwell County side of the river. In 1914, the two men, along with E.A. Smith, constructed a mill across the river in Burke County. The mill village established on both sides of the river was named in honor of the two entrepreneurs and eventually provided the name for Rhodhiss Hydro Station.
Because Rhodhiss Hydro Station retains its original function and much of its original equipment, and it played a significant role in the development of the region, the dam and powerhouse are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Duke Energy manages Rhodhiss Hydro Station to maintain its historic characteristics while ensuring the facility continues to provide reliable, renewable energy for its customers.