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