The town shall empty
The vanishing of Dana, Massachusetts
Remember the 2020 primary election in Massachusetts? When Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy III were locking horns over a senate seat? One of my favorite political gaffes in New England history went down that summer. The Markey campaign had posted a map on its social media channels, as a way of showing the local benefits of Markey’s work in the senate. The map included 351 municipalities across the state, and Team Kennedy perceived a potential oversight here. And so, they pounced. “Strangely the towns/cities of Stoughton, Blackstone, Dana, Dudley, Enfield, and Prescott do not exist in Markey’s Massachusetts,” the Kennedy campaign wrote in a press release.
It could have been a wincing blow, except for one thing: the towns of Dana, Enfield, and Prescott are now underwater. They were all leveled and flooded in the 1930s to establish the Quabbin Reservoir—the drinking water supply for more than 3 million people. To canvas there today, you would need a scuba mask and a pair of flippers.
But not every square inch of these lost towns is submerged. If you’re willing to take a spin on the labyrinthine country roads that encircle the Quabbin, like a crown of sticks, you can quite easily hike through the woods to what used to be the town common of Dana—a square where the roads and shade trees remain, but where every structure has vanished. With the exception of an occasional crumbling foundation or basement space, Dana Common can feel like the haunted, vacant site of an alien abduction.
Naturally, you should go there and check it out this spring.