Candlewood Lake: The history of the largest lake in Connecticut

Did You Know...Candlewood Lake
We are so fortunate to have Candlewood Lake in our backyard. But did you know the history of the largest lake in Connecticut?
On July 15, 1926, Connecticut Light & Power Company’s (CL&P) board of directors approved a plan to build a man-made reservoir in order to produce electric power. What would become Candlewood Lake was the first large-scale project in the United States to employ the concept of a pumped-water storage facility.  Water from the Housatonic River was pumped up a 13-foot-diameter pipe and then held in a large reservoir until needed and then the water would flow back down into a turbine which produced the electricity. It took 26 months to complete, including the building of the dam, flooding 5,420 acres of farmland, forests, including the small community of Jerusalem on land belonging to the town of Sherman and neighboring New Milford, New Fairfield, Danbury and Brookfield, and the hand clearing of 4,500 acres of woodland by about 1,400 laborers.
35 families who owned property in the area to be flooded, to which CL&P held the right of eminent domain, under which private property can be taken for public use. Most of these families sold their property to the company but a few refused and some of the lake bed property is still privately owned. Approximately 100 buildings, including schools, houses, barns and churches were demolished, moved or are still on the bottom of the lake. Workers were also paid $1 to remove gravestones and exhume the remains for reburial.
On February 25, 1928, water was first pumped into the valley and by September 29, 1928, the lake was officially complete at 429 feet above sea level. Candlewood Lake is 16 miles long, 3.2 miles wide with an average depth of 40 feet, and covers a surface area of 8.4 square miles or 5,400 acres.
The name of the lake was going to be Lake Danbury, but they decided to name it after the surrounding Candlewood Mountains, which was named after the pine trees, whose sapling branches were often used as candles and torches by the Native Americans and early settlers.

(source, photo of construction of penstock at Candlewood Lake – Northeast Utilities / CL&P )

Submitted by New Fairfield, CT

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