Northampton is a city in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, U.S.A.. The population was 28,978 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Hampshire County.

Northampton is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Statistical Area.


The area now known as Northampton was named Norwottuck, or Nonotuck, meaning "the mist of the river" by Native Americans. In 1653, land was purchased from the native inhabitants making up the bulk of modern Northampton.[1] Colonial Northampton was founded in 1654 by settlers from Springfield, Massachusetts.[2]

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.[3] Westhampton was incorporated in 1778, and Easthampton in 1809.[4] A part of Northampton known as Smiths 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.[5]

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 (accused) witches were executed. Members of the community were present at the Constitutional Convention.[6]

On August 29, 1786, Daniel Shays and a group of Revolutionary War Veterans called the Shaysites, or "Regulators," stopped the civil court from sitting in Northampton.[7]

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.[8] A flood on the Mill River on May 16, 1874, destroyed almost the entire village of Leeds in the township of Northampton.[9]

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.[10] However, the 800 seat theater 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.

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 biannual 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. It is an open and tolerant community, and is home to a sizable lesbian community. The town has ties to the ground-breaking and controversial children's book, "Heather Has Two Mommies."

Northampton is also home to a vibrant music scene. This is the result of music venues such as the Calvin Theater, Pines Theater, Iron Horse Music Hall, and The Academy of Music. Musicians and bands that refer to the Northampton area as "home" include Sonic Youth, The Mobius Band, Alchamystics, The Primate Fiasco, Erin McKeown, Amity Front, The Neilds, The Young@Heart Chorus and Rusty Belle.

Cultural references


Northampton sits on the banks of the Connecticut River, in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. It is located at Template:Coord (42.327389, -72.657677).Template:GR

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 35.6 square miles (92.2 km²), of which, 34.5 square miles (89.3 km²) of it is land and 1.1 square miles (3.0 km²) of it (3.20%) is water.

Inclusive within the city limits are the villages of Florence and Leeds. It is bordered to the north by the towns of Hatfield and Williamsburg, to the west by Westhampton, to the east by Hadley (across the Connecticut River), and to the south by Easthampton.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there were 28,978 people, 11,880 households, and 5,880 families residing in the city. Northampton has the most lesbians per capita of any city. The population density was 841.0 people per square mile (324.7/km²). There were 12,405 housing units at an average density of 360.0/sq mi (139.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.01% White, 2.08% African American, 0.30% Native American, 3.13% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 2.41% from other races, and 2.03% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.24% of the population.

There were 11,880 households out of which 22.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.7% were married couples living together, 10.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.5% were non-families. 37.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.14 and the average family size was 2.87.

In the city the population was spread out with 17.0% under the age of 18, 15.4% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 23.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 75.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 71.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $41,808, and the median income for a family was $56,844. Males had a median income of $37,264 versus $30,728 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,022. About 5.7% of families and 9.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.4% of those under age 18 and 9.1% of those age 65 or over.

Northampton's public schools include four elementary schools (kindergarten through 5th grade), one middle school (6th to 8th grade), one high school (9th to 12th grade), and one vocational-agricultural high school (9th to 12th grade). There are a few charter schools and several private schools in Northampton and surrounding towns.


Northampton is also considered by many as something of a liberal mecca, due in part to the five colleges in the area and the city's large LGBT community. Smith College, which has an active and progressive lesbian community and a number of female-to-male transgendered students, is part of the center of the city's activities. The city has a non-discrimination ordinance in place which protects individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

Smith College has also been at odds with the community from time-to-time, most recently with the construction of its new engineering and molecular sciences complex, which may cause many low-income residents to be displaced.[11]

The city is home to the national office of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, a civil liberties advocacy group; Free Press, a non-profit advocating media reform and citizen involvement in media public policy; The Freedom Center, an antipsychiatry community and advocacy group; and the National Priorities Project, a non-profit group that tracks federal spending, most notably by maintaining a web-based counter calculating the cost of the war in Iraq.

As of 2007, Mary Clare Higgins is the Mayor.[12] Previous mayors include James "Big Jim" Cahillane who served from 1954 to 1960. One of the duties he performed while in office was to present his son, Stephen, with his high school diploma in 1954. He also awarded his future daughter-in-law, Rita Menard, with her diploma as well.

The Paradise City Forum was founded November, 2001 to provide a nonpartisan discussion tool for the community.

Public schools


The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority operates several local passenger buses which originate in Northampton, with service to local towns such as Amherst and Holyoke, and nearby universities, such as Amherst College, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Hampshire College. The Franklin Regional Transit Authority also operates a bus to Greenfield, Massachusetts, north of Northampton. There is a Peter Pan Bus terminal with services to Springfield, Boston, and other locations in New England. The Vermont Transit Lines bus also serves this terminal.

Passenger railway service to the Northampton area is provided by Amtrak via the Amherst Train Station, about 20 a minute drive east of downtown Northampton. Additionally, at the bus terminal in Springfield, passengers can connect to buses to many other Northeast cities. The Springfield Amtrak station is a short walk from the Springfield bus depot.

Major domestic and limited international service is available through Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. It is located about 35 miles south of Northampton.

The only active train line through Northampton is operated by a Class 2 railroad regional railway, PanAm Railways (formerly known as Guilford Rail System). The Montrealer was the last passenger train to run through Northampton.


Northampton is home to WXOJ-LP, a low power community radio station owned and operated by Valley Free Radio. The station was built by more than 400 volunteers from Northampton and around the country in August 2005 at the eighth Prometheus Radio Project barnraising, in conjunction with the tenth annual Grassroots Radio Coalition conference. WXOJ broadcasts music, news, and public affairs to listeners at 103.3FM.

Points of interest

  • First Churches, located on Main Street, was the home church of Jonathan Edwards, 18th century theologian, philosopher and leader of the First Great Awakening.
  • Smith College is a women's college (one of the Seven Sisters) founded in 1871. It is also one of the Five Colleges.
  • Clarke School For The Deaf specializes in oral education (speech and lip-reading, as opposed to signing), and holds an annual summer camp, the theme varying from summer to summer. Clarke is also the oldest oral school for the deaf in the country, being established in 1867 on Round Hill Road overlooking the Connecticut River Valley.
  • Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area, Rainbow Beach, Roberts Hill Conservation Area, Mineral Hills Conservation Area, and Saw Mill Hills Conservation Area provide a portion of the protected open space that covers 15% of the City.
  • Look Park is a 150+ acre recreational park founded in 1930. Although Frank Newhall Look, who left the property to the city in his will, requested that the park would always have free admission for the public, the current annual membership fee is $25. Blanket picnicing is not permitted, although picnic tables may be rented for an additional fee.
  • Northampton is becoming a rail trail hub. Currently, the Norwottuck Rail Trail extends ten miles from Northampton to Amherst and Belchertown, the 2.5 mile Northampton Bike Path extends from downtown Northampton to Florence, and the Manhan Rail Trail Spur extends 0.5 miles from Route 66 to Florence Road. Four other rail trail extensions are under construction, in the bidding process, or planned for the short term.
  • The Botanic Garden of Smith College is a diverse outdoor collection of trees, shrubs, and plants, as well as a fine collection of plant conservatories for the tropics, semi-tropics, and desert regions. It also includes an indoor greenhouse.
  • The Three County Fair claims to be the "longest consecutive running agricultural fair in the country," having been established and incorporated in 1818.
  • Due to its relative proximity to Boston and its strong arts community, many musicians perform in Northampton at local venues such as the Calvin theater, the Iron Horse Music Hall, Flywheel and the Pearl Street Nightclub.
  • The Northampton Independent Film Festival (NIFF) is held each fall. Founded as the Northampton Film Festival in 1995 by Howard Polonsky and Dee DeGeiso, it has continued to grow under a variety of directors. It is one of the largest in New England.
  • The Academy of Music, built in 1890 by Edward H.R. Lyman, is the only municipally owned theatre in the nation, and was the first to be so owned; it is also one of the six oldest theatres, nationally. Boris Karloff and Harry Houdini (who installed a trap door in the stage) performed here. The Academy is still in operation today.
  • The Forbes Library built in 1894 is the public library for Northampton. The second floor houses the unofficial Calvin Coolidge presidential library.
  • Mirage Studios, the Creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Franchise. In the TMNT series, the turtles and Casey Jones visit Casey Jones' grandmother's farm in Northampton, Massachusetts.
  • Each May, students from the Northampton Community Music Center (NCMC) fill the streets with music.
  • Early in May, Northampton marks GLBT Pride with a colorful parade down Main St. (Route 9), ending with an all-day family-friendly festival at a designated location in town.
  • Thornes Marketplace in downtown Northampton contains shops, restaurants, a gallery and a performing space where local dance and theater performances occur regularly.
  • On a small hill overlooking the city, right by the site of the Northampton State Hospital, sits a simple stone monument marking the spot of the hangings of Daley and Halligan, two Irishmen wrongfully accused of murder in the early 1800s.

Notable residents

  • Lexie Barnes, handbag designer, author, and director of Twist, a contemporary craft and art fair.
  • Jeanne Birdsall, children's author, best known for her debut novel, The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
  • Jonah Burke, creator, fundraising website The Darfur Wall
  • Augusten Burroughs, author, his bestseller Running with Scissors describes his strange childhood in Northampton
  • William Cullen Bryant, 19c author and newspaper editor
  • Eric Carle, children's book author and illustrator
  • Lydia Maria Child, authoress of the Thanksgiving poem "Over the River and Through the Woods"
  • Chris Collingwood, lead singer of the band Fountains of Wayne
  • Calvin Coolidge; served as mayor of Northampton before becoming governor of Massachusetts and U.S. president
  • DJ Willegal, Hip-Hop Producer
  • Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics from their Northampton studio
  • Jonathan Edwards, 18c Congregational theologian, philosopher, leader of First Great Awakening and local pastor
  • Anthony Giardina, author
  • Herbert Gintis, economist
  • Sylvester Graham, namesake of the Graham Cracker
  • Tracy Kidder, author
  • Elinor Lipman, author
  • Charles McCarry, author
  • José Molina, member, USA national Indoor field hockey team
  • William Monahan, novelist and screenwriter
  • Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon of the band Sonic Youth
  • Jeff Rowland, Creator of the webcomics Wigu and Overcompensating
  • Talisa Soto, actress
  • Sojourner Truth, African American abolitionist and orator
  • Kurt Vonnegut, author
  • D. Dennis Hudson, emeritus professor and internationally known scholar of Indian religion
  • Michael Klare, author, professor and defense correspondent for The Nation



  • Kerry W. Buckley, ed. A Place Called Paradise: Culture and Community in Northampton, Massachusetts, 1654-2004. Northampton: Historic Northampton Museum and Education Center, in association with University of Massachusetts Press, 2004. ix + 523 pp. ISBN 978-1-55849-485-5. reprints 20 essays by scholars
  • Tracy Kidder. Home Town [1999], nonfiction by reporter

External links

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