Asheville Engineer Charles Waddell

Charles E. Waddell with his children at their Biltmore Village homeOn April 20, 1945, pioneer electrical engineer Charles E. Waddell died.

Waddell grew up in Asheville, and was educated at Bingham Military School before teaching himself electrical engineering. He worked as superintendent of the Asheville fire alarm system when he was only 14-years-old. He continued his engineering training in New York and Maine.

Waddell returned to Asheville to start his own business, and one of his company’s first projects was the development and installation of an electrical heating system for the Biltmore House. From 1901 on Waddell was the electrical consultant for the Vanderbilt estate.

Biltmore wasn’t Waddell’s only project, however. He went on to build hydroelectric power plants for Weaver Electric Company and served for many years as a director of the business, which later became the North Carolina Electric Company.

Skilled beyond electrical engineering, he also designed a bridge over the Swannanoa River at Biltmore—one of only two area bridges to hold up in the flood of 1916. He was instrumental in the industrialization of western North Carolina, overseeing large projects for Champion Fiber Company and American Enka Corporation, among others.

An active patriot during World War I, Waddell served as an engineering consultant for the state and federal governments. His genius and influence helped shape industrialization across the state and region.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.