What to see and do in contemporary
Today, many outstanding examples of the late 19th century architecture survive in the Turners Falls Historic District which is listed on the National Historic Register of Places. The Town of Montague has also made a concerted effort to preserve the village’ architectural heritage as part of its on-going revitalization effort.
Prime examples of this preservation focus include the adaptive reuse of the Colle Opera House building (performing arts) and restoration of the Cutlery Block (tenements) and the Crocker Building, (apartments & retail). These projects build upon earlier successful restoration efforts including the Shea Theater and Discovery Center buildings. These efforts, have preserved Turners Falls and contribute to the cohesive character and architectural integrity of this late nineteenth century New England industrial village. The Shea Theater is a small, community theater which is owned by the Town of Montague and operated by a private, nonprofit group that provides a venue for year-round theater, featuring Shakespearian and modern plays, Broadway musicals, and musical performances by a variety of popular and traditional groups.
Today Turners Falls is a vibrant place, where there is much to see and to take part in. A Boston Globe travel piece once described Turners Falls as “historic, but not traditional; (where) fossils and a funky art scene share the spotlight in the village.”
Turners Falls has always been considered attractive to artists, and original types, even before it emerged from a period of decline (1960-1980). The village’ industrial character, architectural integrity, and its setting along one of the most scenic sectors of the Connecticut River have combined to create a visual quality that is appealing to artists of varying mediums who have in many cases relocated to the area from larger cities in the greater Northeast and beyond. The village was once thought of as a “Hollywood set between takes.” As of the late 1990s, Turners Falls has been transformed into a popular destination for people seeking fun and entertainment, culture and recreation.
With the advent of the RiverCulture Program in 2005, Turners Falls now offers a full calendar of activities and events for people of all ages and interests. Each year RiverCulture joins with its partners to create a whole range of creative items and events based on original themes.
Turners Falls also offers sites of appealing natural beauty. The dam and its environs offer opportunities for both active and passive recreation along the Connecticut River and canal. The River has been designated an American Heritage River, one of only fourteen nationwide.
Above the Turners Falls Dam the river impoundment opens into a large pond, which includes Barton Cove where its serene beauty can be appreciated in any season.
During the winter months much of the cove freezes over and ice fishermen can be seen out on the river setting their lines. As Spring and its “freshet” arrive, ice jams disperse and work their way down the river and over the falls. With all the gates in the dam open, a truly awesome display of hydro-power is mesmerizing.
Hikers and Bicycle enthusiasts will enjoy their travel along the Turners Falls Bikeway. A three-mile paved ribbon that extends a short distance along the Connecticut River from Unity Park in Turners Falls to a scenic and historic stretch along the power canal where Turners Falls, industrial-might once flourished. A cutlery manufacturer, paper, cotton and silk mills, were once the source of the village’ economy. As we move on to Montague City, the bike path includes passage across a deck-converted iron railroad bridge that spans the Connecticut River and on to Deerfield, where it links up with the Franklin County Bikeway.
The bikeway is also a popular attraction for visiting naturalists and students. Enthusiasts enjoy the rich diversity of migratory birds that visit the Barton Cove area as well as the Cabot Woods Wildlife Refuge at Migratory Way. Throughout the year, the opportunity to observe families of Bald Eagles is a bonus. Great Blue Heron and Snowy Egrets are seasonally common.
If you favor time-well spent, your investment in TURNERS FALLS will yield favorable dividends.
Ed Gregory images