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The City of Holyoke

The city of Holyoke has a long history as one of the nation’s first, planned, industrial cities.  Click Here to take a virtual tour of many of the city’s historic landmarks.


wistariahurstWistariahurst is a cultural and educational center owned and operated by the City of Holyoke and supported by Historic Holyoke at Wistariahurst. Wistariahurst is dedicated to preserving Holyoke’s history and inspiring an appreciation of history and culture through educational programs, exhibits and special events.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Wistariahurst is the former home of William Skinner, a prominent Holyoke silk manufacturer and was built in 1874.

The buildings and grounds – which include historic gardens, a Carriage House museum center, and historic house museum – were owned continually by the Skinner family until 1959, when Katharine Skinner Kilborne, the youngest child of William and Sarah Skinner, and her heirs gave Wistariahurst to the City of Holyoke for cultural and educational purposes.

Holyoke Public LibraryHolyoke Public Library

The Holyoke Public Library Corporation was established in 1870 and, after operating out of various locations, found a permanent home in a neoclassical building of Indiana limestone and white glazed brick in a park setting, and was dedicated as “The People’s College.” It housed a children’s department from those early days and at various times in its history has been home to a natural history museum, history museum, and other educational operations. Between 2008 and its reopening in 2013 the library underwent extensive renovations and additions. Its current form, which beautifully integrates a modern wing with the historical fabric of the original structure, houses a new teen room, a computer lab and classroom, quiet study and tutoring rooms, a variety of comfortable reading areas, and a spacious community room for public meetings and events.  Patrons have access to Wi-Fi throughout the building.

Holyoke History Room

Holyoke History RoomThe Holyoke History Room is dedicated to preserving the history of Holyoke and supporting research into the city’s past. History Room collections include maps, photographs, city directories, and Holyoke newspapers (on microfilm) from the 1850s to the 1990s. Biographical and subject files provide information on numerous Holyoke residents, landmarks, businesses, institutions, and organizations.The Reading Room is located off the third-level gallery in the new Holyoke Public LibraryTwo public-access computers are available in the History Room for patron use, as is free wireless access to those who bring their own computers or tablets.

City of Holyoke


Founded in 1848 as one of the nation’s first planned industrial cities, Holyoke Massachusetts was once home to premier paper, cotton and silk mills and the highest number of millionaires per capita in the nation. The history of Holyoke offers a microcosm of American industrial development and the effects it had on class stratification and gender roles and the City’s landscape and deliberate design physically reflects that class stratification. One cannot wander the city with out a profound sense of the effects of industry — environmentally, socially and culturally. Less visible in the landscape, but present in the rich archival materials held and made available for research by the City, is the history of organizing and activism in the early 20th century and of the women who were active participants in the change-making of that time. Institute participants will have the chance to take a historical tour of the City’s industrial areas and the “up-the-hill” residential areas alongside local historians.

Skinner State Park

J.A. Skinner State Park is home to more than 400 acres of forest on Mt. Holyoke, as well as the historic Mt. Holyoke Summit House, a former hotel and popular tourist destination. The park is located at the western end of the Holyoke Range, abutting the majestic Connecticut River. Skinner State Park embraces the slopes and summit of Mount Holyoke, the westernmost peak on the Mount Holyoke Range. At just under 1,000 feet, the summit gives a panoramic view of the valley below and highlands beyond, including New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock to the north, Mount Greylock to the west, and Connecticut’s East Rock to the south. Visitors can see the cities of Northampton, Holyoke, and Springfield, Massachusetts.  Hartford, Connecticut, is visible on clear days.

From the early 1800s, Mt. Holyoke played a significant role in the cultural identity of the United States.  The view from the summit – cultivated farm fields, framed by rugged mountain and impenetrable forest – told the story of a young nation transforming itself from wilderness into a civilized landscape.  It was this vista that made Mount Holyoke an important tourist destination in those days, second only to Niagara Falls. (Read more here)




The Women Making Change Teachers Institute has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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