Nitrate Plant No. 2 Fire Department

Dublin Core


Nitrate Plant No. 2 Fire Department


Colbert County, Alabama; Sheffield, Alabama; Fire Department


The Tennessee Valley is filled with minerals, including the materials needed to produce nitrates. Nitrates can be used for many things, most importantly for TVA to help add nutrients to fertilizer. This helped  to increase crop production. Another use for a nitrate plant can be for producing nitric acid during times of war to create explosives. These two important factors helped lead the US government to initially start building the Wilson Dam in 1918 and susbequently in 1933 give the TVA control of one of the two nitrate plants in the area of the Shoals. During the early twentieth century, only a small amount of nitrate used in the US came from the country. Most was imported from South America.

The  top priority of the TVA was to improve soil and prevent erosion. By employing nitrogen from the plant, the TVA could improve farmland. Before the introduction of nitrogen back into the land by the TVA, farmers were exhausting the land and creating barren fallow fields of mud that eroded away into the river. With the plant came a village to house the many workers brought into the area by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This was called Village No. 2 and existed for 32 years. The plant was built by the American Cyanmid Company, with the overall goal of producing 40,000 tons of nitrogen. The plant and Wilson Dam, then referred to as Dam No. 2, were commissioned and built by the federal government, with the help of the state of Alabama. The plant was to produce ammonium nitrate by the cynamid process of nitrogen fixation. It cost about $12 million dollars to build.

The village was constructed around the same time as the dam. The village itself housed many of the workers and their families. The village housed a local school for younger ages, a fire department, and even book mobiles to allow greater access to books. The houses came in prefabricated styles, ranging from three to seven rooms. Every house had complete sewer, water, and electrical connections, a rare thing at the time. There were 42 permanent houses, 1 mess hall, three office buildings, a post office, and even an ice plant that produced 6 tons of ice a day. 


Carrie Keener, University of North Alabama


'Sheffield History And Recollections: Journal Of Muscle Shoals History Volume XVIII'. 2011. Florence. William Lindsey McDonald Colleciton. UNA Special Archives.
Woodhouse, Henry. 1926. 'Muscle Shoals Industrial Possibilities And Actualities'. Newspaper. Florence. William Lindsey McDonald Collection. UNA Special Archives.


Alabama Cultural Resource Survey


December 1, 2015