Immigrant Workers (1900’s)

Construction on the Wachusett Reservoir lasted nearly ten years. Towns and people were displaced. As we explore our flooded history, let us not forget the laborers who devoted their energy to the reservoir’s construction.

Many of the reservoir’s builders were immigrants, many of them Italian, and some of them could not understand English. In the photograph below, we can see a camp for Italian laborers: a ramshackle structure made of mud and wood. There were few places to house the workers, and many often constructed the crude huts and lived there. Other workers would rent the soon-to-be demolished homes of townspeople, often filling them with multiple families.

The conditions for workers were terrible, even for those lucky enough to live in a home. While we think about the buildings and people forced to move during the construction, we have to remember what the people who built the reservoir underwent during their time in West Boylston.

Immigrants 1, photo of immigrants working