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‘Lost’ Quabbin town up for historic status

Four towns ceased to exist so that Quabbin Reservoir could be created. Above, a view of Quabbin from Ware.

Jenna Russell/Globe Staff/File 2008

Four towns ceased to exist so that Quabbin Reservoir could be created. Above, a view of Quabbin from Ware.

PETERSHAM — One of the lost towns of the Quabbin may soon find itself on the National Register of Historic Places.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin said Monday that the Massachusetts Historical Commission has nominated for the register the Dana Common Historic and Archaeological District, which is in Petersham.

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The nomination, approved Dec. 12, will be submitted to the National Park Service. Being on the register would make the district eligible for preservation grants.

The district was formerly the institutional center of ­Dana, one of four towns lost when the Quabbin Reservoir was created in the 1930s. The Metropolitan District Commission acquired Dana along with Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott to create the reservoir as a source of drinking water for the Boston area.

All the buildings, most constructed between 1840 and 1855, were demolished or moved. In 1938, the towns were disincorporated.

While much of the land taken for the reservoir was flooded, the Dana Common district is in the watershed. It is the best-preserved and most easily accessible of the former Swift River Valley towns.

According to the book “North of Quabbin,” by Allen Young of Royalston, the town was named after Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Judge Francis Dana. Citing “The Atlas of Quabbin,” by Athol historian J.R. Greene, Young wrote that Dana was settled around 1735 and incorporated on Feb. 18, 1801. Dana Center was one of four villages in the town.

In the town were five churches, buildings of three fraternal organizations, and several mills, including Swift River Box Co., which closed in 1935, three years before the town ceased to exist on April 28, 1938.

The Dana Common area has woods, fields, brooks, stone walls, and a network of dirt and paved roads, and includes the sites of approximately 30 former buildings.

Although no buildings remain, the sites of almost all of them can be identified by their foundations and cellar holes. These include the Dana Town Hall, the local school, the Congregational Church, a hotel, and about two dozen homes, some of which were modest, some upscale.

The district also includes the sites of the former Dana Center and Brown’s Evergreen cemeteries. Before the area was flooded for the reservoir, most of the graves were moved to the Quabbin Cemetery in Ware. Eleven stone fence posts still mark the southern edge of the Dana Center cemetery.

The focus of the Dana Common Historic and Archaeological District is the small grassy triangle that was once Dana Common.

The common once featured a monument to the Universalist minister Hosea Ballou, a Civil War cannon, and a monument to commemorate Dana’s veterans of World War I. All three memorials are now at the Quabbin Cemetery.

The common, cemetery site, and sites of the former buildings are kept open to memorialize Dana Center and the four lost towns. There is a granite memorial at the eastern end of the Common dedicated to all those who sacrificed their homes and way of life for the reservoir.

The 75th anniversary of disincorporation of the town of Dana will be commemorated in 2013.

Greene’s 2012 annual Quabbin History Calendar marks the anniversary of the end of the four towns.

Among the photographs in the calendar is one of Dana Common in the 1920s. Other pictures in the calendar include Lemon’s Blacksmith Shop in North Dana and a photograph of three children in North Dana standing in front of the local hat factory.

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