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Northampton is a city in Hampshire County, Massachusettsmarker, United States. The population was 28,978 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Hampshire County. It is nicknamed The Paradise City.

Northampton is part of the Springfield, Massachusettsmarker Metropolitan 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. Colonial Northampton was founded in 1654 by settlers from Springfield, Massachusettsmarker.

Northampton's territory would be enlarged beyond the original settlement, but later the outer portions would be carved up into separate cities and towns. Southamptonmarker was incorporated in 1775, including parts of the modern territories of Montgomerymarker (which was itself incorporated in 1780) and Easthampton. Westhamptonmarker was incorporated in 1778, and Easthamptonmarker 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, Massachusettsmarker 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 called the Shaysites, or "Regulators", 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 Leedsmarker 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 "Swedishmarker Nightingale", declared Northampton to be the "Paradise of America." The first game of women's basketball was played in 1892 at Smith Collegemarker. Immigrant groups that settled here in large numbers included Irishmarker, Polishmarker, and French-Canadian. Former President Calvin Coolidge retired to Northampton upon leaving the White Housemarker in 1929, and died there on January 5, 1933.
Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton
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.

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, Swillmerchants, The Thungs, The Amity Front, The Neilds, The Young@Heart Chorus, Ella Longpre, The Trials and Tribulations, Cordelia's Dad, Thrillpillow, Rusty Belle, Curious Buddies, The Novels, Los Hijos Unicos, futurepunk, Rabbit Rabbit,Spanish for Hitchiking, The Skeptics, Fountains of Wayne, Roger Salloom and the Winterpills


Northampton sits on the banks of the Connecticut River, in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. It is located at .

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 Florencemarker and Leedsmarker. It is bordered to the north by the towns of Hatfieldmarker and Williamsburgmarker, to the west by Westhamptonmarker, to the east by Hadleymarker (across the Connecticut River), and to the south by Easthamptonmarker.


As of the census of 2000, there were 28,978 people, 11,880 households, and 5,880 families residing in the city. Northampton has the most lesbian couples per capita of any city in the US. 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 Collegemarker, 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.

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. Previous mayors include former president Calvin Coolidge and James "Big Jim" Cahillane who served from 1954 to 1960. Also well known Judge Sean M. Dunphy was the youngest elected mayor in its history at age 28.

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

Public schools


Northampton is served by Interstate 91, which passes to the east of downtown along the Connecticut River. U.S. Route 5, Massachusetts Route 9, and Massachusetts Route 10 all intersect in the city's downtown area.

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority operates several local passenger buses which originate in Northampton, with service to local towns such as Amherstmarker and Holyokemarker, and nearby universities, such as Mount Holyoke Collegemarker, Amherst Collegemarker, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Hampshire Collegemarker. The Franklin Regional Transit Authority also operates a bus to Greenfield, Massachusettsmarker. There is a Peter Pan Bus terminal with services to Springfieldmarker, Bostonmarker, 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 Stationmarker, about a 20-minute drive east of downtown Northampton. A potential realignment of the route of Amtrak's Vermonter could return passenger rail service to the city, on tracks currently owned by Pan Am Rail. Additionally, at the bus terminal in Springfield, passengers can connect to buses to other cities in the northeast. The Springfield Amtrak stationmarker is a short walk from the Springfield bus depot.

Major domestic and limited international service is available 40 miles to the south at Bradley International Airportmarker (BDLmarker) in Windsor Locks, Connecticutmarker.

The only active train line through Northampton is operated by a Class 2 railroad regional railway, Pan Am Railways (formerly known as Guilford Rail System). The Amtrak Montrealer was the last passenger train to run through Northampton. Northampton Airport, identified by the airport code 7B2, offers a 3365X50 foot runway and is within a mile-and-a-half walk from downtown.


The Daily Hampshire Gazette is based in Northampton, covering Hampshire and Franklin counties. Northampton is the city of license for three commercial radio stations: WLZX, WEIBmarker and WHMPmarker. Northampton is also 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. Northampton is also the birthplace of The Rainbow Times, the only lesbian-owned LGBT newspaper (found in 2006), which also serves north central CT & Southern VT. According to the U.S. Census 2000, Northampton is the second gayest zip code in Massachusetts. In addition, Northampton is home to Northampton Community Television, which has existed in numerous forms since the mid-1980's, but which experienced a radical change in 2006 when it became an independently run nonprofit community media center. After a new public unveiling in November 2007, NCTV grew to over 200 active members in less than 18 months and had already attracted statewide and national attention in the community media landscape.

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 Collegemarker 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.
  • The Connecticut River and The Oxbow, are popular areas for boaters in the 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 Parkmarker 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 picnicking 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 Amherstmarker and Belchertownmarker, the 2.5 mile Northampton Bike Path extends from downtown Northampton to Florencemarker, 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 Collegemarker 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, 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.
  • Forbes Library The 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.
  • Northampton Community Music Center Each May, students from the (NCMC) fill the streets with music.
  • LGBT Pride On the first Saturday of May, Northampton marks the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March & Rallywith 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.
  • Sylvester's Restaurant - Located at 111 Pleasant Street. Sylvester's is located in the former home of Sylvester Graham, inventor of the Graham Cracker. Sylvester's claimed top honors for breakfast in the Valley Advocate's "Best Of" reader's poll and since then, Sylvester's has consistently ranked among the top 3 contenders for assorted restaurant categories.
Paradise Pond trail

Notable residents

Cultural references


  1. Map of history of political boundaries, plantation period
  2. Trumbull, James Russell. History of Northampton, Massachusetts, From Its Settlement in 1654. Northampton (1898), pp. 5-12.
  3. Map of history of political boundaries c1775
  4. Map of history of political boundaries, Federal period
  5. US-5: A Highway To History
  6. Historic Northampton: Caleb Strong
  7. Historic Northampton: Shays' Rebellion
  8. Copeland, Alfred M. "Our County And Its People": A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts. Century Memorial Publishing (1902), pp. 174-75.
  9. Andrews, E. Benjamin. The United States In Our Own Time: A History from Reconstruction to Expansion. C. Scribner's Sons (1903), pp. 183-84.
  10. MassLive: Academy of Music back in movie business
  11. City Data
  12. Mayor's Office Mayor's Office Home
  13. The History of the Descendants of Elder John Strong, of Northampton, Massachusetts, Vol. II, Benjamin Woodbridge Dwight, Joel Munsell, Albany, 1871
  14. Lesléa Newman articles
  15. eNotes: Roderick Hudson
  16. ePodunk community profile Northampton, Massachusetts
  17. ePodunk: filming locations
  18. The Greenfield Recorder
  19. TMNT Origin!


  • 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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