Where did Lake Aldred get its name?

I recently shared a 1978 hand-drawn map of Lake Aldred. Several people asked where this body of water got its name.

Illustration by Mr. John Jarvis

Short Answer

Lake Aldred takes its name from John E. Aldred, who was instrumental in making the McCalls Ferry Dam (now called Holtwood) a reality.

Long Answer

Construction on the 2,392-foot long McCalls Ferry Dam began in 1905 with the Knickerbocker Trust Company of New York underwriting the massive project. Unfortunately, financial disaster struck two years later when the bank failed, caught up in the Panic of 1907 that saw the stock market fall 50 percent.

Despite the dam being 80 percent complete, construction stopped due to the lack of funding.

Enter John E. Aldred.

John Edward Aldred

The McCall’s Ferry Power Company board of directors contacted Aldred to rescue the stalled project. At the time, Aldred was president of Shawinigan Falls Power Co. in Canada; was president of Consolidated Gas, Electric Light and Power Company in Baltimore; and provided financing for the Italian hydroelectric industry. Aldred’s resume eventually boasted director of United Railways and Electric Company and Chairman of the Gillette Safety Razor Company.

Aldred agreed to be named receiver of McCall’s Ferry Power, taking possession of the unfinished powerhouse, partially completed dam, railroad yard, construction shops, and village that provided homes for the laborers building the project.

Holtwood dam under construction.

Aldred’s first order of busy was to secure financing to complete the project. Due to the volatile nature of the U.S. financial markets, Aldred turned to Canada and Scotland for funding. Sir Herbert S. Holt, president of Montreal Light, Heat & Power Company, and Edward R. Wood, vice president of Toronto Securities, became two significant backers.

The plant and surrounding community were renamed Holtwood in honor of the two Canadians. Aldred also reorganized the company into the Pennsylvania Water and Power Company. 

Aldred and his wife, Jane in 1914 at Wheatley Hills, Long Island.

With financing secured, construction resumed. Holtwood began generating electricity in October 1910, with full-scale commercial operation starting a year later. The last of the plant’s ten units began operating in March 1924.

Aldred did not stop at Holtwood. He became one of the Safe Harbor Water and Power Company’s principal backers, which began construction on a new dam on April 1, 1930, seven miles upstream. You can read more about the Safe Harbor Dam here.

The lake formed between the Safe Harbor and Holtwood dams was named Lake Aldred to honor John E. Aldred’s contributions to the project. Today the 2,400-acre body of water provides opportunities for boating, fishing, and other public recreation. 

You can read more about the lower Susquehanna including Lake Aldred in this 1951 Safe Harbor / Holtwood visitor’s guide and map.

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