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Holyoke, Massachusetts


The history of Holyoke, Massachusetts began when Englishmen first arrived in the Connecticut River Valley in 1633. It was established at Windsor, Connecticut by traders from the Plymouth Plantation. A group of settlers had vetted and scouted this land the previous year and considered it the most advantageous land in the Connecticut River Valley for farming and trading. The settlement fell on the place where seagoing vessels necessarily had to transfer their cargo into smaller shallops to continue northward on the Connecticut River. It had a very advantageous position on the Bay Path to Boston. Springfield spans both sides of the Connecticut River. The land on the western bank of the river became West Springfield. Its most northern parish became Holyoke named after a Springfield settler’s son-in-law Elizur Holyoke. The village of Holyoke was first settled in 1745 and officially incorporated in 1850.

Umass Amhersts - Holycham

A part of Northampton known as Smith's Valley separated from the rest of the town by the creation of East Hampton in 1809. The shortest path downtown Northampton was a neighborhood that became the northern part of Holyoke in 1909. It had few inhabitants until the construction of a dam because it was subject to frequent flooding. At one point over 25 paper mills were in operation in the city. There were many industrial developments in that era. In 1888 Holyoke paper industry spurred the foundation of American Pad and Paper Company one of the largest suppliers of office products in the world. The availability of waterpower enabled Holyoke to support its own electric utility company and maintain it independently of America's major regional electric companies.

Holyoke was one of the first plan industrial communities in the United States. Holyoke features rectilinear street grades, 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. 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 the fame as the world's greatest paper producer.

The city of Holyoke is divided into 15 distinct neighborhoods. As of a census in 2010, there were 39,878 people. The racial makeup is 61% white, 5% African-American, .3 Native American, 1.8% Asian, .12% Pacific Islander and 47% Hispanic. The median house holds income in the city is $33,242. Politically the city of Holyoke has recently supported candidates from the Democratic Party by a wide margin. According to the 2003 FBI report Holyoke's crime rate was above the national average significantly.

Holyoke's economic base was developed almost entirely around the paper industry during the late 19th and early 20th century. Holyoke is home to a number of specialty paper manufacturers. A coalition of universities and tech companies has built an energy efficient, high performance-computing center. These companies and institutions include Cisco Systems, Harvard University, MIT, and the University of Massachusetts, Boston University, Northeastern University, EMC Corporation etc. The data center has been built in Holyoke in part due to hydropower accessibility. The retail sector has been a major employer since the construction of the Holyoke Mall one of the largest shopping malls in New England.

Historically, a city of working-class immigrants, the first wave of mill workers was predominantly Irish. The areas early name was Ireland's Parish. Holyoke is home to the second largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the United States.

On February 9, 1895, William G. Morgan and then a volleyball at the former Holyoke YMCA. The original YMCA building has been demolished but the Volleyball Hall of Fame resides in Holyoke. The sport was originally known as mintonette.

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