by Howard Hewett
Ethyl-Dow Plant in Kure Beach, NC
Lem’s recent Ethyl Dow post is one that I can add some additional history to because the Ethyl Dow Chemical Co. had a direct impact on my family. My Dad went to work for Ethyl Dow in 1933 as a laborer helping clear the land for the Kure Beach Plant.
As construction progressed, Dad continued to work at the plant site. When the plant started operations, he became a plant operator, then shift foreman, plant foreman and later Supervisor. After the war when the demand lessened for ethylene dibromide, the plant was mothballed but it was kept in semi-running condition. Dad maintained his role as supervisor of the remaining crew.
When the decision was made to demolish the plant, Dad & his crew were responsible for clearing all the equipment. Then most mechanical equipment was sold to potential buyers.
In 1953, our family moved to Freeport, Texas for a 1 year project at the Ethyl Dow plant there. Dad was somewhat an expert in the packing of the blowing out towers which had a special lath packing made of cypress. The project included purchasing the cypress, manufacturing the lath packing and installing it in the towers.
We returned to Federal Point in 1954 just in time for hurricane Hazel. By 1956, the plant was cleared and all equipment sold. Dad turned the key to the Office building over to a demolition contractor.
If you viewed the YouTube video – History of the Ethyl Dow Plant (Island Ecology for Educators-Final Project), produced by Johnny Reinhold in 2012 and recently posted on Facebook by Lem Woods, some of the concrete & brick rubble material from the plant demolition was later used at Fort Fisher to combat beach erosion. The article is a fairly accurate history of the Kure Beach plant.
In 1956, the Hewett family moved back to Freeport, Texas where Dad continued to work for Ethyl Dow until the shutting down of the Texas Operation plant in early 1970’s. Again, Dad was given the responsibility for clearing the Freeport plant, selling the equipment and turning the plant over to a demolition contractor.
During Dad’s 47 year Dow career he worked in two Ethyl Dow plants, 1400 miles apart and had the distinction of walk out the front door and turning the front door key to demolition contractors which ended the existence of the Ethyl Dow Chemical Co.
As to the Ethyl Dow plant at Kure Beach, Dad was able to save some photo history of the plant. I have post some of the photos here with a comment attached to each picture.
Gold From the Sea? (great visuals of the Kure Beach Ethyl-Dow plant)
Popular Mechanics, Jun, 1934
What is the Ethyl-Dow plant?
by: Ben Steelman – Wilmington StarNews – April, 2009
Chemical plant’s remnants removed to make room for homes in Kure Beach
by: Shannan Bowen – Wilmington StarNews – Nov. 23, 2010
Ethyl-Dow plant to be commemorated (60 year anniversary)
by: Jerry McElreath – StarNews – May 21, 1993
Dow Chemical Company – Early History – Wikipedia
Ethyl-Dow Operators– Initial Meeting (Wilmington Star, 5-11-39)