Quabbin: Part 1
The passage of the Swift River Act in 1927 sealed forever the lives of four towns and several villages in the Swift River Valley of central Massachusetts.
The towns of Dana, Enfield, Prescott and Greenwich passed from existence at the stroke of midnight on April 27, 1938. Taken by eminent domain where necessary, roughly 120 square miles of land with its villages, homes, churches, schools, factories, stores and cemeteries were removed to make way for the flooding of this beautiful valley and the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir – a major extension of the Metropolitan Boston water supply system.
The purchase of real estate cost $9.5 million dollars or approximately $108 per acre. The total cost for the entire project was $53 million dollars which was $7 million dollars under budget! This included clearing the land, constructing Winsor Dam, Goodnough Dike, Quabbin Aqueduct, intake and outlet facilities, spillway, observation tower, Administration Building and Quabbin Park Cemetery. The construction proceeded throughout the decade of the thirties. Flooding of the valley began on August 14, 1939 and the newly created reservoir first reached capacity seven years later in 1946. The first water supply was released to Boston in 1941.
Physically, the Quabbin Reservoir is 18 miles long, has a shoreline perimeter of 118 miles, covers 39 square miles with an average depth of 51 feet, contains over 60 islands, has a protected watershed of 120 square miles, holds 214 billion gallons at capacity and supplies 2.8 million people in 46 cities and towns with high quality water.
"But there is another Quabbin whose mystique is embodied in its history where the sites of lost homelands lie buried beneath its waters – its wildness where 180 miles of shoreline and 120 square miles of protected watershed devoid of human habitation flourish with a rich diversity of plants and animals and – its scenery where breathtaking vistas and secluded woodlands paths lead past vacant foundations to open meadows and wide skies embellished with soaring eagles. Here is a Quabbin that touches the heart, challenges the mind and lifts the spirit. To those who discover this Quabbin, it is a priceless treasure; one that is as essential to our spiritual well being as clean water is to our physical well being. It is this essence I have strived to capture in the numerous quabbin photos you will find in the Sky Meadow Gallery. Photos that in your home will keep alive, year round, the joy you enjoyed at this special place." — Les Campbell
Quabbin: Part II – A Visual History
Les has set up an exhibit in his barn at Sky Meadow. "Glimpses of the Pre-Quabbin Swift River Valley And the Quabbin Reservoir of Today" dramatically tells the Quabbin story in pictures. It is the only exhibit of its kind anywhere and if you are a Quabbin devotee – it is a must see!
This exhibit has many historic images contrasted with the same area today. There are photos that show how the dam is constructed, images of the farewell ball in Enfield, and a selection of remarkable photographs reprinted from original glass plate negatives by Burt Brooks. Mr. Brooks was a Greenwich native (1848 – 1931). He has left a wonderful visual legacy of glimpses into life in his time with his photographs and his paintings.
All of the images on this website represent a small selection of those available at the Sky Meadow Gallery. All are available in sizes large and small, matted, framed and ready to hang on your wall and reasonably priced.
Clearly, what hangs on the wall provides the final touch of décor in home and office environments. They say a lot about who we are and what interests us.
Best of all they can easily be changed, seasonally or otherwise to keep up with the changing moods and interests.
Thoughts on Quabbin
The Quabbin Mystique: Perhaps no aspect of the Quabbin Valley is more striking than the overwhelming sense of lost communities that now exist only in scattered words or images on paper. Some people still recall villages, farms, woodlands and streams now submerged in a startling new landscape with a beauty of its own.
Today as we wander woodland roads, past vacant foundations or gaze upon the vista of a great lake with its wild shores, soaring eagles, and mountain islands, one can hear the echoing sounds of a lost valley and its people both ancient and recent.
In this exhibit, I have attempted to personify and articulate my own special understanding of a Quabbin known, loved and treasured by hundreds of thousands of visitors whose affection transcends knowledge of its existence as a drinking water supply. When these Quabbin lovers talk about "The Quabbin," they are not thinking of a drinking water supply for some far away and unseen place – but of a place that provides in multitudinous ways "therapy" for the spirit.
To help understand "The Quabbin" as a separate entity from "Quabbin Reservoir," I see Quabbin as four dimensional:
The physical Quabbin – A remarkable engineering and far-sighted man-made reservoir that supplies 2.4 million people with a first-class water supply.
The historic Quabbin – The story and the mystique of displaced people whose homes, towns, communities and way of life was forever terminated by powers beyond their control.
The wilderness Quabbin – A vast and unplanned sanctuary for wildlife where loons, eagles, coyotes and beaver together with a myriad of other plants and animals are resident – and fisherman, naturalist, poet, artist, hiker and other lovers of the outdoors – are only visitors.
The aesthetic or spiritual Quabbin – where quiet expansive forests, fields, streams, and miles of unencumbered shoreline provide needed relief from the constrictions and frustrations of daily living in a noisy environment of glass, steel and concrete.
For me it is these three latter dimensions of Quabbin, the historic, wilderness and spiritual, that is the essence of this exhibit. A Quabbin "For the Joy of It". I feel strongly that places like this other Quabbin are becoming hard to come by yet they are as essential to our mental and spiritual well-being as is an adequate supply of clean water to our physical well-being.
""Of all the resources crucial to man"s creativity and survival, none is more vital than his spirit. The Quabbin Reservation provides a rich source of inspiration and motivation for a wide diversity of artistic and scientific enterprise. Here amidst the quiet beauty of a remote and natural place, one may discover and embrace that mystical part which ignites and replenishes the eternal flame of human spirit." — Les Campbell
For More Information
Friends of the Quabbin is a public support group for the Quabbin Visitor's Center. Events throughout the year and a quarterly newsletter are among the many benefits. Visit their web site at www.foquabbin.org
Located in the DCR Administration Building at the Quabbin, The Quabbin Visitors' Center has a wealth of information for visitors. Visit their site at www.mass.gov/locations/quabbin-reservoir