Notes on the Built Environment: Fontana Village

The present-day Fontana Village is a resort community in Graham County, but prior to that the town of Fontana went through several iterations; in fact, there have been no less than five reincarnations of Fontana, as explained in Lucile Kirby Boyden’s 1964 book, The Village of Five Lives.

The first Fontana Village was actually located in Swain County.  Founded in 1902 as a lumber company’s tent-town, the village quickly developed.  By 1907, the company was able to establish a more permanent community, with amenities such as a school, a church, office space, a hotel, and a clubhouse.  The most important new feature of the village in 1907 was the railroad, which increased the industry of the lumber company and connected the town to the rest of the state and the country at large by bring mail in and out of the town.

As a side note, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was partially opened in 1930 and formally dedicated in 1940.  The third iteration occurred around 1930, when Fontana Village switched from a lumber town to a copper mining town because the recognition of the area as a national park made lumbering nearly impossible.

Shortly thereafter the national park was formally declared, the Tennessee Valley Authority began a project in 1941 to build a dam, and the third Fontana Village would be intentionally flooded in order to complete the project.  A community with the same name was built near the Welch Cove in Graham County in order to house the construction workers and other employees involved with the TVA’s project.

After the construction project was completed in 1945, the village was leased to a company called Government Services Incorporated which took on the responsibility of running land owned by the government.  The company refurbished the cottages and cabins that were originally used by construction workers and turned the town into a year-round resort community.  Vacationers to Fontana Village could customize their visit by choosing from various different amenities.  Guests could camp or stay in cottages of different sizes with different set-ups depending on whether or not they wanted to cook for themselves or purchase a meal plan to eat at the Village’s cafeteria.  In addition, guests could choose how to spend their recreation time with options for both indoor and outdoor activities, including hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, square dancing, miniature golf, etc.  Some activities had nominal fees associated with them for rental equipment or lessons.

I find the transition from a planned company town into a resort community the most fascinating change out of Fontana’s many reincarnations.  Certainly developers had to add several specialized amenities in order to make the community tourist-friendly, but it is amazing to me that the concept of small, decentralized housing units for a transitory population works equally well for construction workers and vacationers alike.

Below are some real photo postcards of the Fontana Village resort, dating back to ca. 1940-1960.  Click on the postcard to see more information about the image, or click here to see other digitized postcards about Fontana Village.  We also have several advertisements, newsletters, and price lists from Fontana Village in our County Ephemera Collection (VC971.38 A1 Box 1).

View of the administration building at Fontana Village.

View from the road of cottages at Fontana Village.

View of the miniature golf course.

More on “Renowned the World Around”

I was aware that the “Renowned the World Around” slogan from this week’s “Where the Heel?” was not confined to the pin that was pictured because I was told the city of Durham erected a sign using the slogan near the train station. However, I was not aware of how very cool this sign was until yesterday when I started looking for some pictures of it.

According to the blog “Endangered Durham,” the sign was built in 1913 to welcome visitors arriving by train. The electric lights allowed the welcome to be extended day or night. Apparently the sign was over 30 feet wide, the globe on the top was a “10 foot sphere,” and it used 1200 bulbs.

The image of the sign above is from our postcard collection. Click here for more information about this postcard and its image. Also, there are several other images of the sign in the Durham County Library’s Historic Photographic Archives. Click here for a daytime view and click here for a wider night-time shot that includes the sign.

I’m particularly interested in the colors of the lights (or lack thereof). I’ve seen several photos where the lights all appear white and two with differently colored bulbs: our postcard with red and green and an image in Duke’s 1917 yearbook where the word “renowned” is done in blue. It could be that color was added for advertising purposes, but it would be interesting to know for sure. Does anyone know anything else about this very impressive sign?

Where the Heel?, part XVII

For this edition of “Where the Heel?”, I have once again used the magic of Photoshop to digitally erase the name of the location from an image of an artifact. If you click on the image below you can see a larger version of the image. This time the place in question was “Renowned the World Around” in 1914. I’m pretty sure the globe on the pin won’t be of any help, but if you think you know the North Carolina locality, leave your guess as a comment. Good luck!

The Death of Ensign Worth Bagley

Wow, did the month of May sneak up on the NC Collection!?!? We are six days late in posting the latest installment of “This Month in North Carolina History.” So….if you were anxiously checking your feed reader and awaiting this entry, here you go and I apologize.

For this month’s entry, Harry McKown examines the death of Ensign Worth Bagley on May 11, 1898.

Let’s hope June doesn’t sneak up on us in the same way.

Where the Heel?, Part XVI

Our newest “Where the Heel?” is another artifact from the collection. Again, I have digitally deleted the name of the place in the scanned image (which is much harder to do on a 3-D object than on a flat one, so please forgive the less-then-perfect image). What do you think? Does the “City of Electrical Energy” sound familiar to you? Leave your guesses as comments!

Calling all Idol Fans: Today is Anoop Day!

Clear your after work plans! Today has been declared Anoop Day in honor of American Idol contestant Anoop Desai, who graduated from UNC-CH in 2008. The event begins at the Franklin Hotel at 5:30, and the evening’s festivities will continue at the Chapel Hill Town Hall at 7 pm, where Desai will be presented with a key to the city.

You can read more information about the event here.

Before moving on to Idol fame, Desai was a Political Science/American Studies student and a Clef Hanger. Here at the NCC we have Clef Hangers CD from 2007 called Time Out, on which Desai has several solos.

Ernie Barnes, 1938-2009

Ernie Barnes died on April 27 in California. Born on July 15, 1938, in Durham, North Carolina, Barnes played football at North Carolina Central University and then for several years in the pros. He is most famous, however, for his work as an artist. If you remember the ABC television series “Good Times” (which ran from 1974 to 1979), then you probably remember one of his more famous paintings, “Sugar Shack.”

The UNC Library has several items related to Barnes, including the following:

From pads to palette : Ernie Barnes / text and illustrations by Ernie Barnes. Waco, Tex. : WRS Pub., 1995.

Ernie Barnes : a twentieth century genre painter.

The beauty of the ghetto : an exhibition of neo-mannerist paintings / by Ernie Barnes.

Impossible dreams made possible : June 20-July 11, 1992.

The image accompanying this entry comes from two folders of ephemera that the North Carolina Collection maintains on Barnes. The catalog record for this material can be found at:

[Ephemera on North Carolina artists] Part 1 of 2: Artists: B.

Barnes’s work is copyrighted, so I’m only showing a very small, low-resolution image on this page. You can visit the following page for more information on Barnes and digital images of some of his more famous works:

May 1898: The Death of Ensign Worth Bagley

This Month in North Carolina History

Bagley-1The sinking of the USS Maine in Havana, Cuba, on the night of February 15, 1898, accelerated the deterioration of relations between Spain and the United States which had resulted from Spain’s attempt to crush a long-simmering rebellion on the island. On the 19th of April, well in advance of the declaration of war on the 25th, the United States Navy began a blockade of Cuba. U. S. warships patrolled the approaches to every significant Cuban port and began probing coastal defenses.

On the afternoon of May 11, three American ships, the gunboat Wilmington, the torpedo boat Winslow, and the converted revenue cutter Hudson entered Cardenas Bay, about seventy miles west of Havana to confirm the presence of Spanish gunboats in the bay and the creation of new Spanish artillery batteries. Spotting a gunboat tied to a dock in the city of Cardenas, the Winslow moved closer to investigate and suddenly found itself the target of a barrage of shells, fired from the gunboat and hidden artillery on shore. In short order the Winslow‘s steering was shot away and its engines damaged. Attempting to limp away from the Spanish guns, the Winslow signaled for a tow. With shells falling all around them, the Hudson managed to get a tow line to the stricken torpedo boat. As the Winslow was pulled out of range, a final shell exploded on its deck killing three men instantly and mortally wounding two others. One of the men killed, Ensign Worth Bagley of Raleigh, North Carolina, is thought to be the first American naval officer to die in the Spanish-American War.

Bagley entered the U. S. Naval Academy at the age of fifteen in 1889 where he made a name for himself as a football player. Following graduation and a series of typical junior officer assignments, Bagley became secretary to the captain of the Maine, which post he left in November 1897 to become executive officer of the Winslow. The navy hoped for great things from its torpedo boats and service on one was a good choice for a young officer who wanted to distinguish himself.

Bagley’s death was widely reported and caused a sensation in North Carolina. He was buried in Raleigh with the military honors due a brigadier general, and in 1907 a monument was erected to him on Capitol Square. In part this attention stems from Bagley’s family connection. As grandson of a governor and brother-in-law of a powerful newspaper editor and Democratic Party leader, Worth Bagley was clearly part of North Carolina’s political elite, but the reaction to his death also points to the symbolic importance of the Spanish American War. North Carolina had resisted the clamor for war with Spain until after the destruction of the Maine. In the war itself, however, many North Carolinians and other southerners saw a reuniting of the country after the Civil War. Former Confederates volunteered to serve under the American flag—although Joseph Wheeler, once general in the Confederate Army and commander of American cavalry in Cuba, kept referring to the Spanish as Yankees. Worth Bagley, and other young southerners gave their lives in what many saw as a renewal of national allegiance.

Daniels, Josephus. The First Fallen Hero: A Biographical Sketch of Worth Bagley, Ensign, U. S. N. Norfolk, VA: Sam W. Bowman, Publisher: 1898.

Feuer, A. B. The Spanish-American War at Sea: Naval Action in the Atlantic. Westport, CN: Praeger, c. 1995.

Gibson, George H. “Attitudes in North Carolina Regarding the Independence of Cuba, 1868-1898.” North Carolina Historical Review, 43:1 (January 1966), pages 43-65.

Image Source:
[Front cover of] Daniels, Josephus. The First Fallen Hero: A Biographical Sketch of Worth Bagley, Ensign, U. S. N. Norfolk, VA: Sam W. Bowman, Publisher: 1898.