Hydroelectric Power Introduced, 1898

Idol’s Dam and Fries Power Station, circa 1898-1900. Image from the Digital Forsyth.

On April 20, 1898, the Fries Manufacturing and Power Company transmitted electrical power 13 miles from the generating plant to the Fries-owned Arista textile mill.

The transmission, which originated near the Yadkin River bridge west of Clemmons in Forsyth County, was North Carolina’s first long-distance transmission of electricity.

Long interested in the use of electricity to power industrial machinery, Henry Fries of Salem founded the company to harness the hydroelectric capability of the river.

Construction on the power plant began in 1897 and it soon became known as Idol’s Hydroelectric Station, after a ferry that was once located on the same site. The dam built for the station was 482 feet long and the reservoir covered about 35 acres. The flow of the dam generated about 2,500 horsepower.

The station later provided power for other textile and grain mills, fertilizer plants, the Winston-Salem electric railway, electric street lights and wood and metal working shops in Winston-Salem.

Fries sold his power company in 1913 to Southern Public Utility Company, which was purchased by Duke Power in 1914. Duke Power, now Duke Energy, operated the Idols station until 1996. The station burned two years later.

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