District 12 “Hunger Games” filming location named historic place

Raleigh, North Carolina — What would the folks in the Capitol think? District 12 is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Henry River Mill Village, which served as the home of the three main characters from the original “The Hunger Games,” was named a historic place last month and announced by state officials earlier this week. It’s a designation that the new owners sought for the 72-acre property because they “wanted to be the ones who got this property the recognition it deserves,” said Calvin Reyes, who bought the village in 2017 with his mother and stepfather, Elaine and Michael Namour.

In an interview with CBS affiliate WNCN last year, Reyes said his family had established the Henry River Preservation Fund nonprofit to preserve artifacts found on the property. A museum is also in the works. 

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“It’s all about the history,” said Reyes. They’re also hoping to open a gift shop, then maybe a house or two renovated for overnight stays, along with a restaurant.

When “The Hunger Games” was filmed in North Carolina in 2011, the mill village served as the home of Katniss, Peeta and Gale. But when Reyes talks about the proper recognition, he’s not referring merely to the filming of a box office smash.

That history began about 1905 when the Henry River Manufacturing Co. established the mill in Hildebran in western North Carolina, about 70 miles east of Asheville. The mill, which closed in 1970, burned down in 1977. It now includes a two-story company store and about 20 wood-frame textile workers’ homes.

This undated photo shows an aerial view of the abandoned mill village near Asheville, North Carolina. Clayton Joe Young / AP

The historic places nomination form says “the abandoned site took on the appearance of a ghost town” in the two decades after the mill burned, with 14 houses lost to decay and the boarding house demolished.

Reyes and his parents purchased the property for $360,000 in 2013 — a bargain considering the previous owner once was asking $1.4 million. That owner, Wade Shepherd, died in 2015, two years before the village sold.

Shepherd, had complained about visitors and vandals even before “The Hunger Games” opened. Now the property is protected by cameras, lights and tours that take place five days a week. In addition, a “Hunger Games” tour group brings visitors on weekends. Since some people believe the property is haunted, paranormal tours also are available.

The National Park Service manages the historic places register, which doesn’t limit what an owner can do with their property. However, the designation may make property owners eligible for preservation funds and federal historic tax credits.

Author Suzanne Collins announced earlier this week that she’s releasing a prequel to her trilogy about a post-apocalyptic world. It’s set for release next year. That can only fuel interest in all things about Panem. 

Visitors can tour the property, with all proceeds going toward the Henry River Preservation Fund.

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