Asheville and the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina have been the setting for many movies. The blockbuster movie The Hunger Games was filmed in several locations during the spring and summer of 2011. Released in March 2012, the movie is based on the trilogy of young adult science fiction books written by Suzanne Collins. The ghost town of Henry River became Katniss' home (District 12). Fortunately, this abandoned textile mill village near Morganton is being saved and opens for visitors in 2018. The village Company Store (pic above) served as Mellark's Bakery in the movie.
The movie, which stars Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz and Woody Harrelson, filmed nine days in Henry River Mill Village (read more below), located in Burke County (about one hour's drive east of Asheville on I-40, about 1/2-mile from exit 119). This ghost town used for District 12 scenes drew curious visitors long before it was featured in the movie. You can see the village from the road, but visitors can only explore during special events below.
2018 Update: Great news! The Henry River Preservation Fund is a non-profit group raising money to preserve the village and open it to the public for special events:
- Saturday Visits: Stop by 9AM-2 PM on Saturdays for a free, self-guided tour of the village. Volunteers and former residents will be available for questions.
- Mill Vill Fest on March 24, 2018: First ever festival is this abandoned mill village near Morganton, film location for The Hunger Games. Fundraiser to save the historic buildings. Music, food trucks, beer/wine, vendors and behind the scenes tours. Free admission. 12-4 PM. GPS Address: 4255 Henry River Road, Hickory
- First in Fright Hands-On Paranormal Investigations begins April 13, 2018: Look for spirits with this one of a kind hands-on paranormal investigation a variety of methods to experience unexplained activity first hand. 8 PM until Midnight on select dates. $100/person. Only 10 spots, so get tickets ASAP. Get info on their Facebook page.
- Guided Tours: Take a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the Henry River Mill Village with members of the foundation preserving the site. The 2-hour tour for a maximum of 10 guests takes you back in time as you explore the abandoned Company Store, inside several Mill Houses and through the 72-acre Village that was the film location for District 12 in The Hunger Games movie. Tours by appointment, book at least 48 hours in advance. $40 for up to 5 people and $10 a person after that. Call 828-471-4768 or go to their Web site for info.
More about Henry River Mill Ghost Town - District 12 in The Hunger Games
The Henry River Mill Village (or "District 12") is now a ghost town. It was built as a planned community with its own textile mill, dam, water and fire-protection systems, and company store. Today most of the village's original buildings remain sited along a small gorge of the Henry River, about 75 miles east of Asheville, near Hildebran, NC. The abandoned homes are dangerous inside due to collapsing floors. Stay on the main road since the area is closed to visitors except for events and Saturday visits. (Exit 119 off I-40 - then go south about 1/2 mile to Henry River.)
In 1904 Michael Erastus Rudisill laid out the mill and village on a 1500-acre tract, chosen for its hydropower potential. The mill was incorporated as the Henry River Manufacturing Company and manufactured fine cotton yarns. In 1905, a 30-ft. reinforced concrete dam was constructed with a three-story brick mill building. The mill building burned in 1977. The residential area of the village consisted of approximately 35 small worker's cottages. Twenty-one are standing today. These 1.5-story duplex houses were laid out along the river's northern bank. The workers lived in boarding houses or workers' cottages built by the company, which were leased at nominal fees.
Since the loss of the main mill building, the centerpiece of the village today is the two-story brick company store building. This building served as a mill office with the upper floor used as a school room and for church services from 1907-1917. The Henry River Mill originally ran on water power. In 1914, a steam plant was installed and then in 1926, the mill was converted to electric power. In its early years, the mill operated 4,000 yarn-making spindles. By the time it shut down in the late 1960s, the mill had 12,000 spindles and produced fine combed yarn for lace. The mill was closed for several years and was purchased in 1976. Equipment and materials were stored in the mill building when it burned in 1977.
The Hunger Games takes place in an unidentified future time period after the destruction of North America, in a nation known as Panem. Panem consists of a wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts. District 12, where the book begins, is located in the coal-rich region that was formerly Appalachia.