Alcoa, Tennessee

Alcoa, Tennessee

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Alcoa is a city in Blount County
Blount County, Tennessee
Blount County is a U.S. county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. Its population was 123,010 at the United States Census, 2010. The county seat is at Maryville, which is also the county's largest city....

, Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, south of Knoxville
Knoxville, Tennessee
Founded in 1786, Knoxville is the third-largest city in the U.S. state of Tennessee, U.S.A., behind Memphis and Nashville, and is the county seat of Knox County. It is the largest city in East Tennessee, and the second-largest city in the Appalachia region...

. Its population was 7,744 at the 2000 census
United States Census, 2000
The Twenty-second United States Census, known as Census 2000 and conducted by the Census Bureau, determined the resident population of the United States on April 1, 2000, to be 281,421,906, an increase of 13.2% over the 248,709,873 persons enumerated during the 1990 Census...

. It is part of the Knoxville, Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee
Founded in 1786, Knoxville is the third-largest city in the U.S. state of Tennessee, U.S.A., behind Memphis and Nashville, and is the county seat of Knox County. It is the largest city in East Tennessee, and the second-largest city in the Appalachia region...

 Metropolitan Statistical Area.

As its name suggests, Alcoa is the site of a large aluminum smelting
Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy; its main use is to produce a metal from its ore. This includes iron extraction from iron ore, and copper extraction and other base metals from their ores...

 plant owned and operated by the Alcoa
Alcoa Inc. is the world's third largest producer of aluminum, behind Rio Tinto Alcan and Rusal. From its operational headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Alcoa conducts operations in 31 countries...

 corporation. Formerly known as North Maryville, the town was incorporated under its present name in 1919.

Early company town

Shortly after the Pittsburgh Reduction Company changed its name to the Aluminum Company of America in 1907, the company began investigating the possibility of establishing a large smelting
Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy; its main use is to produce a metal from its ore. This includes iron extraction from iron ore, and copper extraction and other base metals from their ores...

 operation in East Tennessee. The hydroelectric potential of the Little Tennessee River
Little Tennessee River
The Little Tennessee River is a tributary of the Tennessee River, approximately 135 miles long, in the Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern United States.-Geography:...

, which exits the mountains about 15 miles (24.1 km) southwest of Alcoa, was one of the primary incentives, as the company's aluminum smelting operation would require massive amounts of electricity. In 1910, the company established a base camp at what is now known as Calderwood
Calderwood, Tennessee
Calderwood was a community once located along the Little Tennessee River in Blount County, Tennessee, USA. Established in 1912 as a base for the Aluminum Company of America's Little Tennessee Valley hydroelectric development operations, the community continued to house construction personnel and...

, but was initially known as "Alcoa," and would be known as such until the name was reapplied to the company's operations in North Maryville a few years later.

The company considered several potential plant sites in Knoxville
Knoxville, Tennessee
Founded in 1786, Knoxville is the third-largest city in the U.S. state of Tennessee, U.S.A., behind Memphis and Nashville, and is the county seat of Knox County. It is the largest city in East Tennessee, and the second-largest city in the Appalachia region...

, Etowah
Etowah, Tennessee
Etowah is a city in McMinn County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 3,663 at the 2000 census.-History:Etowah was founded in 1906, primarily as a location for a depot on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad line as part of a more direct route between Atlanta, Georgia and Cincinnati, Ohio...

, and Monroe County, but chose North Maryville due in part to the influence of Maryville mayor Samuel Everett (1864–1941). By 1914, the company had completed the initial purchase of 700 acres (283.3 ha) in North Maryville, and had initiated construction of the smelting plant and 150 houses for company employees. ALCOA's chief engineer Edwin Fickes and hydraulic engineer Robert Ewald drew up plans for the town to house the plant's workers. The town design initially called for the acquisition of 7500 acres (3,035.1 ha), and included four sections— Vose and Springbrook in the north (around what is now Springbrook Park) and Bassel and Hall in the south (around what is now the South Plant). Hall, named for the inventor of the aluminum electrolytic process
Hall-Héroult process
The Hall–Héroult process is the major industrial process for the production of aluminium. It involves dissolving alumina in molten cryolite, and electrolysing the molten salt bath to obtain pure aluminium metal.-Process:...

, was originally a segregated
Racial segregation
Racial segregation is the separation of humans into racial groups in daily life. It may apply to activities such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a public toilet, attending school, going to the movies, or in the rental or purchase of a home...

 community for the plant's African-American workers. Oldfield, a small community between the planned town and Maryville, would later be annexed by the city of Alcoa.

World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 brought about a spike in the demand for aluminum, and the company quickly expanded its North Maryville operations. In 1919, a rolling mill (now West Plant) was completed, and the company purchased the Knoxville Power Company for its Little Tennessee Valley holdings. That same year, the company's town officially incorporated as "Alcoa." C.L. Babcock was the town's first mayor, and Victor Hultquist was the first city manager. Hultquist, who was also ALCOA's superintendent of construction, remained city manager until 1948, and oversaw much of the town's early development. In 1920, Alcoa had a population of 3,358 people living in 700 houses.

The Great Depression and World War II

Early Alcoa was a classic "company town," with ALCOA, the company, maintaining a paternalistic relationship with Alcoa, the city. The city's welfare was almost wholly dependent upon the company's fortunes. This presented a problem for the company, which feared that its workforce would leave to look for jobs elsewhere during times of low production. Thus, during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, the company maintained steady production levels in spite of the lack of demand for aluminum. Managers sought to cut workers' hours— which at one point dropped to 30 hours per week— rather than slash jobs. By the end of the decade, the company had stockpiled 42,000 tons of aluminum.

The Depression (and accompanying New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

 legislation) also brought about increased labor union activity in Alcoa. A strike in 1934 was forcibly ended when Hultquist deployed a large police force. A second strike in 1937 was broken in a similar fashion, but not before two striking workers were shot and killed and the National Guard had to intervene.

World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 proved immensely profitable for ALCOA, as aluminum was needed for aircraft construction. Production increased 600% during the war, and the company's Alcoa operations workforce swelled to 12,000. In the early 1940s, the company built its North Plant, which at the time of its completion was the world's largest plant under a single roof.

Modern Alcoa

After World War II, the city of Alcoa became less and less dependent upon its parent company. ALCOA's public image had suffered due to its hardline stance toward labor unions, and in response, it launched a series of public relations initiatives, including the donation of land for schools, parks, and airport construction. The company also desegregated its facilities during this period. In the early 1950s, the company began selling off company housing to employees. In 1956, Ross Walker became the first city manager who was not employed by the company, and toward the end of the decade, the company had relinquished ownership of city utilities. The completion of the Hall Road Viaduct in the 1940s and the continued development of McGhee Tyson Airport over subsequent decades led to commercial expansion and helped the city diversify its economy.


According to the United States Census Bureau
United States Census Bureau
The United States Census Bureau is the government agency that is responsible for the United States Census. It also gathers other national demographic and economic data...

, the city has a total area of 14.8 square miles (38.3 km²).13.8 square miles (35.7 km²) of it is land and 1 square miles (2.6 km²) of it (6.64%) is water.

The city is situated in the Foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains are a mountain range rising along the Tennessee–North Carolina border in the southeastern United States. They are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, and form part of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province. The range is sometimes called the Smoky Mountains or the...

, the outermost of which, Chilhowee Mountain
Chilhowee Mountain
Chilhowee Mountain is a low ridge at the outer edge of the Great Smoky Mountains that stretches between the Little Tennessee River to the west and the Little Pigeon River watershed to the east...

, rises just a few miles to the south. Large sections of the north-central and northeastern parts of the range are visible from Alcoa Highway. Little River
Little River (Tennessee)
Little River is a scenic river in Tennessee which drains a area containing some of the most spectacular scenery in the southeastern United States. The first of the river are all located within the borders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park...

, which rises near the heart of the Smokies, flows through the eastern section of Alcoa before emptying into the Tennessee River
Tennessee River
The Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio River. It is approximately 652 miles long and is located in the southeastern United States in the Tennessee Valley. The river was once popularly known as the Cherokee River, among other names...

 near Louisville
Louisville, Tennessee
Louisville is a town in Blount County, Tennessee, United States. Its population was 2,001 at the 2000 U.S. census. It is included in the Knoxville, Tennessee Metropolitan Statistical Area.-Geography:Louisville is located at...



As of the census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

of 2000, there were 7,734 people, 3,489 households, and 2,159 families residing in the city. The population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 was 560.7 people per square mile (216.5/km²). There were 3,857 housing units at an average density of 279.6 per square mile (108.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.15% White, 16.01% African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.34% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.78% from other races
Race (United States Census)
Race and ethnicity in the United States Census, as defined by the Federal Office of Management and Budget and the United States Census Bureau, are self-identification data items in which residents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify, and indicate whether or not they are...

, and 1.53% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.89% of the population.

There were 3,489 households out of which 24.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 living together, 13.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.1% were non-families. 33.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.80.

In the city the population was spread out with 20.9% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 29.1% from 25 to 44, 24.7% from 45 to 64, and 17.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,520, and the median income for a family was $44,333. Males had a median income of $31,464 versus $23,212 for females. The per capita income
Per capita income
Per capita income or income per person is a measure of mean income within an economic aggregate, such as a country or city. It is calculated by taking a measure of all sources of income in the aggregate and dividing it by the total population...

 for the city was $19,526. About 9.1% of families and 11.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.1% of those under age 18 and 10.9% of those age 65 or over.

Parks and recreation

Alcoa's early developers considered public parks an essential part of the city, and in the 1920s, ALCOA sought to set aside 1 acres (4,046.9 m²) of land for parks for every 100 people living in the city. In the early 1930s, City Manager Hultquist used idle plant workers for park construction, and over the years, the company continued donating land for park construction and expansion. In 1998, a 3 miles (4.8 km) section of the Maryville-Alcoa Greenway
Maryville Alcoa Greenway
The Maryville Alcoa Greenway is a cooperative effort by the two cities and Blount County, Tennessee to connect existing parks with a paved foot and cycle path.-History:...

 was completed, connecting Alcoa's Springbrook Park with Maryville's Bicentennial Greenbelt Park
Bicentennial Park (Greenbelt)
Bicentennial Park is a public park located in downtown Maryville, Tennessee.-History:Bicentennial Park was an urban renewal project of the City of Maryville during the period leading up to the US Bicentennial in 1976....



In the 1990s, Alcoa engaged in a three-way struggle with Knoxville and Blount County for control of McGhee Tyson Airport, which is located in Blount County, but built and operated by Knoxville. In 1992, an attempt by Alcoa to annex the airport was blocked by a court ruling, and a similar attempt four years later was rejected by voters in a referendum. A third annexation attempt in 2002 also failed. The airport is currently managed by the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority.

Major thoroughfares

  • U.S. Route 129
    U.S. Route 129
    U.S. Route 129 is an offshoot route of U.S. Route 29, which it intersects near Athens, Georgia. US 129 currently runs for 582 miles from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Chiefland, Florida, at U.S. Route 19 and U.S. Route 98. It passes through the states of Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida...

    , known as "Alcoa Highway" or "Airport Highway" in Alcoa, connects Alcoa with Knoxville to the north and traverses Blount County en route to the North Carolina
    North Carolina
    North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

     border to the south.
  • TN State Route 335, which follows Hunt Road and Old Glory Road, connects Alcoa with eastern and western Blount County
  • Interstate 140
    Interstate 140 (Tennessee)
    Interstate 140 is a spur route of Interstate 40 near Knoxville, Tennessee, that forms part of the Pellissippi Parkway. It runs east from Dutchtown Road north of Interstate 40 near Farragut to U.S. Route 129, near McGhee Tyson Airport. It intersects with U.S. Route 11 and U.S. Route 70 near its...

    /Tennessee State Route 162, known as Pellissippi Parkway, connects Alcoa with west Knoxville and Oak Ridge
    Oak Ridge, Tennessee
    Oak Ridge is a city in Anderson and Roane counties in the eastern part of the U.S. state of Tennessee, about west of Knoxville. Oak Ridge's population was 27,387 at the 2000 census...

  • U.S. Route 321
    U.S. Route 321
    U.S. Route 321 is a spur of U.S. Route 21. It runs for 526 miles from South Carolina to Tennessee. The northern terminus of U.S. 321 is between Lenoir City and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, at Interstate 40 exit 364, which is about 4 miles west of Interstate 40's junction with Interstate 75...

    , known as "Lamar Alexander Parkway," connects Alcoa with Lenoir City
    Lenoir City, Tennessee
    Lenoir City is a city in Loudon County, Tennessee, United States. Its population was 8,642 at the 2010 census. It is included in the Knoxville Metropolitan Area....

     to the west and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a United States National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site that straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The border between Tennessee and North...

     to the south
  • TN State Route 334, known as Louisville Road, connects Alcoa with Louisville, Tennessee
    Louisville, Tennessee
    Louisville is a town in Blount County, Tennessee, United States. Its population was 2,001 at the 2000 U.S. census. It is included in the Knoxville, Tennessee Metropolitan Statistical Area.-Geography:Louisville is located at...

  • TN State Route 35, which follows Hall Road
  • TN State Route 33, known as Old Knoxville Highway
  • TN State Route 333, which follows Topside Road.

Many of the city's streets, such as Bessemer, Joule, Edison, Darwin, and Watt, are named after famous scientists and inventors. Others, such as Hunt, Glascock, and Calderwood, were named for Alcoa company officials and engineers.

External links