Herbert Chappell House

Lost Mansfield > Herbert Chappell House

LOST MANSFIELD # 9: HERBERT CHAPPELL HOUSE, MANSFIELD HOLLOW. This house was built in 1889 for the Herbert G. Chappell family. Mr. Chappell was a manager at the nearby Kirby mill.

The house was the largest one to be demolished for construction of the Mansfield Hollow Flood Control Project. It was located on the land behind the dike, near the spillway.

Herbert Chappell House
The Herbert Chappell House, built in 1889.
Herbert Chappell House during dam construction
The Chappell house, shortly before it was demolished during the construction of the Mansfield Hollow Dam.

While today the Mansfield Hollow Lake and parklands are enjoyed by many, the construction of the flood control dam was very controversial. In April of 1940, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed a flood protection plan for the Thames River and its tributaries. The plan called for the construction of a system of seven reservoirs. Only five of the originally planned dams were constructed, one of which was the Mansfield Hollow Dam.

The original plan for the Mansfield Hollow Dam, presented to the public in 1945, caused immediate concern to local residents. That plan required the taking of 65 homes, the relocation of two cemeteries, and the rerouting of major portions of Route 6 and Route 89. Opponents of the Mansfield Hollow project immediately began a letter writing campaign directed at state and national legislators.

Mansfield Hollow Dam
The spillway of the Mansfield Hollow Dam under construction.

Early in 1946, the Army Corps of Engineers redesigned the Mansfield Hollow Dam project so as to eliminate the relocation of the cemeteries and reduce the number of private properties that had to be acquired. In March of 1947, the first eviction notices were sent to the property owners in the project’s path.

In the course of building the project, the U.S. Government took over 2,300 acres in Mansfield, North Windham and Chaplin. Some 200 families lost their property and over 30 homes were demolished, dismantled or relocated. Property owners were paid what the government considered fair market value, but many thought the compensation was inadequate for their loss and the disruption of their lives.

Construction of the Mansfield Hollow Dam began in July of 1949, with completion coming in 1952 at a cost of $6.5 million. The lake was added a decade later. Today the Mansfield Hollow Dam provides substantial flood protection for the communities of Willimantic, South Windham, Baltic, Occum, Taftsville and Norwich.

Mansfield Hollow dam October 2020
The Mansfield Hollow Dam’s spillway and part of its dike system today.

This series is made possible by a Capacity Building Grant from The Last Green Valley, Inc.

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