The Saville Dam represents one of the more ambitious civil engineering projects in Connecticut’s history; certainly one of the largest efforts aimed at securing drinking water. Spanning the east branch of the Farmington River in the northwestern hills, it impounds the watercourse for more than 8 miles in the Barkhamsted Reservoir and holds over 35 billion gallons of water.
At the planning stage in the 1920s, it was determined the village of Barkhamsted Hollow sat squarely in the footprint of the future reservoir and the earliest buy-outs began in 1927. Despite fervent outcry from the community, almost a decade of pressure left the township empty. Building of the dam itself commenced in 1936 under the direction of brilliant chief engineer, Caleb Saville. Saville Dam was completed in 1940 but, remarkably, it would take another 8 years before the Farmington could completely fill such a massive reservoir.
As for the long-lost village of Barkhamsted Hollow, it’s been entirely wiped from the map. Community cemeteries, which were moved from the hamlet before dam-building began, can be found orphaned in the hills nearby. Old dirt roads that once led into the village abruptly terminate at the water’s edge. And although accounts suggest that most of the community was torn down prior to flooding, divers are said to have discovered everything from Ford Model Ts to old covered bridges on the bottom of the reservoir.
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