With the rapid growth of industrial production in the 1880s, Holyoke’s population began a sharp upswing that would not begin to wane until the 1920s. The overall population of Holyoke grew from 21, 915 in 1880 to 35, 637 in 1890. New waves of immigrants were moving to Holyoke in search of good-paying textile and paper manufacturing jobs. With this increase in population came a demand for more housing. A reduction of working hours in 1874 and increased investment in land for new construction gave Holyoke’s workers an opportunity to move away from the urban core. This created a need to be more mobile.
The Holyoke Street Railway was born on February 12, 1884 at “a meeting held for the purpose of the construction and operation of a street railway in Holyoke”. A charter was granted on June 11 from the Commonwelath of Massachusetts. The charter allowed the HSR to operate in the towns of Holyoke and South Hadley.
The founding members of the organization were
- William A Chase | President
- C. Fayette Smith | Vice President
- H. M. Smith | Supervisor
- William H. Brooks | Clerk
At the beginning of the Railway’s history, the trolley cars were horse drawn. In 1884 there were 2 cars and 5 horses operating a 2 mile line between Main St. and South Hadley Falls. By 1886, there were 56 horses and 15 cars and the line had been extended from Dwight, High and Appleton Streets to Beech, Pleasant and Lincoln St. In just two years, the fleet of cars had more than quadrupled.
In 1888, William S. Loomis, who had sold his partial ownership in the Holyoke Transcript in 1887, bought ownership of the Railway. Part of his motivation for aquiring the railway came about because Mr. Loomis had purchased a tract of land in the Elmwood neighborhood on Northampton St. In order to make the land more attractive to buyers, it would require rapid transit to downtown. When initially approached, the Holyoke Street Railway was not interested in extending their lines. So Mr. Loomis bought the company. Later in 1888, spur lines were set up from High St. up Dwight st. to Linden St.