November 5, 2015

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – When thinking of our nation’s history, many important people come to mind: presidents, activists, military heroes, and more. But what about the engineers that quite literally built our nation?


Rocky Rockwell, operations project manager of Philpott Lake, shared the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with a group of community members as part of New College Institute’s (NCI) non-credit lecture series. The group met on Wednesday at NCI’s building on the Baldwin Block.


“What began as an office of engineers to win the Revolutionary War grew to a vast array of contributions in military and civil engineering,” shared Rockwell.


Rockwell walked the audience through the expansion and contributions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which included major efforts in early topography, transportation routes by land and water, flood control, building construction, and more. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ influence is particularly felt in Washington, D. C., where the corps introduced major flood control efforts while also constructing a myriad of buildings and memorials including the Washington Monument and the Library of Congress.


Major military influences of the corps include the construction of the Panama Canal and the development of the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project in the early 1940s. Rockwell noted that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the “largest military engineering organization in the world” and has an extensive international presence.


Locally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the construction of Philpott Dam, completed in 1951, and the powerhouse, completed in 1953. These efforts were authorized by Congress in 1944 for purposes of flood control and hydroelectric power, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website. Philpott Lake, as well as 7,000 acres of surrounding land, are owned and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


“Today’s lecture provides an interesting perspective on our country’s history. The engineers of our country played a significant contribution to all other facets of history by enhancing infrastructure and preparing our military,” said Steve Keyser, NCI’s Coordinator of Community Engagement.