Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tekoa Reservoir, Montgomery, Massachusetts

Although the image preserved in this postcard from 1939 or later is captioned "Montgomery Reservoir, Westfield, Mass.," the scene is actually the dam and head works of  Tekoa Reservoir in the neighboring town of Montgomery.  Montgomery Reservoir (as it's known to Westfield residents, if you're from Montgomery, it's Westfield Reservoir) is a couple of miles north up Moose Meadow Brook from its smaller counterpart.

The two Westfield water storage areas were built in 1874 following that city's successful statehouse request to acquire land in the town of Montgomery for the purpose of providing its residents with a steady supply of the life-sustaining natural resource. The 1873 act of of the Massachusetts Legislature resulted in the taking of nearly five square miles of property along and around Moose Meadow Brook to form the watershed of the Montgomery Supply System.

Businesses displaced that had utilized the brook as a source of power included saw and grist mills. Moore's whip factory was forced to close, the family later establishing the Mountain House north of the upper reservoir, an inn that specialized in serving up the fresh air of Montgomery country summers to its guests.

The head works is now missing atop the dam at Tekoa Reservoir and trees have risen along the banks of Moose Meadow Brook as seen in this 2010 spring season photograph.

Chauncey D. Allen was in charge of the major public works project, which carried a price tag of a hefty quarter of a million dollars. Allen lived in Westfield, in a house built on the lot General William Shepard's home once occupied on Franklin Street. He also owned the 10 acres between King, Smith and Grant Streets. This land later became a park named in his honor, bequeathed to the city in 1929 by Allen's son-in-law, Albert E. Steiger, the beautiful Grandmothers' Garden part of its grounds.

Two dams were built on Moose Meadow Brook under Allen's direction. An earthen dam located on the upper part of the brook held back the 38 surface acre, 125 million gallon capacity Montgomery Reservoir. Downstream, the brook was dammed with stone, creating Tekoa Reservoir, an acre and a quarter of water surface area with a capacity of nearly 4 million gallons.

Montgomery Reservoir was built as a storage reservoir and according to the Westfield Water Department's web site, has a modern-day capacity of 184 million gallons.

The reservoir was taken off-line in 1974 because of water purity issues. A step Chauncey failed to take when he built the Montgomery Reservoir was to scoop away the earth to the bedrock below the area to be flooded, an oversight which later came back to haunt the city with tap water that was unpleasant to the senses of taste, smell and sight.

Tekoa Reservoir once served the purpose of a diversion reservoir, the head works atop its stalwart stone structure controlling the gravitational flow of Moose Meadow Brook, dropping 480 feet in altitude on its roiling, two-plus mile journey southward between reservoirs. A 14 inch main at the base of the dam supplied a reliable stream of water to Westfield's center, over four miles away.

Today, the Montgomery Reservoir is maintained solely as an emergency supply and was most recently used as a water source for helicopters fighting a mid-April, 2010, wild fire on Russell's Tekoa Mountain that scorched hundreds of acres.

For more on Tekoa Mountain, including photographs from up top, check out the EWM post The View From Tekoa Mountain, Russell, Massachusetts.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

More info:

Excellent Westfield Water Department history from the official city web site:

Chauncey Allen Park & Grandmothers' Garden history from the folks who support them:

For amazing photographs of Grandmothers' Garden:

To get to Tekoa Reservoir (and some great hiking!):

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1 comment:

Beth Niquette said...

These photos just take my breath away! WOW! That first one especially fills my eyes.