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Petersham, Massachusetts

Town of Dana

All that remains of this Massachusetts town, demolished in the name of progress, is a stone marker. 

Why travel to Europe to see old ruins when you have some fantastic ones back home in the U.S.?

It’s a morbid reality to reflect that something as big and complicated as a whole town can die. They can be abandoned after economic booms, destroyed by natural disaster, or flooded over when a dam’s built. It’s hard to stand in the center of one’s own town, witness the stir of daily life and think on a geological scale. Yet, we do have ruins and if one is in a reflective mood and tired of visiting graveyards to ponder the mortality of just one person at a time why not lay flowers for an entire town? Visit the stone marker marking Dana, Massachusetts near the Quabbin Reservoir and read this sad epitaph: “SITE OF DANA COMMON 1801-1938 To all those who sacrificed their homes and way of life.” Quite elegiac.

The town of Dana was initially part of the towns of Hardwick and Petersham before becoming its own separate town in 1801. The town was abandoned and leveled in 1938 to make way for the Quabbin Reservoir. Much of the town, including the town common, was above the water level of the reservoir, so the remains are visible and accessible to this day.

The ruins are well-maintained, with paved paths and markers showing some of the history of the town. Walk respectfully and ponder for whom the bell tolls.

Know Before You Go

To access Dana, take MA 32A north from Hardwick center or south from Dana is accessible through Quabbin Gate 40. Gate 40 is on the western side of rt 32A between the towns of Hardwick and Petersham. It's a small pull-off and is easy to miss. Park in front of the gate (it is a yellow gate and should have the number "40" painted on it in black.) Park at the gate and follow Dana Rd. on foot for about 1.5 miles until you reach Dana Common.