The Filter Plant
After the Dam was built in 1915-16 to serve Kingsport with drinking water, in 1919 a filter plant was added below the Dam to clean the water before it gushed down massive pipes to the city below. To run correctly, the filter plant required operators to perform routine tasks and maintenance, such as cleaning out the filters and regulating the flow of water.
The filter plant operators and their families lived on the mountain in the filter plant operator’s house, located on the west end of the Dam.
Very little has been known about the plant because the structures have collapsed and eroded with the passage of time, and no photos were known to exist.
But in 2021 a priceless collection of photos from 1922-1924 was discovered that show the filter plant, and what life was like for the filter plant operators and their families.
At that time, the plant was run by Rufus Nelms and G.A. Barlow. These photos were originally donated by Ruby Nelms who lived on the mountain with them. For Ruby, it was a family affair: Rufus was her husband and G.A. was her father!
Click here to see them entertaining family and enjoying the mountain.
The reservoir filter plant remained in operation until the late 1920s, when the City of Kingsport built a new filter plant down near the Holston River. They continued to use reservoir water until 1944, but after 1930 filtering was done at the new plant.
With the reservoir filter plant no longer running after 1930, the “filter plant operator” role had become obsolete, at least on the mountain.
This photo was taken near the dam, looking down into Dolan Branch gorge. You can see an elevated pipe routing water from the east side of the gorge to the Plant located on the west side. The Plant appears to still be under construction in this photo.
This view is from the gorge below the Filter Plant, looking up at the Plant and the Dam.
The wash-out tank was used to flush the filters and keep them operating properly.