The Recorder – Retired DCR employee takes guests on photographic journey of Quabbin Reservoir’s ‘lost’ towns

GREENFIELD — Photographer and retired State Department of Conservation and Recreation employee Dale Monette takes guests on a photographic journey to where homes once stood before they were abandoned for the construction of Quabbin Reservoir a little over 80 years ago.

Presenting “Quabbin, Then and Now” at the Masonic Center at 215 Munson St. Monday, Monette used a slideshow presentation to show old black-and-white DCR images juxtaposed with photographs he took at the same locations, to illustrate the differences between the two Quabbin landscape then and now. The same program, which includes a question and answer session, is coming to New Salem on September 30th.

“On this particular show, there always seems to be a lot of interest in the quabbin,” he said of his presentation.

Monette detailed slides from specific locations in the cities of New Salem, Pelham, Belchertown, Dana, Prescott, Enfield, and Greenwich. The last four towns were dissolved on April 28, 1938, and all structures were removed to allow the valley to be flooded to provide the primary water supply for Boston and some other communities.

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“(The state) said, ‘Look, we don’t care what you do with your house now. you can take it off You can move it. If you leave it, we’ll just pile it up and burn it to the ground,'” Monette told 38 people at the Masonic Center on Monday.

Residents were paid fair market value for their homes that were dismantled or removed intact. If the homeowners had refused, Monette said, their property would have been taken by an eminent domain. Those who had a business in one of the cities received no compensation for it. Today, the Quabbin Reservoir is the largest inland body of water in Massachusetts.

Many of Monette’s slides were presented with a fade-away effect, with an old DCR photo disappearing into Monette’s updated images of the same location. Photos included Enfield City Hall, Dana Center Common, George E. Carter and Howard W. Cook’s properties in Dana, George Webb’s property in Pelham, and Clarence A. Moore’s Swift River Garage (where Gasoline on September 27 cost 15 cents a gallon). , 1937) at Greenwich.

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Many of the original photos show children. And Monette mentioned in one of the pictures in the presentation that a town clerk had once given him a dog license issued for a puppy.

Theresa Holmes, Chief Officer of the Greenfield Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, said she thought the program was well received by those in attendance.

“They seemed very happy with the program,” said Holmes, who asked Monette about “Quabbin, Then and Now” after reading about his presentation in a Greenfield Recorder article.

Monette will give the same presentation on Friday, September 30 at 7:00 p.m. in the New Salem Public Library Common Room. A small selection of Monette’s photographs are on display in the Library’s Miniature Art Gallery and will remain there throughout this presentation. Contact the New Salem Public Library at 978-544-6334 or [email protected] for details.

Quabbin’s story

An infamous and devastating fire in Boston in 1872 sparked discussion that the city needed better access to water. The Quabbin region was considered ideal because it averaged 44 inches of annual rainfall and hundreds of small streams flow into the valley. South Hadley, Wilbraham and Chicopee also draw water from the reservoir. All photos of the “lost” cities are located either in the State Archives in Boston or in the Quabbin Visitor Center at 100 Winsor Dam Road in Belchertown.

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According to Monette’s statistics, 1,100 buildings (including 650 houses) were removed to create the reservoir. The dissolution displaced 2,500 people. 34 cemeteries consisting of 7,613 graves were removed, as were 31½ miles of railway. 36 miles of the highway have been relocated and 242 miles have been abandoned.

26 people died during the construction of the reservoir. Monette said not much is known about these people, although he has heard that one man was killed when a truck backed into him while men worked around the clock at the reservoir.

Monette, 73, retired from DCR eight years ago. His interest is recorded because two of his great-grandparents were expelled from Prescott.

Domenic Poli can be reached at [email protected] or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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