Italian Immigrant Labor (1900’s)
The Reservoir was built mostly with Italian immigrant labor. Some of these laborers came from Italy for the specific purpose of working on the reservoir and left their wives and children behind. Below are two images depicting the “Shantytown” constructed by the workers. Though offered housing in mill tenements or recently sold homes, the workers constructed makeshift shacks in which to live. As depicted by the photograph titled “The Shoemaker,” these laborers created communities and even small businesses from their homes.
The construction of these ramshackle residences possibly came from lack of housing as more and more of West Boylston’s original homes were demolished. Perhaps the Italian immigrants felt alienated by a town which had a majority population of people whose families had been in America for generations, and they constructed this Shantytown as a way to live closer to those who shared a common culture and language. We have these people, who were far from home, their friends, and families, for the beautiful reservoir we admire today.
These pictures were taken from the West Boylston edition of the Images of America book series written by Frank Brown and Beverly Goodale for the West Boylston Historical Society. The book contains tons of amazing photographs from West Boylston’s past.