It Happened in Holyoke
Journeys into Holyoke
The "history" of Holyoke gioes back centuries.
The Indigenous people of Holyoke and South Hadley Falls were the Algonquian peoples. Though records are incomplete, the area was settled by the Pocomtuc, sometimes referred to as the Agawam or Nonotuck.
English colonists showed up the Connecticut River Valley in 1633.
But it was in the mid-Nineteenth Century that the most profound change occurred. Holyoke had few inhabitants until the construction of the dam and the Holyoke Canal System in 1849 and the subsequent construction of water-powered mills, particularly paper mills. At one point over 25 paper mills were in operation in the city. Holyoke's population rose from just under 5,000 in 1860 to over 60,000 in 1920.
It is from this period that much of the foundation for modern day Holyoke has come.
It may be argued that its golden era of accomplishments came from this period as well.
For example, Holyoke was one of the first planned industrial communities in the United States. Holyoke features rectilinear street grids—a novelty in New England. This street hierarchy is seen as a potential economic development tool as it lends well to high-rise buildings, and the surrounding canals could be landscaped into a source of recreation and relaxation. Its grid pattern is notable in Western Massachusetts, where few roads are straight. The city's advantageous location on the Connecticut River—the largest river in New England—beside Hadley Falls, the river's steepest drop (60 feet), attracted the Boston Associates, who had successfully developed Lowell, Massachusetts' textile industry. From the late 19th century until the mid-20th century, Holyoke was the world's biggest paper manufacturer. The elaborate Holyoke Canal System, built to power paper and textile mills, distinguishes it from other Connecticut River cities. Holyoke is nicknamed "The Paper City" due to its fame as the world's greatest paper producer.
We have posted about the city's connection to volleyball.
Here are some other notable aspects of Holyoke - things unique to the city and to its sense of self and place:
- During the late 19th century the city produced an estimated 80% of the writing paper used in the United States and was home to the largest paper mill architectural firm in the country, as well as the largest paper, silk, and alpaca wool mills in the world.
- A device invented in the 1880s' ( Clemens Herschel's Venturi meter) was the first accurate means of measuring large-scale flows. It is widely used in a number of engineering applications today, including waterworks and carburators, as well as aviation instrumentation.
- the world's first commercial toll line, between the city's Hotel Jess and a location in Springfield, entered service on June 15, 1878
- The Holyoke Street Railway (HSR) was an interurban streetcar and bus system operating in Holyoke, Massachusetts as well as surrounding communities with connections in Amherst, Belchertown, Chicopee, Easthampton, Granby, Northampton, Pelham, South Hadley, Sunderland, Westfield, and West Springfield. In the history of American railroad engineering, the system was the first in the United States to make use of exothermic welding, better known as thermite welding, to lay track for regular use.
- The New England Electric Music Company on March 16, 1906, demonstrated the Telharmonium, the world's first electromechanical instrument, a predecessor of the synthesizer.
- Holyoke is home to the second-largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the United States, surpassed only by the New York City parade.
- U.S. Post Office, Captain Alezue Holyoke's Exploring Party on the Connecticut River, an oil on canvas mural, painted by Ross Moffet and installed in 1936.
- A 1920's vintage Merry-Go-Round, now housed in the "Merry-Go-Round Building", a recreation of the original pavilion at Mountain Park.
- Hometown to: Ann Dowd, Hal Holbrook, Jack Buck, Joe Lapchick, Mark Wohlers and Rachel Maddow (among others)
More on the particulars in future postings