Thursday Doors – Saville Dam

DoorsLast weekend, I asked my wife if she would agree to a short stop for a few photos on our way to a social engagement. She agreed. Upon arrival, she jokingly said: “I should have known it would be a door.” Yes, my family members indulge me my habit. But this isn’t just a door, this is a beautiful wooden door. I’m not sure what lies behind that door, besides 36 billion gallons of water, that is.

As we were walking along the top of the dam, working our way to the best place to take the door photo, she asked: “what do you suppose was here before they flooded this valley?” That’s the kind of question she asks. She cares about stuff like that. I said: “this dam has been here since the 40s, I doubt there was much here at that time.

Silly me.

Well, not really so silly. Barkhamsted, pronounced “Bark • ham • sted” by the people around here, but “Bark • emsted” by my British voice-enabled GPS, is a pretty sparsely populated area of Connecticut. I was imagining some deer, a few coyotes and a maybe a family of bears living here 75 years ago. Still, she did ask the question and she did give me the advice to: “kneel down on the ground” to get a better perspective on that beautiful door. I figured that the least I could do was to look up what was here before the dam flooded eight miles of the Farmington River valley.

People were here!

To my surprise, I discovered that there was a somewhat thriving, certainly viable farming community of about 1,000 people. There were farms and crops and animals and houses and barns here in 1927 and not all of them wanted to be moved.

But, Hartford, CT needed more water than the 9 billion gallon Nepaug Reservoir could provide. Since the State Legislature meets in Hartford, it probably wasn’t too hard for the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) to convince the legislature to let them “acquire” the land and build the dam.

In addition to moving those people, and building the dam, the MDC installed 8 miles of large-diameter pipe to connect the Barkhamsted and Nepaug reservoirs, relocated about 20 miles of highway and moved 4 cemeteries and the 1,300 bodies interred in them.

Saville Dam is an earthen dam with an uncontrolled spillway. In other words, it’s a well-engineered big pile of dirt, with something akin to the little hole in the back of your sink. Any water that rises above the level of the spillway, spills into the recreational lake below the dam and continues along the path of the Farmington River.

In fairness, the dam was very well-engineered by none other than Caleb Mills Saville, and the stone around the dam and spillway is quite attractive. The dam was completed in 1940. It was 1944 before water was flowing to Hartford and 1948 before the reservoir was full.

We drive over the dam when visiting friends who live along CT Rt-8. The alternative is to go south on I-91, west on I-84 and then north on Rt-8. The highway can be a little faster, but the “back way” is always a more pleasant ride. Having made this trip many times, I had a collection of photos. However, I didn’t have a door-photo.

There are so many places that I’ve been where I neglected to get a good door photo – what was I thinking back then?

The Farmington River is the longest tributary of the Connecticut River, and begins as two branches, both near the Connecticut-Massachusetts boarder. The West Branch of the Farmington is longer than the East Branch. As it winds its way south from Otis, MA, it passes over two small hydroelectric dams in central Connecticut. The East Branch begins in Hartland, CT but is impounded behind the Saville dam in its first 11 miles. The two branches join forces, just south of the dam, in New Hartford, CT.

From there, the Farmington River winds its way south, east, north and for at least a short distance, west, as it makes its way to Windsor, CT. In fact, according to the Farmington  River Watershed Association (FRWA), “The Farmington River is the only river in the Northern Hemisphere to flow in all four cardinal directions.”

Please enjoy some photos from on and around the Saville Dam and other places along the Farmington River. Note that the photos in the gallery were taken at various point in time.

This post is part of the exciting and fun Thursday Doors series, managed by Norm Frampton. To learn more about this series and to see the other doors, please visit Norm’s page.

Thanks to Connecticut History.org for much of the information provided here.

77 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Saville Dam

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    1. Of course it would :)

      A couple of weeks ago, someone asked about the fact that we fled England, but then named all our places the same names as places in England. I guess you managed to keep the more creative folks.

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    1. Thanks Judy. There’s an even better door below the dam but we didn’t have time to go exploring (and we weren’t dressed for adventure). I think I’m going to have to go back at some point. We were lucky to get there when we did, as a couple was having a bit of a photo shoot there. I really like the bottom photo. I’ve always thought that it looked like it belongs to a medieval castle.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. At first glance over the pics, the turret with the wooden doors immediately takes the cake. I mean, those golden warm doors against the cool gray scenery, oh well, that’s just stunning! Timeless. But then, when I roll through, I love the valley photo beginning with “Below the dam.” Great sky there, and I do love my fields. I also love the blocks visible under the water of the spillway. Nice detail.
    That is pretty neat about the 4-directional river. I notice many of your posts include the river. It no doubt accounts for much prosperity in trade.
    My family is more the groaning sort when it comes to doorscursions. Moo is usually happy to join me, the others, not so much! I have noticed The Mister pointing out doors now and again. AS HE SPEEDS BY. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joey. It’s a very beautiful area. That’s why my wife was pretty sure that people had probably settled there before they built this. If I had wanted to take even more of your time, I would have included a map of the Farmington River and the location of all the other doors I’ve snapped. We live about 2 miles from the river. My daughter lives about 1/2 mile from it, although it’s 45 minutes from our house to hers. I love rivers, and this is a very cool one.

      The spillway is one of my favorite parts of this complex. After seeing the doors again last week, I couldn’t believe I never got a picture of them. Maybe it’s because there’s no paring/stopping on the dam and I was too lazy to walk.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That gate house is just the cutest!! It looks like it was built to resemble a tiny castle … complete with the stone arched bridge which creates a *moot*. I’m referring to the photo you took from the east parking lot … by far my favourite photo!! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is a grand door indeed! Wow. And such a wonderful view all around it too. I like that you don’t only post awesome door pictures, but that you add surrounding pictures and history with a bit of humor. A good read:)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The gatehouse with 3 arched little bridge is wonderful! The doors are great and worth the little stop. Your Misses has a good eye for the composition! Kneeling was a brilliant suggestion.

    I like the more scenic routes over the faster more congested freeways too. They lend themselves to little side trips nicely. :) If only there was enough time to stop at them all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deborah. She often tells me that I need to work harder to get the right shot. She has a good sense of history too, apparently. I never would have guessed that there was a community here before the dam was built. The highway route is only about 10 minutes faster, so this is by far the best choice.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Cool doors, Dan. I like the turret-like appearance. But my favorite part is the no-trespassing sign. I was hoping you would include a photo of you being escorted from the premises!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was being a good boy Paul. The Mrs. would never let me trespass. I need to go back with my daughter for those shots :)

      I do like the stone work on this building and the spillway. It certainly has held up well for over 60 years.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Now THAT is a set of doors, Dan. I think probably my favourite of all your Thursday Doors so far, in fact. And your photo of the entrance to the gate house at the dam showing the building itself as well as those doors is just perfect. Fantastic shot!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Wendy. I’m glad you liked this because it’s one of my favorite posts in this series. I love stone structures and they made such good use of stone in building this dam. The spillway is an amazing bit of work. My photos don’t do it justice.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a smaller reservoir near Hartford. I used to walk by it at lunch when I worked on that side of the river. I like walking near water. This one is really in the middle of nowhere. That’s why I was surprised to find out about the people. My wife was right again :)

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  7. Those doors just want to make me swoon, Dan! The color, the richness, the shape all encased in the grey stone! What a stunner! I am really enjoying that camera of yours and you, Sir, have been taking some truly spectacular shots. Thank the Mrs. for the question and the fact she encouraged you to kneel to get the angle on the door that you did. Superb post!!! Thank you! <3

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Cool door, Dan. I agree with Joanne…it looks like a mini castle turret. The dam itself is so interesting, I don’t believe I’ve seen anything like it in Wisconsin. On another note, I cringed a little bit that they had to move 1,300 buried bodies to build the dam. I wonder if some of the families were upset about that.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The rugged, beautifully stained main door was fantastic, Dan. I was sure I saw this door post, but apparently did the same thing on another post. I write a comment, forget to push Like and now to next post while the action is “still in processing.” Sorry a little late for the doors post.
    Have you seen the movie Inception? I think a lot about the game piece which spins while real time stands still. It looks like a “jack” which you usually play with jacks and a ball. The new phone upgrade has been annoyingly different. I have a Droid Maxx 5 and liked my Galaxy 5 better.

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      1. I will be waiting eagerly to see that picture. Also,your Saville Dam post reminded me of my hike with Sarah to Bushi Dam in Lonavala. We hiked the mountain right next to the dam to get the top view and we decided to be on the sideline of the river flowing down into the river. Pretty risky during the monsoon season, but we did well. That’s up next on India Destinations.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. There always seem to be a thriving community where a government decides to build a dam. Hard for those who lived there but the dam seems to be a construction gem. Lovely photos!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. So do I because I have a thing for doors. Every time I read your posts I get more tempted to take part in Thursday doors. But we need to get that move and Blogging from A-Z out of the way first. Then I decide if I skip Bee’s Travel Thursday for some doors :-)

        Liked by 1 person

  11. That is my kind of door! And I like the little tower too. It’s amazing how much history is buried when the dam waters rise. When I used to scuba dive, many of the best fresh water dives were in flooded areas with underwater ghost towns. Sooo creepy. Candlewood Lake is the best one in CT where the town of Jerusalem lies underwater. Thanks for stirring up a few memories :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! I never knew there was a town under Candlewood Lake.Thanks for that. I can only imagine how creepy it must be to find a town buried.

      As far as I can tell, they removed all the structures before flooding this area. One page I read talked said “all that was left was the foundation holes.” Maybe they take more care when it’s a public water supply. Or, maybe, since it was during the Depression, they had money for cheap labor. They did say that some of the residents ended up working to tear down their farms – that must have been sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wonderful doors! I love dams. That was the best part of our Summer vacations up into the Ozarks-those trips to Bull Shoals and Norfolk dams. The scenery is just beautiful here and Faith is adorable in that photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My favorite view is the one almost at the end. That was great advice from your wife! Sometimes it pays off to be in a humble position (joking!). Love these kind of in-your-face -doors, almost castle-like. Am late, as I finish my own meme/challenge SEASONS on Wed.at 7pm, so I need a breather on Thurs. and just link. Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Love that last shot with the three arches, Dan. What you say about a thriving farming community before the dam was built reminded me of the movie ‘The River’ with Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek. It’s one of my favourites and highlights the plight of a family who don’t want to leave their land and let the dam flood it. (Then again, I love any movie with Sissy Spacek in it).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not familiar with that movie Jean, but I might look for it. I can only imagine what it must have been like to pack up your entire life and livelihood and move. The bottom photo is one of my favorites too, Janet. thanks for dropping by.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. People had to leave farms that had been in their families for generations. I know we all have to put up with progress and a lot of the time we benefit very well from it, but there is usually a price to pay – somewhere along the line. Let me know what you think of the movie if you get to see it, Dan.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I love the photo of the door. The story you tell about the community that had to move, sounds familiar to me. In Spain we saw a lot of these reservoirs planned and executed under the Franco regime, mostly in region far away from the capital Madrid. In drier seasons you even can see the (top of the) Roman church and ruins of the houses of the former villages. Makes interesting photos as well, although it always makes me a bit sad too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. From what I read, the community buildings were all removed from this area. An earlier comment talks about a different reservoir in CT where the buildings remain under the water. That is sad, and a little creepy.

      Liked by 1 person

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