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Urban Archeologist: Happy Birthday Candlewood Lake

See Candlewood Lake from a 1930s point of view.

I feel like I'm arriving a little late to the party. The official birthday of Candlewood Lake was September 28 and at 83 years old I assume that geologically it is still an infant, or compared to natural bodies of water, a zygote. It is a beautiful resource and landmark none the less. In fact, it was once described as Connecticut's Lake George.

In celebration of the birthday lake and as a late gift, I have a selection of Candlewood Lake memories I found years ago... and just last week. The piece in the nicest condition is a pamphlet from the Candlewood Lake Club on the Brookfield/New Milford border. This was billed as a select colony that required approval by a board before you could buy or build. This pamphlet was one of two I found in a northern New Milford estate sale. The other one I donated to friends who live there. 

The other brochures are part of a larger story of which this article will be considered part 1, but it all started with a small Craig's List ad, a nearly empty house in Danbury, a dumpster and one phrase, “Make an offer.” As a result I was welcomed into the childhood home of three brothers who were cleaning it out and selling it for their invalid father. 

When a family decides to clean house I know from experience that very little is saved, as one of the brothers said to me as he tossed items in a dumpster, “Where are going to you put it all?” I know he was speaking rhetorically but it didn't stop me from trying to answer by putting at least some of it in my car. I came away with several photo albums and an entire suitcase of memories and sympathy for a nice family with a difficult task.

It was at the bottom of the old suitcase that I found the two other brochures (pictured) — Candlewood Isle in New Fairfield and Birch Groves in New Milford. Two very nice and established communities today, but back in the early ‘30s it was a developer’s feast to take this new lake and split up every parcel and offer it as a vacation spot. Many New York and New England residents with a little bit of money and a vacation home on their wish list visited, explored, toured and decided to buy. 

Take a look at more from the pages from these brochures and enjoy views of this Connecticut lake when it was surrounded mostly by woodland and pasture.

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story. You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.

Andrew Turkenkopf October 04, 2012 at 09:35 AM
It would be an even more useful resource if it were drained and the land used for more useful things than recreational boating. As for the argument that some businesses depend on the lake. "There has grown in the minds of certain groups in this country the idea that just because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with guaranteeing such a profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is supported by neither statute or common law. Neither corporations or individuals have the right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back." - Heinlein, Life Line, 1939 Draining the lake is just progress. And with no lake, no Millfoil problem to deal with every year. No drunken boat crashes. It is hard to drown in a dry lake, so it saves lives.
Andrew Turkenkopf October 04, 2012 at 09:39 AM
"Candlewood Lake Is The Most Dangerous For Boating In Connecticut" http://ctwatchdog.com/health/candlewood-lake-is-the-most-dangerous-for-boating-in-connecticut plus im keeping my fingers crossed for buried treasure
Greg Van Antwerp October 04, 2012 at 12:25 PM
I guess I was hoping for a little fonder recollection of the lake based on this article. Though you have quoted my favorite author I can't help seeing that your cure for the over-exaggerated ills of the lake is not unlike decapitation to cure dandruff. You don't barricade a playground because graffiti appeared and johnny bumped his head. Now, if you want to drain it, clean it, and search for treasure (then re-fill it) it may cost a billion but I would chip in my "buck-o-five" for that.
Brian October 04, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Really Andrew? You quote an article from 2008 with a sensational headline to suit your needs but the details compare the number of accidents on the lake as compared to other lakes which are 1/10th the size of Candlewood. More area, more accidents. Since there are more drunk driving accidents on the roads than in the water...should we also tear up the roadways and go bak to horse and buggy on dirt roads?
Brian October 04, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Thanks for sharing Greg...Unfortunately I have not been in the area long so don't have any memories of Candlewood to share. But the overall project to build the Lake with all the effort that went into it is amazing. I'm sure most folks have enjoyed the recreation that the lake has provided over the years and from your article I can see how it was initially a prime vacation spot for many.
CDDonahue October 05, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Thank you for this article – and a belated happy birthday to Candlewood Lake! The sheer magnitude of Candlewood's great history makes its legacy our responsibility to share. And that buried treasure has made 40+ years on Candlewood all the more enchanting for three generations+. (Naysayers are welcome to dry-dock their boat on drained-lakes elsewhere.)

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