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Introduction to Bluestone Dam

Bluestone Dam is a large concrete gravity structure located on the New River in Summers County, West Virginia. Dam construction created Bluestone Lake, which contributes to flood protection on the New, Kanawha, and Ohio rivers. Planning and construction of the dam led to a lengthy court battle that was settled only by appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court's decision established the federal government's right to control dam construction and hydroelectric power generation on navigable waterways, and also established the New River as a navigable stream even though the river was too shallow to support commercial traffic.

The dam is a late representative example of the concrete gravity dams built by federal agencies during the ambitious public works program that began in the early 1930s. It embodies fairly typical design characteristics for its time, and contemporary articles in engineering journals cited few innovative "firsts" associated with the dam. In actuality, the design is quite similar to Tygart Dam built by the Pittsburgh District Corps of Engineers 1935-1938, despite the fact that each concrete gravity dam built in this period is a unique structure that was tailored, both in scale and design, to its individual site. Builders of Bluestone Dam utilized recently developed concrete technologies, including air entrainment and artificial chilling of mixing water.

Bluestone Dam's massive, streamlined design is reflective of the Art Deco and Art Moderne design philosophies of the period. Dr. Paul Philippe Cret, a prominent architect known for designing bridge abutments, dams, and government buildings during the 1920s-1940s period, was responsible for the aesthetic component of the dam's design.