Dean's Corners

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Dean's Corners (alternate spellings: Dean's Corner)

Origin: "The Dunwich Horror fiction (fiction)" by H.P. Lovecraft


In the Mythos

"When a traveller in north central Massachusetts takes the wrong fork at the junction of the Aylesbury pike just beyond Dean's Corners he comes upon a lonely and curious country [Dunwich]...."
H.P. Lovecraft, "The Dunwich Horror (fiction)"

West of Arkham and south of Dunwich, along the Aylesbury Turnpike, lies the tiny, sleepy crossroads town of Dean's Corners, the middle of nowhere where nothing ever happens, both a haven and a prison to its inhabitants.

Model

By some accounts, Lovecraft (very loosely) modeled Dunwich on Athol, Massachusetts and nearby towns like Greenwich (which was flooded in the 1930s to form the Quabbin Reservoir); these towns might as easily serve as a rough template for Dean's Corners and its history after the Classic Era.

Athol (as a rough analogue to Dean's Corners) is roughly 10 miles or 16km from Orange (a rough equivalent to Aylesbury), and about 90 miles (150km) west from the approximate location of Arkham. Athol is about 20 miles (32km) north of Greenwich.

Populations of both Athol and Greenwich were over a thousand people each in the 1800s, with populations of both areas facing a steady decline into the low hundreds into the 20th century as people left the countryside for the cities (and, no doubt, as modernization left the local industries behind without replacement), until the population of Athol stabilized and began a slow but steady increase though the last half of the 20th Century up to today (and Greenwich being uprooted and submerged by the reservoir).

Althol's early economy was based on a handful of river-powered gristmills, lumber mills, and trip-hammer (used in manufacturing forged or stamped metal objects, tools in the case of Athol); such industries might be powered by the Miskatonic River in the case of Dean's Corners, etc. Industry in Athol was just successful enough to have attracted the area's first bank, a branch of the Fitchburg Railroad, and several trolley lines (including one to neighboring Orange, which might be thought of as a rough equivalent to Aylesbury) from the 1800s up to the 1930s, when several factors (including Depression, private automobiles, bus service, and the flooding for the Quabbin Reservoir, which also led to neighboring rail lines being abandoned).

Athol seems to have begun stagnating in the 1930s due to these factors, followed by traffic being diverted from the town's equivalent of the Aylesbury Pike onto an interstate highway in the 1950s, leaving the town in relative isolation and economic depression with only minor growth since the 1950s; the tool-making business is still in operation though it was forced to downsize in the modern economy, and is still one of the town's larger employers, along with a local hospital, followed by local food service and other service industries.

Nearby Greenwich seems to have shared some of Athol's history. Greenwich appears to have had an Ice House (and ice-harvesting associated with its lake), a Hotel and a campground with "tentalows" - large, elaborate tents/wigwams for semi-outdoor camping or romantic getaways serving tourists and family fishing and camping trips, a golf course, a couple small gristmills and sawmills, a Post Office, a few small industries (a wool mill, a plating operation, a match factory, and a few small tool factories) employing a handful of workers each, a Congregational Church and Independent Liberal Church (apparently a specialized Unitarian Universalist church), and a number of farms and woodlots of varying sizes and levels of success. The town at the height of its success was served by the Rabbit Run railroad, and a trolleys. A small lake appears to have been a source of food fish; minutes of town meetings from the Classic Era refer to setting aside money for keeping the lake stocked with fish and for limiting fishing to keep from over-fishing the lake, and tax records refer to taxes on a boathouse. This lake was artificially dammed and expanded to form the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s, flooding the town except for fragments on hilltops which were then incorporated into several neighboring towns.

Points of Interest (Gaslight, Classic, Pulp)

The following are suggested points of interest which do not appear in Lovecraft's stories, but do appear in RPG supplemental materials:

  • General Store -
  • Service Station -
  • Inn/Restaurant/Tavern/Saloon -
  • Unitarian Church - (cemetery)
  • Post Office -

The following are suggested points of interest which do not appear in Lovecraft's stories, but might exist in a town of this size around the turn of the century up to the 1930s or so:

  • Bus, Coach, or Trolley Stop - (at the Inn/Restaurant/Saloon, General Store, Post Office, Service Station, etc.?
  • Grange and Town Hall - (a farmer's association building that might serve as a meeting hall, as well as giving the town a lobbying voice, and organizing charity, etc.)
  • Bandstand - (an open circular gazebo/cupola in a park that serves as a shelter for bands etc. to perform in for town festivities; this might be part of the Grange building)
  • Schoolhouse - (one or perhaps more rooms; might house a small public library)
  • Drug Store - (perhaps combined with the post office, and later housing a soda fountain or malt shop; might have a "Wooden Indian" sculpture of the sort once used to advertise tobacco and later in the 20th century increasingly considered offensive)
  • Barber Shop - (a common social center for a small town; perhaps doubling as a basic dentist's office)
  • Blacksmith's or Mechanic's shop
  • Roadside attractions - ("tourist traps"; these would have sprung up in the wake of the popularity of automobiles in the 20th Century, especially in the 1940s and beyond; Glass Eye Museum, Dinosaur Skeletons and Indian Artifacts, a famous person slept in the Inn, etc.)
  • Storage Shed and Ice House - (apparently linked to the railroads; the insulated ice house would hold large blocks of ice through warm seasons for the purpose of refrigeration in ice-boxes in an era before electric refrigerators were common)
  • Congregationalist Church - (cemetery)

Heresies and Controversies, Keeper Notes

  • Dean's Corners is a small hamlet [sic - "town" intended] with a population of 83, the first stop on the Aylesbury Pike heading towards Arkham, the settlement survives on passing automobile traffic. Aside from the residents' houses, there is a general store, a petrol station, an inn, a post office and a church. (Watcher in the Valley by Kevin Ross)
  • Dean's Corners has a general store, gas station, restaurant/small hotel, Unitarian Church, and a post office (the town's "newest building" in the 1920s) that serves Dean's Corners and "Jennings Township south of Miles Ridge". (Watcher in the Valley)
  • Dean's Corners might also serve as a stage coach and later bus stop for the area, probably at the inn/restaurant. Dunwich appears to be within hiking distance, on the fork of the road that in "The Dunwich Horror" crosses the Miskatonic River to the north via a covered bridge; Dean's Corners might serve as the bigger town that Dunwich folk travel when a little civilization is needed, and presumably a doctor here serves Dean's Corners and the surrounding area in more prosperous eras (in "The Dunwich Horror", a doctor had to be fetched in from Aylesbury), and perhaps the Dean's Corners Post Office serves the surrounding area as well; presumably the Unitarian Church attracts the bolder and/or more civilized Dunwich folk. A trolley might connect Dean's Corners to the nearest railroad, providing a more convenient connection to the outside world than coach, bus, horseback, or foot on the turnpike, though it's unclear how long a trolley branch might remain practical, and its possible such a branch, if it exists, might not have survived the Depression and later rise of the automobile. (Y.Whateley)

Trivia

  • 'Corner' in this sense is used where one road branches off the main road (a T intersection), while 'corners' is used for two or more roads branching off at the intersection; whether the name is "Dean's Corner" or "Dean's Corners" would depend on how many roads on the intersection the town's territory covers.
  • Dean's Corners might be described as a town or "hamlet" ("town" being the correct designation in Massachusetts for this sort of location); towns in this sense could be described as the rural or suburban equivalent of a neighborhood in a city or village. Towns are usually not legal entities and have no local government or official boundaries. Their approximate locations will, however, often be noted on road signs; the area of a town may not be exactly defined, it may be designated by the Census Bureau, or it may rely on some other informal form of border. A town usually depends upon the town that contains it for municipal services and government; the town can define a "special use district" (a type of local entity designed to provide a specific service, such as water, sewer, or lighting) to provide only that town with services. (Dean's Corners would likely depend on Aylesbury for such services as government, police, fire, electricity/lighting, telephone, running water, etc.)


References