Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station, Murfreesboro Tennessee

Date added: October 22, 2023 Categories: Tennessee Power Plant Hydroelectric Power
Looking northerly, showing tail race retaining wall, powerhouse complex, remains of transmission wire support, and dam (1989)

The Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station is the kind of hydroelectric engineering projects typical at the time of its construction on the smaller rivers of the State of Tennessee. Its design and size, while not unique among its class in the Volunteer State, display the characteristic vertical emphasis of what can be called "early hydro-style." It provided the electric needs of the town of and environs of Murfreesboro until 1941 it ceased operation.

The Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station represents a change in the business of trading, commerce, services and commodities, and the gradual introduction of electricity into everyday human existence during the early twentieth century in Tennessee.

The Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station is located in Rutherford County (population 95,948) on the East Fork of the Stones River. The site is located via a two-hundred-foot access road just off U.S. Highway 231, one half mile south of Walter Hill, and approximately six miles north of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Although a conundrum exists concerning the exact date, 1912 appears to be the most likely year for the construction of a small power station built by the Murfreesboro Light and Power Company at Walter Hill, on the East Fork of the Stones River, a mill site since 1804. After a flood in 1918 damaged the dam the Southern Cities Power Company purchased the site and built the extant power station soon thereafter. In 1926 the property was transferred to the Commonwealth Southern River Company.

A photograph from around the same date shows a two-story frame mill building with gable supported by a stone foundation as firmly abutted against the hydroelectric station, most likely the housing for electrical transfer machinery. This helps explain the missing third wall of the structure. Likewise, a superintendent's office stood nearby. The picture is a graphic representation of the move towards electrification and the modernization it represented, and of cultural lag seen oftentimes in such periods of fundamental transition in mores and ways of doing things. The old mill building and what appears to have been a brick factory in the distance most likely utilized the new hydroelectric power. Power continued to be produced at the Walter Hill site until 1934 until a subsidiary of Commonwealth Southern River Company, Murfreesboro Light and Power, shut down the generator. 1939 marked the acquisition of the property by the TVA, which continued to produce power until September 26, 1940 when the site was sold to the city of Murfreesboro. It ceased producing electricity in 1941. The site is currently leased by the City of Murfreesboro to the Tennessee Highway Department which manages it as a roadside park. The dam is a concrete gravity structure approximately fifteen feet high and 250 feet long with an overflow spillway section approximately 180 feet long.

The steel-reinforced concrete foundation supports a brick powerhouse, approximately eighteen feet by twenty-four feet, located on the right (north) side of the Stones River. It originally housed a 192-kW vertical turbine and generator. The turbine intake consists of three openings, five feet wide in the powerhouse headwall which were controlled by three slide gates. The dam and powerhouse were considered by the TVA "to be in good condition considering the age of the project."

Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station, Murfreesboro Tennessee Looking southwesterly on the Stones River, showing trip-tic window configuration, overflow openings, trash racks, intake section, transmission wire support, and_ stone foundation of old mill (1989)
Looking southwesterly on the Stones River, showing trip-tic window configuration, overflow openings, trash racks, intake section, transmission wire support, and_ stone foundation of old mill (1989)

Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station, Murfreesboro Tennessee Looking westerly, showing dam and power house, tail race retaining wall, and old mill foundation on the Stones River (1989)
Looking westerly, showing dam and power house, tail race retaining wall, and old mill foundation on the Stones River (1989)

Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station, Murfreesboro Tennessee Looking north, showing dam powerhouse and tail race (1989)
Looking north, showing dam powerhouse and tail race (1989)

Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station, Murfreesboro Tennessee Looking north, showing physical context of downstream side of complex on the Stones River. Powerhouse on the left (1989)
Looking north, showing physical context of downstream side of complex on the Stones River. Powerhouse on the left (1989)

Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station, Murfreesboro Tennessee Looking southwesterly, showing trash gates, powerhouse foundation and superstructure, and remains of mill foundation (in foreground) (1989)
Looking southwesterly, showing trash gates, powerhouse foundation and superstructure, and remains of mill foundation (in foreground) (1989)

Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station, Murfreesboro Tennessee Looking northerly, showing walkway, foundation and turbine housing, and superstructure (1989)
Looking northerly, showing walkway, foundation and turbine housing, and superstructure (1989)

Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station, Murfreesboro Tennessee Looking northerly, showing tail race retaining wall, powerhouse complex, remains of transmission wire support, and dam (1989)
Looking northerly, showing tail race retaining wall, powerhouse complex, remains of transmission wire support, and dam (1989)

Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station, Murfreesboro Tennessee Looking easterly, showing interior of station which housed the generator; also shown are foundations for former ancillary buildings of the complex. Open wall was once attached to a wooden structure that may have housed transmission equipment and/or offices (1989)
Looking easterly, showing interior of station which housed the generator; also shown are foundations for former ancillary buildings of the complex. Open wall was once attached to a wooden structure that may have housed transmission equipment and/or offices (1989)

Walter Hill Hydroelectric Station, Murfreesboro Tennessee Historic View (1925)
Historic View (1925)