Construction of the workers’ camp began as soon as the site for the dam was selected. At the height of construction, 1,900 workers lived at the camp. Workers constructed plant buildings and other support structures to help them build the dam. They built over 2 miles of new rail lines and a transmission line from the Goat Rock Dam to bring supplies and electricity to the construction site.
Next, workers built coffer dams. These are temporary dams that divert the water, allowing workers to start construction of the dam on the river’s bottom bedrock. They framed the dam with timber and used concrete and metal to complete the durable, modern dam. Workers started by pouring concrete on the east and west sides of the river. Only after the sides were completed did the workers fill in the center spillway.
The dam was completed on December 1, 1925, when workers dropped the control gates and the reservoir began to fill.
Plant and Dam
Bartletts Ferry Dam was originally designed as a reinforced concrete, non-overflow dam with a gate-controlled spillway. After testing the bedrock, engineers changed their plans and built a solid-gravity dam with an overflow spillway and earthen embankments on either side. This new plan was more durable and cost-effective, and called for a dam that spanned the Chattahoochee River, connecting Alabama and Georgia.
At the peak of dam construction, 2,400 workers were employed at Bartletts Ferry. The workers’ camp was built on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee River and included separate living quarters for white and black workers and their families. The housing was built on high ground to protect employees from flooding. In addition to housing, the camp included offices, mess halls, warehouses, shops, bathhouses, clubhouses and a hospital. All of the buildings were simple, with wooden frames.
In the early 1950s, Georgia Power Company built new amenities at the dam. Most workers no longer lived on-site, but essential personnel still needed to live close by. They constructed a new employee cottage, a managers’ house and a new clubhouse. The company also built new dam-related buildings including a new administration building, maintenance shop and communications building. These buildings were constructed in a modern, 1950s style. They were built of concrete and were easily heated and cooled.