Imagine sitting on your farmhouse porch in a small valley of Western Connecticut in mid July of 1926 and having no clue that your life was going to change drastically in the next two years.
In the summer of 1926, the Board of Directors of a young company called Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) made the decision that to help their company get bigger and better, they needed to build a power plant to generate more electricity, but not just any kind of power plant. Just damming up a river wasn’t going to cut it. Flooding 8.5 square miles of Connecticut valley and creating the largest man made lake in Connecticut, now that should do the trick.
Late in July of ’26, the largest project of its kind began. It only took 26 months to clear out the valley of trees, people, cemeteries, and roads. On February 28, 1928, water from the Housatonic River began pouring into that valley, and Candlewood Lake was on its way. On September 29, 1928 Candlewood Lake became a reality. The following fascinating facts pertain to the building of Candlewood Lake, according to Candlewood Lake Authority and the book written by Susan Murphy and Gary Smolen titled, Images of America: Candlewood Lake:
6,000 acres of land in five towns had to be purchased from farm owners. Fair pre-lake prices were $2,356 for 53 acres, $3,000 for 34 acres, and $100 for 3.5 acres.
1,400 men were hired to clear out the valley of 4,500 acres of trees. Many of those men were brought down from Canada.
Six cemeteries worth of coffins had to be dug up and 35 families needed to be relocated. The men assigned the job of moving cemeteries were paid $1 per body.
In 1927, the 2 pumps at the Rocky River Hydroelectric Power Plant in New Milford were both 8,100 horsepower, which at the time, were the largest in the world. In 1965 those two pumps were replaced with 38,430 horsepower turbines connected directly to the generator.
From the Housatonic River, with two pumps working, water can be pumped into Candlewood Lake at the rate of over 3,700 gallons per second.
It took 1,000 men to construct the main dam, the Rocky River Power Station, and several smaller dikes. A small village was built near the dam site to house the men which consisted of houses, a mess hall, office buildings, and shops.
In 1926 and 1927, many Native American artifacts were unearthed or washed ashore as the valley was being cleared of homes and trees proving that the Native Americans played an important role in the history of where Candlewood Lake now lies.
There is a large water pipe underneath the causeway on Route 39 that connects Candlewood Lake with Squantz Pond.
The largest dam at the north end of the valley measures 952 feet wide and 100 feet high.
The Candlewood Lake Project and the building of the Rocky River Hydroelectric Plant was, and still is considered a major accomplishment by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers and share that distinction with the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge.
This content was written in partnership with Gerard’s Waters Edge Marina. Gerard’s Waters Edge Marina is family-owned and operated, and is the only water side marina on the northern end of Candlewood Lake in Connecticut. Gerard’s can provide you with the latest and best in marine products to make your outdoor living more enjoyable.
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