• Main Street Badin NC
  • Photo Date 1920's
  • Photo Date 1919
  • Photo Date 1955
  • Photo Date 1920's
  • Photo Date 1918
  • Photo Date 1917
  • Photo Date 1930's
  • Photo Date 1917
  • The Badin-Harristown Optimist Club Presents "Lou Donaldson" in Concert
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2013 Events

A little more than 100 years ago one of the most ambitious projects of its time was devised. The plan was to build a hydropower dam, the largest of its kind on earth, to tap the flow of the Yadkin River. The dam would be known as the Narrows for its location at a natural choke point of the river and its inception was the starting point for a tale of great historical significance.

Before the Narrows was ever considered though, an American duo sought to create a hydro-electric generation dam on the Yadkin to fuel industrial ventures in the Yadkin basin. Financier George I. Whitney, spurred by the hydropower vision of Egbert B.C. Hambley, mined granite then oversaw efforts to construct a 30-foot high overflow dam, an idea the pair hatched in 1899. Their plan was to supply electricity to cotton mills, gold mines and numerous other commercial endeavors in North Carolina.

That dream would never come to pass by their hands though as the Whitney Company was bankrupt by 1907 and its assets fell into receivership. A short time later French engineer Adrien Badin via L'Aluminium Francais was alerted to Whitney's holdings by Jean Jacquett, an engineer who traveled from France in 1911 to investigate Whitney's receivership holdings. By early 1912 Adrien Badin, born in 1871 in Salindres, France, formed Southern Aluminium Company and took over the Whitney assets. Interest in the Whiney location soon faded however with the prospect of a much larger dam on the Yadkin, and so the Narrows Dam project was begun.

In 1913 a small town was founded and named for Southern Aluminium Company's president - the town was called Badin. The scope of the French plan included intentions to capitalize on a process involving mineral and chemical combinations driven by electrification to yield aluminum and the Narrows Dam would power the plant needed to make aluminum. That meant a remarkably strong, lightweight and formerly expensive metal could be readily and affordably available for commercial and practical applications.

The Americans and French were early innovators in this regime; both hot on the heels of a revolutionary electro-chemical discovery that led to the smelting process. Amazingly, on a virtually simultaneous schedule, French scientist, Paul Heroult and American scientist Charles Martin Hall, pieced together an electrolytic aluminum process that came to be called the Heroult-Hall process and vaulted smelting to the industrial forefront. All hydropower plans the French had in Badin were dashed by conflict though in 1914 when they left the United States to defend their homeland from the onslaught of World War I.

In November 1915 the Aluminum Company of America, Alcoa, bought the holdings L'Aluminium Francais had abandoned for war and made their first aluminum in Badin in 1916 with power purchased from Southern Power Company. Since that time Badin has born the marks of history in similar ways to other towns, but has done so with its own special strength and charm. Supported by a company progressive with regards to community provisions and employment opportunities and rooted in distinctly French origins, Badin has always retained a little something extra.

Through roaring boom-town industrial growth, depression era economic disparity, resurgent productivity and war-time woes all the way through the counter-culture hey day and into modern times, Badin has looked steadfastly forward while never losing sight of its deep running history. By 1990 the small town proved capable of self governance and incorporated. With the ability to levy its own taxes and provide for its citizens, Badin crossed yet another historical milestone. A little more than a decade later Alcoa, Badin's number one employer and community steward since the town's inception, along with aluminum producers worldwide, faced a strained, declining aluminum market and entered what turned out to be early signs of a shuttered Alcoa Badin Works plant.

As the inevitable drew nearer, new directions were sought and new endeavors begun. Economic development partnerships, tourism-based economic preparations, main street revitalization, business park preparation and industrial redevelopment efforts became the town's new paradigm. Now entering the year that marks its first full century and looking to celebrate its rich, unique and enviable history, Badin also looks forward into the first year of a new century. Please, visit us often in 2013 and join us in our many events celebrating Badin's 100 Year Centennial.

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