1907 McCalls Ferry Dam Postcards

I recently acquired three 1907 McCalls Ferry Dam (now called Holtwood) postcards. Being a firm believer that “information wants to be free,” I have scanned the images and included them below with a brief history of the dam.

The dam at McCalls Ferry, PA. Temporary bridge used to transport concrete to the bed of dam. Circa 1907.
Natural channel in Susquehanna River at McCalls Ferry Dam. Lanco. Co. PA. 1907.
View of McCalls Ferry Dam. Looking from Fry’s Island. Lanc. Co., PA. 1907.

A General History of McCalls Fery Dam

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.

The McCalls Ferry Power Company board of directors contacted John E. 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.

John Edward Aldred

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.

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 operations starting a year later. The last of the plant’s ten units began operating in March 1924.

Holtwood Dam today.

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 seven miles upstream on April 1, 1930. You can read more about the Safe Harbor Dam here.

Fun Fact

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

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