Norris, Tennessee, is a small town in the Appalachian Mountains’ foothills. Have you heard about this charming town? It’s got a cool backstory! In the early twentieth century, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) created it as a planned community as part of a New Deal effort. This means people designed and built this town to serve a specific purpose. Norris’ mission was to give inexpensive homes and power to the people of Tennessee job opportunities.
Norris’ journey began in 1933, during the Great Depression, with the establishment of the TVA by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This federally held organization sought to improve the region’s quality of life by upgrading agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation and bringing power to rural villages.
The TVA created a model city as part of its endeavor to demonstrate the benefits of electrification and modernization. The city was named after George W. Norris, a US Senator from Nebraska who advocated for public electricity and staunch supporter of the TVA. The TVA commissioned renowned architect Ralph Adams Cram to create the city, and the outcome was a lovely, scenic town that mixed modern and traditional architecture.
The city of Norris was unique in many ways. It was the first planned community in the United States, designed from scratch to be a model city. The city had a strict set of guidelines for construction, and all buildings had to conform to a specific architectural style, using local materials such as fieldstone and timber.
Another unique feature of Norris was its democratic governance. Did you know that this city is governed uniquely? Instead of having a mayor-council system like most cities in the US, it’s run by a board of commissioners elected by the residents.
The city of Norris also had a strong sense of community. The people who created it wanted everyone to know each other and watch out for one another. And to make that happen, they built a community center, a library, and a recreation center. So, the residents had lots of opportunities to hang out and have fun together. The pilot plant was built in Norris and operated until 1945 when it was dismantled.
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