A New Era
Hartwell Lake reached full pond at 660 feet in March of 1962. After years of extensive research, planning, and development, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vision of a hydroelectric dam that could shape the south had come true. South Carolina and Georgia would be better off because of it. America would be better off because of it. Aside from being absolutely beautiful, the lake serves a crucial purpose. The dam alone provides 468 million KWh of electricity annually and has prevented over $40 million worth of flood damage. By 1988, the Southeastern Power Administration had purchased more energy from the Army Core of Engineers than the cost of the overall project. [i] The lake also opened a new door for South Carolina and Georgia’s economy. Some of the people that were displaced by the lake still owned a few lots of land when their property flooded. Within a few years, those lots would become worth more than the rest of their farmland combined. Shoreline development quickly became the new normal, as did boating and a newly adopted “lake life.” Annual events, such as the Bassmaster Classic, have brought in millions of dollars to the surrounding economy. It is undebatable the sheer economic stability the lake has brought to the region.
Aside from the financials, the lake has created a new, unique culture. Pass anyone on a boat and wave, and they always wave back. There is a friendly spirit about the lake that just cannot be replicated elsewhere. Clemson University (as it’s now called) has ultimately benefited, too. The amazing views are a vital strategy to Clemson’s recruitment, and how can you argue with it? Students have countless clubs to join that are lake focused. From the sailing club to the rowing club, the lake offers a great deal to campus recreation. Any warm day it is almost guaranteed that someone will be running along the dike near the Esso Club and I will probably be out there playing with my dog. Oh, and Y-Beach! The beach-like area located off Highway 93 at the Snow Family Outdoor Recreation Facility has become a spring and summer staple to Clemson life. And the city has also reaped it’s benefits. While the lake makes travel around the city restricted to a few main roads, it’s well worth the traffic. Being walking distance away from Lake Hartwell offers a refreshing break from classes and teaching (I would imagine). While we’re here, the little-known Mountain View Park located in the Calhoun community of the City of Clemson is an amazing place to have a springtime picnic by the lake.
To sum this up, I would like to touch on the legacy of Andersonville. Standing on Ken Jordan’s dock, you can look out and see a large island out in the middle of the lake. This nearly three-mile long island serves as a monument to the forgotten town of Andersonville. An original road still runs the length of the island, although its well covered by overgrowth and no cars travel along it now. The exotic plants and wildlife that nineteenth century travelers came to see and that the Native Americans revered is still flourishing. In fact, it has taken back over. It is all that is left of a thriving city, just sitting in the middle of a lake, frozen in time. Man has created something beautiful for the people and has taken something beautiful away from the people. I think both stories are important, and we should not forget either of them.