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Lake Mattamuskeet Pumping Station
In 1913 August Hecksher, a philanthropic Dutchman, bought the entire lake bottom, formed the New Holland Corporation, and created New Holland. The corporation constructed the world's largest pumping plant as a means of keeping the lake area dewatered. It placed nine thousand acres of the lake bed and adjacent marshland under cultivation and produced bumper crops of soybeans, rice, buckwheat, popcorn, lespedeza, barley, celery, asparagus, rye, oats, flax and potatoes. It is said to have yielded the greatest growth of sweet potatoes ever grown - over 900 bushels per acre. (The average in North Carolina is 100 bushels per acre.)
The attempt to drain the 50,000 acre lake and reclaim the land for farming was unsuccessful. The Federal Government purchased the area in 1934 and a waterfowl sanctuary was established. The pumping station was converted to and administration building and lodge. A circular staircase was built into the former smokestack of the pumping plant, turning it into an observation tower. This 150' structure affords a magnificent view of the refuge and the surrounding country with thousands of geese and swans often to be seen at one time.
(Upper photo provided by the Greater Hyde County Chamber of Commerce. Middle photo courtesy of Pratt Williamson, Jr. and last photo courtesy of Norman and Sandi Roberts.)