Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on November 22, 2023.
Henry River Mill Village sits just outside of Hildebran, very close to Hickory, but on the Burke County side of the line shared with Catawba County. If you’re a fan of the Hunger Games movies, you might recognize this place as District 12 from the first one.
This place and other locations are included in our guide to movies filmed in North Carolina. Prior to its service as a backdrop for major movie scenes, this was an actual working village with a mill, a company store, and everything else.
Today, you can visit the property, tour the grounds, walk inside some of the houses, and even stay here when the next development phase is complete. It’s also a great day trip from Charlotte and even Greensboro.
Inside our guide, we’ll share these details along with more about Henry River Mill Village’s journey from its past through today.
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Henry River Mill Village
If you’re looking for something specific, here’s how we’ve organized things (Categories in Bold followed by Sub-categories):
- Henry River Mill Village Background
- The Company Store
- The Dam and Mill
- Hollywood Comes
- The Reyes Family
- Things to Do at Henry River Mill Village
- Stay at Henry River Mill Village (Coming Soon)
- More Things to Do in Burke County (Related Posts)
Henry River Mill Village
Today’s Henry River Mill Village is really a small remnant of a partnership that started in the early 1900s. However, the area’s claim to fame, which was waterpower, is known at least as far back as 1860, according to local scholars and the current owners.
Shifting back to the early 20th century, two families (the Aderholdts and Ridisills) partnered and established the Henry River Manufacturing Company. The operation focused on producing cotton yarn and built 35 worker homes, a boarding house, a company store, and a dam.
The Company Store
At today’s entrance to the village, the company store will greet you. During its heyday, the store was as crucial to the operation as the dam that powered it. Historically, a company store was created to keep people from needing to leave the property and take long trips to nearby towns.
The store also kept money in the village, thanks to a script (known as Dougal) that you can see inside the gift shop.
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The Dam and Mill
On the opposite end is the dam. That dam and its water produced power here until 1914, when operations shifted to steam and electricity.
A three-story mill produced yarn until the 1960s, when increased overseas competition forced it to discontinue operations.
Any hopes of a comeback were erased in 1977 when lightning struck and burned the mill to the ground.
While the mill is gone, water flows over the dam just like it did when it was operating. The best time to see it is during winter when there’s not as much greenery competing for your attention.
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Interestingly, people continued to live here until about the 1990s, when the property was completely abandoned.
In the 2000s, Hollywood came calling when the site was “discovered” and used for scenes in the first Hunger Games film.
You may recognize the company store as the Mellark family’s bakery, and if you tour the property, a guide will take you into the Everdeen’s home, where Katniss is awoken at the beginning, prior to the “Reeping” scene.
The film’s production team made some modifications to the property and didn’t leave things exactly as they found them. You’ll learn about this when touring Henry River Mill Village.
Read More: Movies Filmed in North Carolina
The Namour and Reyes Families (Current Owners)
So, who owns Henry River Mill Village? The property was actually purchased by Calvin Reyes, Elaine Namour, and Michael Namour in 2017. Reyes, a Florida transplant who now calls North Carolina home, fell in love from the first moment he looked inside the company store.
They continue to preserve and maintain the property against mother nature and any other issues that come with protecting original buildings.
We spoke with Calvin Reyes of Henry River for our NC Travel Chat and learned more about his journey before and after he and his family purchased the Henry River Mill Village property.
Things to Do at Henry River Mill Village
You can visit and tour the village, and it’s possible you might detect some paranormal activity. And even if you don’t believe it, our interview with Calvin might convince you otherwise.
If you want to tour the Henry River Mill Village, there are a few options.
- Historic Tour (General Admission)
- Henry River After Dark (Special Paranormal Tour)
Like me, you can bring your Hunger Games quotes along, but one thing to really appreciate here is the homage to its original history. Reyes explained, “Our job is to make sure that we cater to those fans, but also use that to leverage the history and the importance of the history.”
So you might come here wanting to snap some photos of the Everdeen home or the Company Store, but you’ll come away knowing much more about an important time in North Carolina history.
Many people still remember this as where their families lived and worked, so above everything, you should try to appreciate this property’s roots.
Henry River Mill Village hosts a few events on the property during a typical year. Mill Vill Fest is one of them, with music, food, and more fun throughout a very festive day in March.
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Stay at Henry River Mill Village
As Calvin Reyes mentioned during our interview, there were plans to transform some of the homes on-site into places to stay. After seeing the news and visiting Henry River Mill Village to confirm, we can say that you can now stay in a beautifully restored cabin on site.
Check here for availability.
Ready to Explore Henry River Mill Village?
A visit to Henry River Mill Village will take you back to the time when textiles dominated North Carolina on so many levels. This crucial industry played a significant part in this state’s transition from agrarian to industrial lifestyles.
Having a place like this to highlight that is something we should all get behind. We’re grateful to the Reyes family for preserving this place and its stories.
If you’ve been to the Henry River Mill Village, we’d love to know what you thought of it?
If you’re planning a trip there, let us know what you’re looking forward to seeing.