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

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 to create Quabbin Reservoir a little over 80 years ago.

Monette presented “Quabbin, Then and Now” at the Masonic Center at 215 Munson St. on Monday, using a slideshow presentation to share old black-and-white DCR images juxtaposed with photographs he took at the same locations for illustrate the differences between the Quabbin Landscape of yesteryear and today. The same program, which includes time for questions, will come to New Salem on September 30.

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

Monette detailed slides of specific locations in the towns of New Salem, Pelham, Belchertown, Dana, Prescott, Enfield and Greenwich. The last four towns were dissolved on April 28, 1938, and every structure removed so that the valley could be flooded to provide the main water supply for Boston and certain other communities.

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

Residents were paid fair market value for their homes, which were dismantled or removed intact. Had the owners refused, Monette said, their property would have been taken by eminent domain. Anyone with a business in one of the cities received no compensation for this. Today, Quabbin Reservoir is the largest inland body of water in Massachusetts.

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

Many original photographs have children in them. And Monette mentioned that a city clerk once gave her the dog license issued for a dog in one of the images from the presentation.

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 contacted Monette about “Quabbin, Then and Now” after reading her presentation in a Greenfield Recorder article.

Monette is scheduled to give the same presentation at 7 p.m. in the New Salem Public Library Community Room on Friday, Sept. 30. A small selection of Monette’s photographs are on display in the library’s Miniature Art Gallery and will remain there throughout this presentation. For details, contact the New Salem Public Library at 978-544-6334 or [email protected]

History of Quabbin

An infamous and devastating 1872 fire in Boston sparked discussions that the city needed better access to water. The Quabbin area was considered ideal as it averaged 44 inches of annual rainfall and there are hundreds of small streams flowing into the valley. South Hadley, Wilbraham and Chicopee also receive water from the reservoir. All photographs of the “lost” cities are either in the state archives in Boston or at the Quabbin Visitor Center at 100 Winsor Dam Road in Belchertown.

According to Monette’s statistics, 1,100 structures (including 650 houses) were removed for the creation of the reservoir. The disincorporation displaced 2,500 people. Thirty-four cemeteries, consisting of 7,613 graves, were removed, as were 31 and a half miles of railroad. Thirty-six miles of highway were moved and 242 miles were abandoned.

Twenty-six people died during the construction of the reservoir. Monette said not much is known about these people, although he heard a man was killed when a truck ran him over while men were working around the clock on the tank.

Monette, 73, retired from DCR eight years ago. His interest is ancestral since two of his great-grandparents were moved from Prescott.

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

Michael E. Marquez