In an ironic twist, urbanization and development in the greater Boston area created several expansive wilderness areas in central Massachusetts during the twentieth century. When the Quabbin Reservoir was built during the 1930s as the primary water supply for eastern Massachusetts, four towns and other villages in the Swift River Valley were abandoned and flooded, displacing thousands of residents. Other villages and neighborhoods in the Ware River and Wachusett Reservoir watersheds were also abandoned for municipal projects.
Once home to town commons, schools, mills, farms, and lake camps, these places were transformed into wilderness now frequented by moose, bald eagles, common loons, bobcats, and other wildlife.
While the lost towns are deep under water now or obscured by forests, many old images have preserved the memories of these communities and the people whose lives were affected, and documented the remarkable transformation of the landscape. The pictures include both overviews of the flooded towns, and close-ups of individual historic sites.
John Burk is an outdoor writer, photographer, and historian from New England whose interests include natural areas, wildlife, recreation, and landscape history. He has authored or edited a number of regional books and guides, including New England's Natural Wonders
, The Wildlife of New England
, and AMC Massachusetts Trail Guide
, and contributed to publications such as AMC Outdoors
, Northern Woodlands
, and Natural New England
. John worked for 10 years as a historical researcher and archivist at Harvard Forest. He holds an MA in regional studies/landscape history and a BA in history.
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