A lake story
"They used to show serials, the old-fashioned movie serials, there," said Hazel Burger, a long-time New Fairfield resident. "There was regular dancing on Saturday nights and square dancing on Friday nights. For the square dancing, they'd have a band and a live caller and depending on the crowd, you could have a lot of dancers on the floor. That was before DJs."
Joyceland, built by Keith and Carrie Chatterton Joyce on Shelter Isle near Squantz Pond in 1927, burned down in 1955. But there is a two-page taste of its old-time pleasures in a new pictorial history of Candlewood Lake.
The book, the latest in Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series, was compiled and written by Susan Murphy, executive director of the Greater New Milford Chamber of Commerce, and Gary Smolen of Sherman, a senior engineer with Northeast Utilities.
Using photographs from a variety of sources, the book traces the history of the lake from its creation by Connecticut Light & Power Co. in the 1920s to its completion in 1928 as the state's biggest inland body of water. It explores the lake's evolution to what it is today - still a source of hydroelectric power, but also a haven for boaters, anglers and swimmers.
"For people with a sense of history, there's a real 'Wouldn't you have like to have been there?' feel to the book," said Larry Marsicano, executive director of the Candlewood Lake Authority. "I have the feeling that anyone who lives on the lake, or who has lived there, will feel the same way."
The story of the book began two years ago, Smolen said, at a banquet celebrating the lake's 75th anniversary.
"People were talking and there was a feeling we really should document its history," Smolen said.
That led Murphy to Arcadia Publishing. The company, located in Portsmouth, N.H., specializes in printing book on local history, producing more than 3,000 titles since it got its start in 1993.
Its Images of America series follow a formula. Each book is 128 pages and filled with vintage photographs from historical collections.
Laurie Butcher, the company's publicity manager, said a book on Candlewood Lake was a natural addition to the series.
"We really look to see if a place has historical societies and vintage photographs," Butcher said. "That's the lifeblood of what we do."
Smolen went to Northeast Generation Services, which has three volumes of pictures of the construction of the Rocky River hydroelectric plant in New Milford below the lake, the dam that created Candlewood and the wooden penstock that carries water from Candlewood to the Rocky River station. The project was so big that United Gas Improvement Co. of Philadelphia, the company in charge of the $6.5 million project, built its own camp for its 1,000 workers, called UGIville.
"We have pictures of workers in Model Ts, or using horses and steam engines to build Route 39 from New Fairfield," said Robert Gates, Northeast Generation's station manager.
Building Candlewood, which is 11 miles long and covers 5,420 acres, meant displacing many small farmers who lived in places like Leach Hollow in Sherman. The book has some wonderful pictures of the rural life the lake covered, including farmers raising and drying tobacco.
CL&P bought these farmers out, and, Smolen said, burned the homes down.
"The only things left below the lake are chimneys, like the one at Chimney Point," he said.
CL&P also had to disinter and move 412 bodies buried in small family cemeteries in the valley. An ad printed in the book notes the oldest body belonged to Ichabod Leach, who was buried in the Wanzer Cemetery in 1787.
The book also has a pictures of the diminutive Squantz Pond, named after Chief Squantz, a local Indian who lived on the pond's edge. When Candlewood Lake was filled, it joined with Squantz Pond via an aqueduct that maintains the water level in both places; it also made Squantz several times bigger.
There are pictures of Wildman's Landing in Danbury, Candlewood Shores in Brookfield and Allen's Camp in Sherman, as well as the early marinas built to serve boaters.
Murphy culled these photos from the historical societies of the five towns that surround the lake, from private collections and from area photographers. Some - like a circa 1900 picture of H. Tudor Haviland of Sherman, with a luxurious beard that reaches from his chin to his waist - have little to do with the lake, but a lot to do with establishing a look of the area's history.
Because they has so much photographic material from all their different sources, Smolen said it took some work to strike the right balance.
"It could have all just been construction photos, but that would have been a disservice to the lake," he said. "It could have all been lake photos, but that would have been a disservice to the construction."
And, Murphy said, while the older photographs are all black and white, the more modern ones are color shots. Because the Images of America format allows for only black & white pictures, she had to sort through many color shots with an eye on which would still look good stripped of their Kodachrome brightness. (The book's striking last shot, taken by Bradley Fisher, clearly passes that test.)
The book does not mention any of the current controversies that cloud the lake's future, like the increasing number of people and boats that mob the lake on busy summer weekends. But there are shots that point out the differences between then and now. There is a picture from a regatta of sailboats in the 1950s that might be hard to snap today because the increasingly large motorboats on the lake make wind-driven crafts an increasing rarity.
Arcadia routinely publishes 1,500 copies of each book in the Images of America series, then prints more if the demand continues. Smolen and Murphy, who are donating any money they make at book sales to the Candlewood Lake Authority, are betting that will be the case here.
"I think people who live on the lake will want a copy," Smolen said. "But anyone who lives around the area with any intellectual curiosity will like it as well.''
Susan Murphy and Gary Smolen will hold book signings for "Images of America: Candlewood Lake" on April 14 at Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Danbury at 7:30 p.m.; on April 30 at Baileywick Books in New Milford at 2 p.m.; and on May 1 at the Brookfield Library at 2 p.m. The book costs $19.99.
Contact Robert Miller
or at (203) 731-3345.