ASME-Landmark:Idols Station, Fries Manufacturing & Power Company


Idol's Hydro Station, as developed and placed in operation by The Fries Manufacturing and Power Company on April 18, 1898, was typical of small-scale, low-head first generation hydroelectric stations of that day. It was the first commercial hydroelectric generating station in North Carolina using long distance (13¼ miles) transmission of alternating current power at 10,000 volts. It provided power for textile and fertilizer mills, an electric railway system, electric street lighting, and wood and metal working shops in the towns of Winston and Salem, N.C.

Construction began in early June 1897 with Watkins & Hardaway of Birmingham, Alabama, performing the masonry work on the dam and powerhouse. A 600 ft. rail siding connecting the construction site to the Southern Railway tracks allowed heavy equipment and machinery to be delivered directly to the site. The 482 ft., rubble-masonry, curved gravity dam was built on stone foundations, stood 10 ft. tall, stepped to 13 ft. at both ends. The powerhouse consisted of a turbine or wheel room, including eight turbines, and a generator room, housing a three-phase induction type generator with an output of 750 KW at 166 rpm, which stood 10'1" tall and weighed about 30 tons. Eight additional turbines and their generated were added around 1903.

The availability of electric power generated at Idol's Station enabled the early development of the Winston-Salem area as a significant industrial and manufacturing center in North Carolina. See ASME website for more information