A brief history of Northampton
The area now known as Northampton was named Norwottuck, or Nonotuck, meaning "the midst of the river" by Native Americans. In 1653, land was purchased from the native inhabitants making up the bulk of modern Northampton. Colonial Northampton was founded in 1654 by settlers from Springfield, Massachusetts. Northampton's territory would be enlarged beyond the original settlement, but later the outer portions would be carved up into separate cities and towns. Southampton was incorporated in 1775, including parts of the modern territories of Montgomery (which was itself incorporated in 1780) and Easthampton. Westhampton was incorporated in 1778, and Easthampton in 1809. A part of Northampton known as Smith's Ferry was separated from the rest of the town by Easthampton, and the shortest path to downtown was on a road near the Connecticut River oxbow, which was subject to frequent flooding. The neighborhood was ceded to Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1909. Initial cooperation between the settlers and the Natives gave way to conflict, evidence of which can today be seen most clearly in nearby Historic Deerfield. Northampton hosted its own witch trials in the 18th century, although no alleged witches were executed. Members of the community were present at the Constitutional Convention. Colonial American Congregational preacher Jonathan Edwards led a spiritual revival in Northampton beginning in 1733. It reached such intensity, in the winter of 1734 and the following spring, as to threaten the business of the town. In the spring of 1735, the movement began to subside and a reaction set in. But the relapse was brief, and the Northampton revival, which had spread through the Connecticut River Valley and whose fame had reached England and Scotland, was followed in 1739?1740 by the Great Awakening, distinctively under the leadership of Edwards. On August 29, 1786, Daniel Shays and a group of Revolutionary War Veterans]] (who called themselves Regulators and were also called Shaysites), stopped the civil court from sitting in Northampton. Northampton was linked to the sea by the Hampshire and Hampden Canal in 1835, but the canal enterprise foundered and after about a decade was replaced by a railroad running along the same route. A flood on the Mill River on May 16, 1874, destroyed almost the entire village of Leeds in the township of Northampton. Northampton, which was incorporated as a city in 1883, developed into a thriving community and a local center for commerce, education, and the arts, even supporting a still-extant opera house, the Academy of Music, which functioned as an independent movie house until recently. However, the 800 seat theatre now operates as a venue for rent for local and other productions. In 1851, opera singer Jenny Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale", declared Northampton to be the "Paradise of America." The first game of women's basketball was played in 1892 at Smith College. Immigrant groups that settled here in large numbers included Irish, Polish, and French-Canadian. Former President Calvin Coolidge retired to Northampton upon leaving the White House in 1929, and died there on January 5, 1933. Another President, Herbert Hoover died in the city. Northampton today is a popular destination for tourists, who come to sample the city's shopping and restaurants. Since 1995 the city has been home to the twice-yearly Paradise City Arts Festival, held at the Three County Fairgrounds on Memorial Day Weekend and Columbus Hampshire County Courthouse in NorthamptonThe city experienced several decades of economic decline, peaking in the 1970s, and related to the emergence of the Rust Belt phenomenon. Though Western Massachusetts lies outside of the typical geographic bounds of the Rust Belt, the centrality of commerce and the arts in Northampton's economy left it economically vulnerable, as the decline of Springfield's manufacturing sector and Holyoke's paper industry immediately to the east coincided with massive plant closures in the upstate New York Capital District region to the west. Attempts at revitalization in the 1970s and 1980s led to something of a demographic rift, as the primarily working-class established population saw an influx of young professionals. Therapists and other mental health workers were chief among these, as the reduction and closure of the Northampton State Hospital created an increased demand. The distinction between the long-established population and the more recent arrivals has today blurred somewhat, but remains in local nomenclature, where those who have moved to the region since the 1970s are likely to refer to the city as "NoHo," while to its multi-generational residents it is more commonly known as "Hamp." In local political discourse, the distinction blurs the lines between economic class discrepancies, family histories, and political alignment, as when an unexpected Hamp groundswell was credited with defeating a same-sex domestic partnership ordinance measure in the early 1990s. Northampton today is a popular destination for tourists, who come to sample the city's shopping and restaurants. Since 1995 the city has been home to the twice-yearly Paradise City Arts Festival, held at the Three County Fairgrounds on Memorial Day Weekend and Columbus Day Weekend. The Festival is ranked the #1 arts fair in America, and is a national juried showcase for contemporary craft and fine art. Northampton is an open and tolerant community, and is home to a sizable lesbian community. Northampton is also home to a vibrant music scene. This is the result of music venues such as the Calvin Theater, Pines Theater, Pearl Street, Iron Horse Music Hall, The Elevens, and The Academy of Music. Musicians and bands that refer to the Northampton area as "home" include Sonic Youth, Mobius Band, The Alchemystics, The Primate Fiasco, Erin McKeown, The Thungs, The Amity Front, The Nields, The Young@Heart Chorus, Ella Longpre, The Trials and Tribulations, Cordelia's Dad, Thrillpillow, Rusty Belle, The Novels, Los Hijos Unicos, Spanish for Hitchhiking, The Skeptics, Fountains of Wayne, Roger Salloom and the Winterpills
Updated: 5th April, 2020 6:56 AM.