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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Quabbin Reservoir–the Inspiration for the Novel, Cascade

While I was in the midst of reading Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara I happened across a story on my local news. I don’t even remember what the story was about but they were showing the Quabbin Reservoir located in Western Massachusetts and something about it triggered something that made me think of the book. Well wouldn’t you know it, the events in Cascade are based on the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir – where 4 towns were dis-incorporated and “drowned” in an effort to bring more water into Boston.

So since that day, about 2 weeks ago, I have immersed myself in Quabbin. My boyfriend grew up not 20 miles from there and had never been there – but we plan to rectify that this spring, hopefully – and you know when I do I will post photos. There are lots of recreational opportunities there today as well as a visitor center where you can learn more about the reservoir. But here are some interesting facts to get us started:

  1. The area that now holds Quabbin Reservoir used to be the towns of Enfield, Dana, Prescott, and Greenwich, Massachusetts, as well as portions of several neighboring towns.

Enfield was the most prosperous of the 4 towns – there were many textile and wood product mills in the town. One of its notable residents was Edward Clark Potter who crafted the lions that stand outside the New York Public Library. There was also a railroad and 2 state highways that bisected this community.

enfieldmap_sm
Photo Credits

Dana was also a prosperous industrial center – their main industries were palm leaf braided hats and soapstone.

danamap
Photo Credits

Greenwich was more rural featuring a lot of farming but also had silver plating and match factories. They also featured several prominent summer camps and a golf course. During the winter, they exported ice for ice boxes in New Haven and New York. Most of the town is now below water with the exception of the tops of Mt. Liz, Mount Pomeroy, and Curtis Hill – which now stand as islands.

greenwichmap_sm
Photo Credits

Prescott was the smallest and most rural of the four. Accordingly they harvested primarily apples and had dairy farms, charcoal kilns and sawmills. It was the first city to sell to the water authority. There were only about 300 residents at the time of dis-incorporation.

prescottmap_sm
Photo Credits

   2.    In the early 1900’s city managers knew that Boston was
          beginning to have a water accessibility problem, which would
          only increase over time. They began looking for ways to bring
          more water into the city. By 1930, it was decided that this extra
          water would have to come from the Swift River.

   3.    As you can expect there was opposition from the towns – who
          took their case to the Massachusetts Supreme Court – and
          ultimately lost.

   4.    All four towns were dis-incorporated on April 28, 1938. Some
         buildings were relocated, but a majority of them were razed to
         the ground and vast areas of trees were cut down and cleared.
         In all, almost 2500 people were relocated and 7500 bodies were
         removed from the local cemeteries and relocated at Quabbin
         Park Cemetery.

   5.    Water began to fill the region on August 14, 1939 following the
          sealing of a tunnel and it would take about 7 years to fill the
          reservoir completely. In the time prior to its completion, the area
          was used as a practice site for bombing planes prior to WWII.
          You can read more about that here.

What you can visit today: Most of the town of Dana is still above water and you can access the town common by foot where there is a marker denoting it. There are also cellar holes. Prescott Peninsula is still above water and can be visited with a tour by the Swift River Valley Historical Society once a year. You can still visit some parts of Enfield today – the entrance to Quabbin State Park and their headquarters are located on former Enfield property as well as Quabbin Observatory and Enfield lookout.  You can visit the Department of Conservation and Recreation website for more information.

Here is a really interesting set of photos I found on the Friends of Quabbin website. They show the area of Enfield from three different dates: 1927 (prior to dis-incorporation), 1939 (following the razing of the town) and 1987 (the reservoir is fully flooded) all from the same viewpoint.

enfield_1927bw
1927

enfield_1939bw
1939

enfield_1987bw
1987

Sometimes you can learn some fascinating things from reading a book! To quote Dr. Seuss – “Oh the places you’ll go!”.

You can read more about the Quabbin Reservoir and the drowned towns at the Friends of Quabbin site.

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

9 comments:

  1. Oooh, so cool! I read this book last month or the month before and loved it -- the historical basis was so fascinating -- the pictures you shared are gorgeous (and chilling) -- thanks for this.

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    1. Thanks again, Audra. I posted your review on my website, as it was one of my favorites. :)

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    2. I especially thought that the same image over the three years was especially noteworthy/eyecatching!

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  2. You did a wonderful job with this post!

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  3. Very nice commentary. I'm sorry to hear that your boyfriend lived so close yet never visited. You might be surprised to hear how many people there are around here who fit that description and, even more surprising, how many people from Boston have never even hear of this place in spite of the fact that it's where their water comes from. I have some pictures and an extensive blog about it if you'd care to read up and plan your first trip. Thanks

    Q
    http://quabbinvalley.wordpress.com/

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    Replies
    1. I can imagine how many people have no idea that this sort of thing happened. I will be sure to stop by your blog to check it out!

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  4. LOVE the history behind the book. Thanks Heather :)

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  5. The history behind it just sucked me in and I had to know more!

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