Hildebran, NC – A change in ownership has brought the dawn of a new era for the Henry River Mill Village, an early-1900s village in eastern Burke County best known as the filming site for District 12 in the original Hunger Games movie.

The historic village, once home to a thriving textile mill producing fine thread from power generated by its dam on the Henry River, was purchased in October by Calvin Reyes of Hickory, NC, and his mom and step-father, Elaine Namour and Michael Namour of Denver, NC.

The new owners have instituted daily tours that focus on the community’s history, including the Hunger Games aspect. They have also contracted with the Unofficial Hunger Games Fan Tours to offer in-depth movie-based tours on weekends, and they have partnered with First in Fright Paranormal to offer paranormal hunts and investigations the last Saturday of each month.

The daily history tours started in the spring and have been a big hit, Reyes says. The one-hour tours take place every day at 10am, noon, and 2pm, and cost $15 per person.

“The neatest thing about it to me is seeing how interested people are in the village,” he says. “They’re usually coming for the Hunger Games aspect, but then they learn the history and are just fascinated. Then you watch 10-year-old kids and don’t think they are going to be interested in it at all, but they see the abandoned buildings and they hear why they are here and they go see the outhouses and are just intrigued by it.”

Unofficial Hunger Game Fan Tours, which run three to four hours and include archery activities, movie reenactments and lunch, take place most Saturdays and Sundays. The cost is $35 for adults and $30 for children.

Meanwhile, the four-hour evening paranormal tours take visitors on an intimate journey through near pitch-black darkness and into areas that are usually off limits. Participants must be 18 years or older and the cost is $89.99 per person.

Reyes is also working with a non-profit preservation group to establish a museum in house 16, which was the home of heroine Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games.

Longer term plans include refurbishing the company store (which was a bakery in the Hunger Games) into a restaurant and gathering place, renovating the 20 remaining mill houses into overnight rentals, and rebuilding 12 of the mill village houses that have been lost over time.

Reyes’ vision is creating a destination where folks can spend a weekend, or longer, with plenty of activities available on site.

“We want to bring it back to life – a real village where you have kayaking, canoeing, hiking and a variety of other pursuits, including a restaurant,” Reyes says. “The end goal is developing a 72-acre getaway that allows you to not only experience the Hunger Games aspect, but also our Western North Carolina culture – the nature, food, community and overall feel.”

Reyes says the purchase of the vacant village came about by happenstance. He was looking for a place with multiple acres where his family, parents and grandparents could build houses and live close to each other. Although that is still part of the plan, he now sees a higher calling to preserve a piece of North Carolina’s past for future generations.

“I’m 32 and this is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life,” he says. “I am going to spend the next 20 or 30 years building up Henry River and then if my kids want it, fantastic.

If not, we’ll get somebody else to take it over. I want to leave something behind that is bigger than all of us and to me Henry River is a project that is worth it.”

To register for tours and activities, or to learn more about the village in general, visit www.HenryRiverMillVillage.com.

Photo: Mill Village by Clayton Joe Young