From: 1712 through 1990
The Birches dam was constructed at the north side of the lake by John Wadliegh, adding 3 feet to the maximum water level of the lake. The added water capacity was needed to maintain water flow in the Powwow River during dry spells so that water-powered mills along the river in Amesbury could continue to operate. (Source: History of Essex County).
“Caleb [Pillsbury] and family moved to Amesbury in 1727, and he became a leading citizen of that town. He and Orlando Bagley devised a plan to tunnel Pond Ridge in order that the waters of Lake Attitash might flow more directly into Powwow river, and also drain a large meadow north of the lake so that its crop of hay might be more valuable and more easily harvested. It is said that the two men who dug this very successful Isthmian canal received as their pay a barrel of rum.” – From Historic Homes and Places, Volume 2, by William Richard Cutter, 1908.
Kimball’s Pond renamed Attitash. The name of Kimball’s Pond was changed to Lake Attitash, which means “blueberries all around.” The original name of the lake, Kimball’s Pond, is shown on colonial period maps and originated from the name of the family who owned the surrounding lands.
Writing in an 1885 issue of The Bay State Monthly, Frances Sparhawk seems to attribute the new name of the lake, Attitash, to local poet John Greenleaf Whittier and his poem, “The Maids of Attitash”:
At Pond Hills, between Amesbury and Merrimac, is lake Attitash, which, before Mr. Whittier took pity upon it, rejoiced in the name of Kimball’s Pond. … In the “Maids of Attitash” is described the lake where
“In sky and wave the white clouds swam, And the blue hills of Nottingham Through gaps of leafy green Across the lake were seen.” All these are still here, but one misses the maidens who ought to be sitting there “In the shadow of the ash That dreams its dream in Attitash.” Read the entire poem here
Local Newspaper reports that Lake Attitash a pleasant place for parties of all kinds
Lake Attitash divided between Amesbury and Merrimac. On April 11, the section of Amesbury called West Amesbury became the Town of Merrimac. “Division line runs from Merrimac river to south side of Lake Attitash, thence obliquely to state line.” From Chronological Record of the Principal Events That Have Occurred in Amesbury by Emily Binney Smith, 1901.
"Lake Attitash fast becoming one of the most famous resorts in vicinity" Amesbury newspaper notes
1st Illumination event and water carnival occurs…It drew large crowds
Second annual yacht race on Lake Attitash
Second Illumination on Attitash "thousands of lanterns…great throngs"
Ice boating on the lake becomes popular
Lake Attitash and Attitash Park promoted by trolley line. From “A Delightful Trolley Trip” essay on a 1903 timetable published by the Haverhill & Amesbury Street Railway: “At the northern limit of [Merrimac], and but a short distance from the track, Lake Attitash nestles among the surrounding wooded hills, already a popular summer resort for Merrimac and Amesbury people. This is a most delightful place, its groves and lake breezes being enjoyable in summer, and well worth a visit. On the southerly side and immediately on the line of the railroad lies Attitash Park, which is being extensively promoted by Lynn and Haverhill parties. A large number of house lots have been sold and this promises to be one of the most popular resorts in this vicinity.” Attitash Park includes land near today’s Attitash Ave., Lake Ave., Bisson Lane, and the state boat ramp in Merrimac.
Boy’s camp opened on lake under Newburyport YMCA. Will eventually become Camp Bauercrest.
30 acres of land sold for dance hall and pavilion on lake. (Between Lane Ten Acres and West Shore Road in Merrimac?)
Bowling lanes opened on lake
Fire destroys cottages and stables. “Fire, supposed to have been of incendiary origin, destroyed eight summer cottages and two stables at Lake Attitash, Mass., Friday, November 24, with a property loss of $5,000, partially covered by insurance.” From The Standard, an insurance newspaper in Boston. Issue covering July 1, 1905 to January 1, 1906.
Ice harvesting interest at Attitash
Ice Company borrows money for railway to Merrimac River. “The Lake Attitash Ice & Transportation Company has given a mortgage for $225,000 in favor of the International Trust Company of Boston. It covers all the real, personal and mixed estate owned or to be acquired by the company, and it secures an issue of 6 per cent, bonds amounting to $225,000. Daniel H. Fowle, of Newburyport, has conveyed several parcels of land in Merrimac to the company. One measuring 160 by 820 feet is located near Lake Attitash, two containing buildings are on the River Road, and one containing buildings is on the main road to Amesbury. “James E. Fowle has conveyed five lots of land in Attitash Park, in Merrimac, to the company. [Attitash Park includes land near today’s Attitash Ave., Lake Ave., Bisson Lane, and the state boat ramp in Merrimac.] The company has published a map showing its proposed railway between the lake and the Merrimac River, as well as the water route between its ice houses on the river and Boston.” From the December 1907 issue of Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal.
Attitash Ice Company marketing stocks and bonds. “George W. Eldridge, vice-president of the Lake Attitash Ice and Transportation Company, has been marketing the company’s stock and bonds, and, incidentally, on May 14, he delivered a “private” lecture at Music Hall, Newburyport, his subject being: “The Lake Attitash Ice and Transportation Company; what it has done and what it intends to do.” He gave a history of the company and described its proposed plant as published in Cold Storage And Ice Trade Journal of November and December, 1907.
“He said that before he joined the company he investigated its prospects and found that it was a “veritable gold mine”; that Lake Attitash was 100 feet deep and covered several hundred acres; that the lake was fed by springs of pure water and that it lay, “as it has from time immemorial, untrammeled by the hand of man”; that 2,000,000 tons of ice could be cut from the lake annually, ice from 10 to 18 inches thick having been cut there during the ice famine winter of 1905-1906; and that the runway from the lake to the Merrimack River and the ice houses would be ready for ice on January first, 1909â€”although his description of the present conditions seemed to indicate that little progress had been made on the construction during the past three or four months. As he calculates it, the company will be able to sell ice in Boston for less (?) than $2 per ton and make a profit of at least $1 per ton! Capt. Eldridge claims the honor of suggesting that the company go into the freight business, and, like Col. Sellers, he has the profits therefrom figured to a nicety. According to his prospectus, the company can tow freight from Haverhill and Newburyport to Boston for 240 days per year and can probably handle 800 tons of freight daily at a net profit of $1 per ton, but if it handles only 100 tons per day, the annual net earnings from that source would be $24,000.Capt. Eldridge is an authority on charts and tides, being the publisher of Eldridge’s Charts and Tide Tables for the past 40 years; and he illustrated his lecture with his charts of the company’s property and the routes of its vessels. The Lake Attitash Company is getting a goodly amount of free advertising, which is intended to help sell its securities. It has sold 6 per cent, first mortgage gold bonds, amounting to $53,000, the total allotment being $100,000.” From the February 1908 issue of Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal.
Ice Company buys land for sawmill. “The Lake Attitash Ice and Transportation Company has bought some woodland near its Lake Attitash property, where it has installed a portable saw mill, which will be run until it has cut enough lumber to build its ice houses, carrier railway to the Merrimack River, and other buildings needed in its ice business.
“As stated in last month’s letter, the company proposes to cut what ice it can this winter and protect it with hay and roofing material. Work on the construction of its houses, tugs and barges will be commenced in the spring. Ice was 8 inches thick on Lake Attitash on January 21.” From the February 1908 issue of Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal
Pinehurst Hotel opens on south side of lake
Dance hall and bowling alley burn down
Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife records report that the lake is “crowded” with seasonal vacation cottages.
Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife report plant growth in lake limited to North and West shores as in most lakes due to sun exposure
Ice company (Lake Attitash Ice & Transportation Co) goes out of business
Merrimack Valley Power and Buildings Co. begin flow manipulation for hydropower on lake
Moonshine found near the rebuilt dance hall
Electric lights available for Lake Attitash residents
Grand opening of Lake Attitash Ballroom
Camp Bauercrest was founded in 1931 by four Jewish community centers north of Boston. The land occupied by the camp was purchased from Ralph Bauer, who was the mayor of Lynn at the time. (His name is incorporated into the camp name.) President Calvin Coolidge, a friend of Mayor Bauer, frequented the camp according to a plaque on the grounds.
Nude bathers discovered at Attitash
Newspaper article on apparent algal blooms. A green substance found. Possibly due to intense heat this summer. Complaints received from residents.
Lanes Ten Acres opens. Mr. Lanes 10 acres opens for development
Development of Birch Meadows Beach at “the Birches.” 7.5 acres of land and 500 feet of lake frontage. Parking for up to 1,000 cars. Sand brought in to cover 30,000 yards of gravel to fill in a swamp “of little use to anyone save mosquitos…” Proposed a commissary for food, ice cream and beverages, boat rentals, bathing suit rentals, proposed bathing pier and diving tower. Large bonfire on the shore.
Amesbury, Mass. In 1953, Melvin and Lorraine Clark were involved in a "Key Club" wife swapping group. Mrs. Clark shot her husband and dumped his body into the Merrimac River from the Rocks Village Bridge. She was eventually caught when the body floated up. She was arrested, tried, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Police received a letter from "The 10 Mothers," demanding that action be taken to clean up Amesbury immorality.
Newspaper article states that lake has been elevated about two feet higher than it ever has been. Lake resident stated that this has caused problems with the sewerage, making it difficult to control as discharge pipes to drywells become flooded, making them ineffective.
Rt.495 completed from Andover to Merrimac
Amesbury Water Department installs a surface intake on the Powwow
Amesbury drafts safety code for water skiing and high powered boats on lake.
Hydroelectric company utilizing lake Attitash water sells the water rights to the town of Amesbury. Use of lake for hydropower stops, and lake levels cease fluctuating
It is purported that the town of Amesbury did not regulate the flow or create a permanent pool level for several years after acquiring these water use rights.
Attitash had a permanent summer pool level established in 1967, the year after Town of Amesbury purchased the flowage rights. The 1977 the Mass. Department of Environmental Quality Engineering Notini report states that at the time of the report the town of Amesbury “maintained the lake at a relatively low level.” A copy of correspondence (Feb 4, 1980) with the Merrimac Conservation Commission included in this report states that “it is abundantly clear that no enforceable of viable management plan exists to systematically control the level of the lake.” It is alleged that the Amesbury Department of Public Works manages lake water levels during this period based upon complaints from residents whose septic systems are flooded, or by receding shorelines during low flow and no precipitation periods.
Original Merrimac boat ramp installed (Mass Dept. of Public Works, Division of Waterways, plans dated March 1969)
Official state plans are drafted for the improvement of the Lake Attitash boat ramp. Prior to this time an unpaved primitive boat ramp was in place, but use was limited to small watercraft due to fluctuating water levels (up until 1966) and limited accessibility.
The concrete boat launch was constructed sometime between 1973 and 1975. This latter date is surmised based on the Dept. of Environmental Quality Engineering 1977 report that states motor boating had markedly increased over the two previous years and that the number and size of the boats now present on the lake (as large as 300 HP reportedly) was a concern to lakeshore residents. Anecdotal reports recall boats and trailers lining both sides of the street leading from the main road to the boat ramp, a distance of approximately a third of a mile.
Merrimac boat launch paved and parking spaces installed
Newspaper article reports on Lake Attitash resident’s proposal for cleaning up the shoreline around the lake. Article implies large amounts of debris, broken glass, and trash because they propose using a contractor with heavy equipment. The article states that September is the routine time period for dropping lake levels for retaining wall work. Concern is expressed over lowering water and its effect on the town’s water supply.
Over 250 seasonal and year round residences on 1st and 2nd tier of lake
Anecdotal large increase in high powered boat traffic (300 HP)
Nicols farm hosts 200 dairy cows. Land is spread with manure & fertilizer. A proposal is made to spread Waste Water Treatment Process sludge
Mass. Department of Environmental Quality Engineering completes a study of the lake.
Mass. Department of Environmental Quality Engineering “Notini” report suggests winter drawdown as a lake management technique along with developing man made beaches for public and private use by trucking in sand. Conversations with locals found that some folks trucked in beach sand during the winter and dumped it in front of their cottages to be deposited once the lake ice melted
More than 350 seasonal and year round homes around the lake (Dept. Environmental Quality Engineering 1977 report). Transitioning to year round homes increases significantly during this period.
All residences presently on septic systems. The 1977 report stated there were approximately 350 septic systems in the area at this time. Based on literature data collected by Camp Dresser & Mckee (15 mg/l Phosphorus in septic tank effluent), Camp Dresser & Mckee estimated a potential for as much as 3,000 pounds of phosphorus per year added to the lake from these systems. This does not take in to account any additional Phosphorus from lawn fertilizers, road runoff, or agricultural sources. (If the lake summer pool level was established in 1966, and the residences didn’t have sewers until the early/mid 80’s, this would be at least fifteen years of Total Phosphorus added to the lake…over 45,000 pounds of phosphorus).
During this time period as more year round residences are being established and the lake is at an established pool level, summer influxes of Total Phosphorus are only increasing as the remaining seasonal residents are visiting the lake. Nutrients are likely being re-suspended by heavy motorboat traffic.
First Harmful Algae Blooms reported by residents (with the exception of the 1944 newspaper article on severe lake “discoloration”).
Indian Head Beach closed due to bacterial contamination
1st reported complaint on algal bloom
*Mass. Department of Environmental Quality Engineering report on Lake Attitash water quality comes out. Study began from water sampling in 1977. Article mentions numerous failures of septic systems around the lake, and based on associated report comments and correspondence (i.e. Amesbury Board of Health to MA Department of Environmental Protection) many of these failures occurred within months of the dwelling being converted from seasonal to year round residence.
*Lake Attitash Watershed Association initiates program to eliminate excessive plant growth and siltation in the lake. Implies watershed association is newly formed. Department of Environmental Quality Engineering recommends dredging out of the silt and attacking the plant problem. Also mention increasing zoning lots to 1.5 acres. Board of health gives go ahead to test for leaking septic systems. IEP Inc. of Wayland is hired for $5,000 to conduct the study. Proposed to test for Bacteria, Total Phosphorus and Total Nitrogen.
*Department of Public Works hearing on sewer needs for around the lake. Acknowledgment that seasonal homes are quickly becoming year round residences.
There were 91 sewer permit applications within 1000' of lake
From: 1993 through 2021
Lake Attitash Association formed to improve and maintain water quality of Lake Attitash. Labor Day weekend "Illumination Night" celebrations start again along with "Boat Parades".
Aquatic vegetation survey by Aquatic Control Technology commissioned by the Lake Attitash Association.
Lake Attitash Association water quality study completed
Lake Association worked with Amesbury to win a state grant of $10,000. Monthly monitoring program established and funding to provide for plant harvesting. Monitoring finds that nuisance “weeds” have always been a problem in the lake, but problem appears to be worsening.
Soil berm constructed at Sergeant’s farm to divert runoff from sloped fields into the millpond and away from the compost piles.
Spindle Tree Lane development constructed (3 homes)
Camp Dresser & Mckee Watershed Management Study completed
Lancewood Drive (3 homes constructed)
Watershed and Waterway Management Plan completed for Amesbury
Whitewood Circle development constructed (4 homes)
Olde Tavern Lane development constructed (3 homes)
Lake Association obtained a grant to purchase the Gunderboom at upper end of Back River to slow flow and trap nutrients.
MA Department of Environmental Protection issues a Beneficial Use Determination for Sargent Farm, allowing gelatin waste products from Kraft foods to be trucked in to Sargent farm for composting. Complaints of odors begin.
US Environmental Protection Agency National Lakes Assessment pilot utilizes the lake as s study subject.
US Environmental Protection Agency remote sensing flyover, vegetative mapping and analysis, sediment coring and dating, fish survey, detailed bathymetry mapping.
After legal action initiated by the Lake Attitash Association, Gelatin waste to Sargent Farm composting operation ceases (seagull population on the lake went from hundreds to less than a handful immediately after composting ceased)
Extensive hand pulling of Water Chestnuts in Back River essentially eliminates that invasive weed. Annual hand pulling efforts continue in following years to pull stragglers.
DEP 319 Grant installs additional storm water controls in Merrimac watershed. Goal to improve water quality by treating and filtering storm water. Included intensive education effort on how to reduce pollutants.
US Environmental Protection Agency does a yearlong monitoring of Attitash
Systemic herbicide treatment of entire lake for invasive aquatic plants - Milfoil
LAA “Weed Watcher” program begun by LAA. Teams of watchers check the lake monthly for any signs of invasive plants.
DASH – Diver Assisted Suction Harvesting used to reduce invasive Milfoil in Back River. Plants hand pulled using suction to keep broken branches from floating away and starting a new plant.
Lake Association awarded a $20,000 State Grant, obtained by Representatives Kelcourse and Mirra & Senator Ives to treat for invasive weeds.
Lake treated with Alum to address harmful algal / Cyanobacteria blooms. LAA along with Amesbury and Merrimac raised matching funds to secure a $600,000 s319 grant to pay for the treatment.
Second Alum treatment completed. Beautiful clear water and minimal cyanobacteria blooms noted.
Tradition of Labor Day weekend boat parade and Grand Illumination continues on the lake