Building Dams for Water & Electricity


(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Spring 2020

Building Dams for Water and Electricity

There are places in Connecticut that have disappeared! Pleasant Vale is one such place. It was part of Oxford. Now it is at the bottom of Lake Zoar.

Oxford is on the Housatonic River. On the other side of the river is Monroe. To travel between Monroe and Oxford you have to drive over Stevenson Dam. Lake Zoar was created when Stevenson Dam was built. Today it is a popular place to go boating.

The Housatonic River is the border between Oxford and Monroe.

Stevenson Dam is a hydroelectric power plant. It is one of the largest hydro stations in the state. The river rushing over the dam creates electricity. The electricity powers homes and businesses.

Stevenson Dam was completed in 1919. Pleasant Vale was near the dam. People who lived there had to move. Their homes and a church were flooded because of the dam. The congregation built a new church nearby. They had to move all of the graves in the cemetery, too.

Stevenson Dam under construction. It was completed in 1919. Monroe Historical Society

Pleasant Vale isn’t the only place that was flooded when a dam was built. In the 1930s a reservoir was needed to provide water for Hartford. Saville Dam was built on the Farmington River in Barkhamsted. Two villages, Barkhamsted Hollow and Hartland Hollow, were flooded to make way for the reservoir. One thousand residents had to find a new place to live. The reservoir is nine miles long. It took four years to fill up.

This school house had to be abandoned. Barkhamsted Hollow Schoolhouse, c. 1933 – 1939. Connecticut State Library

Map showing the Saville Dam in Barkhamsted.

Did You Know?

Stevenson Dam isn’t the only hydroelectric power plant on the Housatonic River. There are four! The Shepaug Dam, in nearby Southbury and Newtown, is the largest “hydro” plant in the state. It was built in 1955, and it created Lake Lillinonah.

Many dams were built to provide power for factories. Taftville in Norwich is one example. A dam was built there in 1866 to power a textile mill.

Read More!

This story is part of CT Explored’s social studies book for 3rd & 4th graders. Find more great Connecticut history at

Taftville in Norwich:

About Monroe:

Teachers: Find out more, including curriculum connections and lesson plans at



This story is based in part on “A Valley Flooded to Slake the Capital Region’s Thirst,” Winter 2005/2006.


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