|Aerial view of DuPont|
In September 1956 E. I. DuPont purchased over 10,000 acres from the Frank Coxe estate (Buck Forest Club) and the Guion Farm in Henderson County to build the first full-scale silicon plant in the United States.
The production of hyper-pure silicon required extremely clean air, which the Cedar Mountain area offered. Silicon was used for electrical and electronic devices in radios, televisions, telephone switchboards and other electronics. It was a booming industry in the late 1950s and in high demand.
However, within just a few years demand was down and DuPont decided to shut down the silicon production and construct a larger film plant at their Cedar Mountain site. The photographic products plant, specifically x-ray film, officially began in May 1964.
For the next 20 plus years the plant continued to grow. There were several major expansions throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. At its peak in the 1980s, DuPont employed nearly 1,500 people.
With the emergence of the digital age, changes to the medical film industry were inevitable. In 1996 DuPont sold its diagnostic imaging business to Sterling Diagnostic Imaging. A couple of years later the Agfa Corporation purchased the plant from Sterling. In 2002 Agfa announced that it would close the plant, laying off the last 270 employees.
When Sterling purchased the plant, the sale included 2,200 acres along the Little River containing Bridal Veil Falls, High Falls and Triple Falls. At the same time, the state of North Carolina purchased 7,600 acres from DuPont, establishing DuPont State Recreational Forest. When Sterling placed the waterfall property on the market in 1999, the state attempted to purchase it as well. They were unsuccessful though and the property went to the Cliffs Communities for $6.35 million to be developed as an upscale gated residential community.
|Original water tower at DuPont’s Silicon Plant|
The Sierra Club and a grassroots group, Friends of the Falls, joined in urging the state of North Carolina to protect the area and retain public access. Gov. Jim Hunt and the Council of State tried to negotiate this with The Cliffs owner, Jim Anthony. Gov. Hunt and the Council of State on Oct. 23, 2000 unanimously voted to invoke eminent domain on the property.
Today DuPont State Recreational Forest offers over 80 miles of trails for hikers, bikers and equestrians to enjoy.
In 2012 DuPont State Recreational Forest hosted approximately 358,000 visitors.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs.
For more information, comments or suggestions, contact Marcy at [email protected] or (828) 884-3151 ext. 242.