The Canton Reservoir from Pleasant Street
So much discussion is presently raging surrounding the possible loss of the Canton Reservoir - or the Rez - as it is affectionately known. Many people may not realize that in fact this is a man-made pond, built to serve industry in Canton and part of a rich history tied to the need for water and power.
Daniel Huntoon starts the conversation in his History of Canton. "Reservoir Pond is situated at the geographical center of the town, and is a modern pond, having been raised to its present size, about three-hundred acres, by a dam erected in 1827. In 1832 the land was sold to the Neponset Woolen Company for $314, and subsequently became the property of the Revere Copper Comp
any. A dam was erected before 1720. To build this, several of the inhabitants affirmed that they had been at great trouble and charge to flow their swamp lying on Pequit Brook, and were much provoked when the town, in 1722, used their dam as a roadway. This dam was usually known as Hartwell's dam, from Samuel Hartwell, who resided on the southerly border of Pequit Brook, on the site now occupied by Mr. Pitcher. The meadows, known as "Crossman's" meadows, because Dr. George Crossman at one time lived near them, were flowed by the Neponset Woollen Company in order to form a reservoir in case of scarcity of water, and the water can be retained of allowed to flow at option."
So, in a nutshell we see that there is a 288 year history of holding back the water of Pequit Brook at Pleasant Street. And, while the water was used primarily for power needs further downstream, in fact it is hard to imagine the 200 acres of open space
as anything other. The recreational uses have been plentiful and many residents both old and young recall skating, swimming, boating, fishing, and even ice sailing on the Rez.
So, what is all the controversy today? And could we lose our beloved Reservoir? The answer is complicated. The roadway is owned by the Town of Canton, but the Dam and the body of water (and land underneath) is owned by a private development company which purchased the Reservoir when they purchased the Revere Copper & Rolling Mill. In 2007 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts inspected the Dam at Pleasant Street and classified the condition as poor and posed an extreme hazard for the residents and property to the south of the dam. There is a great issue across Massachusetts whereby more than 60 "high hazard" dams are in danger of failure. In some case the wholesale breaching of the dam - thus allowing the water to return to the natural boundaries is being contemplated. This is the case at the Canton Reservoir, where one option to simply remove the Dam rather than repair the structure. The owners, businessmen from Chicago, will choose the least costly method of solving this problem. The residents who have for years enjoyed the recreational and natural uses of the pond may find declining values and perhaps future development in their backyards. Stay tuned as the history continues.