Formerly known as "Creepy-chusetts, Strange-chusetts".

Friday, February 25, 2011

Old Stone Church, West Boylston

A village sunken in a man made reservoir stirs lots of sentiments about the cruelty of modern industrial society. However, a brilliantly weird Japanese manga, Utsurun Desu. challenged our sentiment in a hilarious way.

A young couple standing together on a reservoir shore:

Woman: "My village has sunken by the dam."
Man (in a surprised tone): "So, your home is under the reservoir..."

Next scene, she suddenly wears a diving suit a la Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, and dives into the reservoir with the boyfriend. When they reach to the bottom, the parents and villagers with diving suits greet and welcome her back while they plow the field on the lake bottom.

I wish this was the case with the Wachusett Reservoir. Parts of the towns of Boylston, Clinton, Sterling, and West Boylston  were submerged by the Wachusett Dam completed in 1905. The Wachusett Reservoir was filled in 1908.

Wachusett Reservoir

The Old Stone Church is a memory of the pre-flood West Boylston. The church was belonged to Baptist Church. After the church had burnt down by the fire of 1890, a new church was built in 1892 at the same location. The fire also attacked a Catholic church called Saint Anthony's located right next to the Baptist church, but the church was never rebuilt on the same site.

Left: St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church, Right: Old Stone Church
The Catholic church must have been on the left ground

However, only five years after the completion, the church faced another trouble. The construction of the dam began in 1897, and the last service was held in 1902, six years before the reservoir was filled.

I wonder when they started rebuilding the church, didn't they hear about the rumor of the dam construction? Were they against the construction, showing their spirit by building the new church? Why wasn't the Catholic church rebuilt in the location? It all depends how the town meeting and planning were conducted in the late 19th century.

From Google Map

The above is a map of present-day West Boylston. The blue balloon is the location of the Old Stone Church. The below maps are the ones of West Boylston in 1892 and 1917; you can see which part of the town was submerged by the dam.

1892 Map of West Boylston, from MyTopo Historical Map
1917 Map of West Boylston, from MyTopo Historical Map

The community along Nashua River was swallowed by the reservoir. What caught my attention is the presence of the Massachusetts Central Railroad on the bottom right of the 1892 map; the railroad is gone in the 1917 map. Since the MCER is a short line railroad company established in 1979, the map probably indicates the Central Massachusetts Railroad ; the CMR history shows that the line under the reservoir was discontinued in 1900.

Thinking about the manga I mentioned in the begging, I cannot help imagining the underwater railway operating! I'm optimistically certain that some railroad remains are accessible by the public trails. It sounds like a great summer project. Yes, we should visit here again during the summer.

Look at the white hoodie threads. They are trailing not because the owner of the hoodie is practicing a hyper fast sweet move but the wind is so blustery. The church created a nasty funnel of wind from the reservoir. We should evacuate to the church.

Church interior
Belfry tower

All the windows are removed, creating wind whirls inside. The wind is kinda worse here... There is nowhere to hide!




A pigeon on a boarded dormer

Bunch of pigeons were sticking on the walls to avoid the cold and wind. They were looking at us, seemed to be alarmed by the presence of humans screaming from cold.

I looked down, the ground was covered by their droppings. As I was avoiding them, I was remembering about a story about a legend level Chinese delicacy called mosquito eye soup. The ingredient is collected from bats' droppings in a cave because bats love eating mosquitoes but they cannot digest the eyeballs. What could I make from the Massachusetts pigeons'...

Looking at Thomas Basin section of the reservoir

The church had been left abandoned for 70 years, resulting the roof and walls collapsed. While the interior remains stripped, the structure was reinforced in 1977. Interesting that the church is a carefully maintained ruin like the A-bomb Doom in Hiroshima.

The original interior of the Old Stone Church, photo From West Boylston Historical Society
The current interior of the Old Stone Church

The original rose window and the benches of the church are still in use at Freemasons Boylston Lodge. According to the site, after Baptist Church had left the Old Stone Church, they relocated to Boylston Common, little less than a mile south across the reservoir. The masons took over the place in 1972, and the lodge interior still has a great resemblance to the Old Stone Church.

The Old Stone Church as a structure is abandoned, but what used to be inside is still functioning, being loved and proud by the people of West Boylston.

Continue to: Wachusett Dam, Clinton

Locate Old Stone Church @ Google Map

Click Picture to read the sign

History of the Boylston Lodge: Boylston Lodge
MyTopo Historical Maps of Worcester, MA (West Boylston is in the northeast section)

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