Overview of Hawks Nest Dam, an immense concrete structure with water gushing from its openings.

Assessing the Significance of Hawks Nest-Glen Ferris Hydro Electric Project

In 2013, on behalf of Hawks Nest Hydro, LLC, a subsidiary of Brookfield Renewable Energy Group, CRA conducted a cultural historic survey of the Hawks Nest-Glen Ferris Hydro Electric Project on the New and Kanawha Rivers in Fayette County, West Virginia. The massive Hawks Nest-Glen Ferris Hydro Electric Project was developed in its current form between 1927 and 1932 by a subsidiary of the Union Carbide & Carbon Corporation as a regional mega-project to supply power to a remote electro-metallurgical production facility. The project consisted of the Hawks Nest Dam, Intake, and Tunnel; Hawks Nest Surge Basin; and Hawks Nest Powerhouse; Transmission Lines; the 243-acre impoundment behind the dam; associated lands within the historic high water mark; transmission right-of-way marking the location of the tunnel; and the tailrace channel.

CRA completed architectural resource assessments of each individual element of the project, as well as associated landscapes and places, including the infamous Hawks Nest Tunnel, a company town and an historic inn used as a company headquarters. Because of the architectural and associative significance of the Hawks Nest-Glen Ferris Hydro Electric Project, CRA recommended that the entirety of the Hawks Nest Development is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as an outstanding engineering achievement and for its association with the events related to its construction, including the Hawks Nest Tragedy, one of America’s worst industrial disasters. Further, the design itself is significant as an important example of the modern industrial architectural aesthetic drawing from a range of architectural movements, from a pure functionality to the Moderne and Colonial Revival, to add a distractive architectural character to the fundamentally industrial assemblage.

To meet the challenges of the management of a collection of individually significant resources within a sprawling historic site, CRA is working with the client to define the character-defining features of each element of the site in support of the development of a historic property management plan that will inform public involvement work, determine specific undertakings that will have no effect on any significant resources, and develop treatments for the maintenance of the facilities that meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. Specific procedures, treatment measures, and exempt activities may be chronicled in a Programmatic Agreement document to be developed in consultation with the state historic preservation officer, agency officials, and the facility operator to allow for the preservation and enhancement of this unique historic environment.