The village of Lake Pleasant is a tightly knit grouping of small cottages located on the shore of Lake Pleasant, which is currently part of the town’s water supply. The village developed in the late 19th century as a resort community that was the site of political and temperance conventions, parties, outings and mammoth 4th of July celebrations. It was perhaps best known, however, as the meeting place for the New England Spiritualists Camp Meeting Association. In 1874, Henry Buddington and Joseph Beals organized the spiritualist group, which met annually at the lake well into the 20th century. Initially accommodating 75 tent lots, the village expanded within five years to 90 small cottages, and the fifty acres surrounding the lake were divided into many more camping lots. At its peak, which occurred at the turn of the century, Lake Pleasant had grown to 196 homes and cottages.
For a quarter of a century, Lake Pleasant enjoyed the status of a popular resort community. As many as two thousand people visited the area in August. Some came to practice their religion. These were the years when mediums from all over the country and foreign nations flocked to Lake Pleasant to set up summer, if not year round residence. Others, including many locals, came to enjoy the many recreational and other attractions, including steamboat excursions on the lake, or the celebrations and dances of the Independent Order of Scalpers, a fraternal organization whose festivities reflected Native American customs and folklore. Many local residents made their way to Lake Pleasant on the new trolley, which transported visitors from neighboring Greenfield and a booming Turners Falls. A hotel, opened in 1881 to accommodate the increased flow of visitors requiring overnight accommodations. The hotel offered entertainment by the 20 piece Fitchburg Band.
Two events appear to have contributed to the decline of Lake Pleasant as a major tourist attraction: a major fire and the development of the lake as a public water supply. The fire, which occurred in 1907, destroyed 130 homes; and although valiant efforts were made to rebuild, the Village never achieved its pre-fire glory. The development of Lake Pleasant as a public water supply effectively ended its recreational role, and influenced the later growth of the village. As property values declined, many buildings around the lake were acquired by the water department and demolished for watershed protection purposes.
Today, the roots of Lake Pleasant as a late Victorian camp community are apparent in both the density of housing and architecture. Many of the homes at Lake Pleasant reflect the glory of an earlier day when the tent community expanded to cottages on what were, essentially, tent sized lots. The 19th century development pattern is reflected in the Victorian style architecture with ginger bread detailing, not unlike that present in the community of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. The small lots and narrow, winding roadways give the village a charm and character that is very different from Montague’s other four villages.
Scenic and Recreational Attractions
Although the lake can no longer be used for recreational purposes, it is still a place of beauty. The undeveloped watershed around the lake offers many opportunities for passive recreation. Lake Pleasant is also located in close proximity to the Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area, which offers hiking, nature studies, hunting (pheasant, deer, and small game) in season. When visiting Lake Pleasant take a walk across the Bridge of Names.