The Spruces – Williamstown, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

The Spruces

Williamstown, Massachusetts

This abandoned neighborhood is now a park filled with beautiful trees, wildflowers, and hints of its past. 

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Visitors traveling on Route 2 between Williamstown and North Adams, Massachusetts, pass two white lion statues resting on high pedestals. The great cats flank a dirt road lined with spruce trees. When deciding whether to travel down that dirt road, your imagination may fill with expectations of finding a decrepit estate waiting at the end.

If you turn and travel down that dirt road, you’ll soon find yourself immersed in what is obviously the grid of an old neighborhood. Everything was clearly abandoned and razed in the not-so-distant past.

This land was a mobile home park called the Spruces prior to 2011. The municipality of Williamstown condemned the community after the Hoosic River, which flows behind it, overflowed its banks during Tropical Storm Irene. The waters destroyed all 226 homes. The land is now an odd park that hasn’t shaken off the essences of its former inhabitants.

Perhaps the best memorials to the personalities of this ghosted neighborhood’s former residents are the trees they left behind, a Japanese red maple here, a cypress there. Those scattered trees continue to grow among the grass and butterfly-filled wildflower patches, which are steadily overtaking the land. The blue Berkshire Mountains provide a distant backdrop in nearly every direction.

The Spruces was created as a retirement community in 1954 by eccentric millionaire Albert Bachand, whose personality defined it for its first 14 years. It was Bachand who created the white lion statues that sit at the entrance of the park, as well as other features that once existed there, such as a 102-foot long covered bridge, a windmill, and a lighthouse. Bachand also created “Whispering Fountains” pond for the community, which featured 1,500 water jets and was considered one of the largest water displays in the country at one time.