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Holyoke is a city in Hampden Countymarker, Massachusettsmarker, United Statesmarker, on the banks of the Connecticut River. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusettsmarker Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city was named after Elizur Holyoke, who explored the area in 1660. One of the first planned industrial communities, Holyoke's nickname is The Paper City.


The region of the Connecticut River Valley was first inhabited by Englishmen in 1633 by virtue of a post established at Windsor by traders from the Plymouth Plantation. Very shortly it became subject to rival claims on the part of New Netherlands, the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony. The Massachusetts Bay men explored the overland route to the "Great River." In 1635-36, a warehouse and wharf, for purposes of trading with the Indians, was constructed in nearby Agawammarker. Out of this "trading post" grew Springfield, which later evolved into West Springfield, whose third Parish, called North Parish, or "Ireland Parish," became Holyoke. Holyoke was first settled in 1745 and was officially incorporated in 1850.

The first post office in the area was called Ireland and was established June 3, 1822, with Martin Chapin as first postmaster. It was discontinued in 1883. Another post office called Ireland Depot was established February 26, 1847, with John M. Chapin as first postmaster and had its name changed to Holyoke (with George Whittle as first postmaster) March 14, 1850.

A part of Northamptonmarker known as Smiths Ferry was separated from the rest of the town by the creation of Easthamptonmarker in 1809, and the shortest path to downtown Northampton was on a road near the Connecticut River oxbow, which was subject to frequent flooding. The neighborhood became the northern part of Holyoke in 1909.

Population and economy

Holyoke had few inhabitants until the construction of a 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, and the population exploded from 4,600 in 1885 to over 60,000 in 1920. In 1888, Holyoke's paper industry spurred the foundation of the American Pad & Paper Company, which is one of the largest suppliers of office products in the world. As an early planned industrial town, its rectilinear street grid is noteworthy in a region where few streets are parallel or even straight. 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.

In the past several years, there have been efforts to bring jobs into Holyoke and diversify the economic base. The retail sector has been a major employer in the city since the Holyoke Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in New Englandmarker, opened in 1979, as well as the nearby Holyoke Crossing shopping center. This has also provided the city with a large and steady tax base, contributing over $7 million dollars in taxes annually. It is sister-cities with Deltona, Floridamarker.

"The People's College"

Holyoke Public Library, found at 335 Maple Street, is one of the very few examples of neoclassical architecture in the city of Holyoke. It sits firmly on Library Park, which was donated by the Holyoke Water Power Company in 1887. In 1870 the library was originally located in a room in the old Appleton Street School. In 1876 it moved to a large central room on the main floor of City Hall. It remained there until it was determined that it had outgrown the space and a modern facility was required. Holyoke's citizens were charged to raise money to construct the library building and provide additional books. Under the leadership of Henry Chase, $95,000 was raised. William Whiting and William Skinner, each gave $10,000. Joseph Clough, the architect in charge of designing the building, gave his services gratis because his daughter was a faithful patron of the library. It opened officially in 1902. At the dedication ceremony William Whiting, who was library president at the time, referred to the library as the "people's college", and added that: “A library is as much a part of the intellectual life of a community as its schools, and should be supported generously as part of our educational system. Within these walls you will find authors devoted to literature, arts and science, and they are free to any who will ask. We can say to the citizens of Holyoke you have only to ask her and you will find knowledge to make your life useful and happy”.

Home of Volleyball

On February 9, 1895, William G. Morgan invented volleyball at the Holyoke YMCA. That YMCA building has since been demolished. The Volleyball Hall of Fame resides in Holyoke at Heritage State Park and inducts a new class of athletes, coaches and contributors every October.

Immigration and migration

Holyoke has the highest percentage of Puerto Ricans of any city in the United States outside Puerto Rico. Always a city of working-class immigrants, the first wave of mill workers was predominantly Irish, and Holyoke is still home to the second-largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the United States, surpassed only by the New York Citymarker parade. Held annually since 1952 on the Sunday following St. Patrick's Day, the parade draws thousands of people from across the region and nation. In the 1850s, mills began to recruit French-Canadians, who were viewed as more docile and less likely to form labor unions. Later waves of immigration and migration led to significant communities of Germans, Poles, Jews, and then, starting in the 1950s, Puerto Ricans, and other Latino groups. Today Latinos form the largest minority group in the city. Unlike most immigrants to Holyoke, Puerto Ricans were already American citizens when they migrated here, due to the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917.

Saint Patrick's Day Parade

Holyoke holds the second largest annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade in the country, attracting 250,000 to 300,000 people every year.

Puerto Rican Day Parade

The Latino community of Holyoke holds an annual Puerto Rican Day parade on the third weekend of July as part of an Annual Hispanic Family Festival held by La Familia Hispana, inc. Every year the parade grows in popularity, attracting Latinos from across the northeast.


View from Mount Tom
is located at (42.203191, -72.623969).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 22.8 square miles (59.1 km²), of which, 21.3 square miles (55.1 km²) of it is land and 1.5 square miles (4.0 km²) of it (6.70%) is water.

Holyoke is the location of East Mountainmarker, the Mount Tom Range, and Mount Tommarker, 1202 feet (363 m), the highest traprock peak on the Metacomet Ridge, a linear mountain range that extends from Long Island Soundmarker to the Vermontmarker border. Mount Tom is characterized by its high cliffs, sweeping vistas, and microclimate ecosystems. The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail traverses the Mount Tom Range and East Mountain. The picture to the right is not Holyoke but the neighboring town of Easthampton.


As of the census of 2000, there were 39,838 people, 14,967 households, and 9,474 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,871.4 people per square mile (722.5/km²). There were 16,210 housing units at an average density of 761.5/sq mi (294.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 65.76% White, 3.71% African American, 0.38% Native American, 0.81% Asian, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 26.41% from other races, and 2.81% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 41.38% of the population.

There were 14,967 households out of which 33.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.5% were married couples living together, 22.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.7% were non-families. 30.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.23.

In the city the population was spread out with 29.5% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 26.8% from 25 to 44, 19.2% from 45 to 64, and 15.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 88.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,441, and the median income for a family was $36,130. Males had a median income of $34,849 versus $26,652 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,913. About 22.6% of families and 26.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 41.7% of those under age 18 and 13.2% of those age 65 or over. Holyoke is noted as one of the poorest cities in Massachusetts, with about 50% of school children living below the poverty line.

According to the 2003 FBI Report of Offenses Known to Law Enforcement Holyoke's crime rate in most categories was above the national average, in some categories, significantly. Most of these crimes are placed in the category of property theft, with a property crime count of 2,822.

Points of interest


Holyoke Public Schools [17953] serves the city of Holyoke. Holyoke High School & William J. Dean Technical High School are the high schools for the town. Holyoke Community Collegemarker serves Holyoke as well as the western Massachusetts area.

Notable former residents

  • Jack Buck (1924-2002), an American sportscaster, was born here.
  • Paul Azinger (born 1960), a professional golfer, winner of 1993 PGA Championship, and captain of the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team, was born in Holyoke.
  • Mark Wohlers (born 1970), a former MLB relief pitcher who won a World Series in 1995 with the Atlanta Braves, was born and raised in Holyoke, attending Holyoke High School.
  • Art Adams (born 1963) an American writer and comic book illustrator.
  • Hal Holbrook (born 1925), an American actor known for his portrayal of Mark Twain in a one-man show, worked in Holyoke as part of the Valley Players (1941-62), a summer stock theater company that performed at the Casino at the Mountain Park amusement park.
  • The novelist, Raymond Kennedy (1934-2008), grew up in Holyoke in the 1940s and later set many of his books in a fictionalized Holyoke that he called "Ireland Parish" and "Hadley Falls".
  • Billy Mitchell, classic arcade gamer, was born here.
  • Cornelius Mahoney "Neil" Sheehan was born October 27, 1936 in Holyoke. He is the author of A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam.
  • Lt. Carl Richard Wildner, Navigator on "Plane 2" of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, April 18, 1942.
  • William Whiting, former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts.
  • William Fairfield Whiting, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
  • Eva Tanguay, the "I Don't Care Girl", vaudevillian (1879-1947).
  • Fran Healy (born September 6, 1946) a former Major League Baseball catcher. Healy played for the Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees


  1. Merolla, Lawrence M. and Crowther, Frank M. (1981) The Post Offices of Massachusetts, p. 43, North Abington, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Postal Research Society, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 81-84332
  2. Library Governance
  3. Paper City Scribblings: August 2006
  4. Holyoke Public Library
  5. Puerto Rican ancestry by city - ePodunk
  6. Holyoke St Patricks Parade - Our Story
  7. [1]

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