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Prospect Hill
The Creation of a Forest

Prospect Hill in its original farmland state. Courtesy of MHC Archives.
A path on Prospect Hill. Courtesy of MHC Archives.
Prospect Hill in all of its fall gloy as seen from across Lower Lake in 2003. Courtesy of MHC Archives.

Prospect Hill has gone through three major stages, from being farmland, to the partial creation of a park and ending up today as a young forest that is finally beginning to take root.  Before Prospect Hill was Prospect Hill it was known as Peak’s Hill.  It is not know when this name change occurred but it is know that it happened before the college owned the land becasue they bought "Prospect Hill."

The Creation of a Park: In 1881 Mount Holyoke College bought Prospect Hill for 2200 dollars and it was noted that this price was discounted by one hundred dollars.  Prospect Hill, which was a total of 20 acres of land, was bought from a farmer named Byron Smith.  A Mr. Goodnow from Worchester contributed the money that the college used to buy Prospect Hill.  Prospect Hill was originally destined to become a park…Goodnow Park.  There was a great view from the top which would be enjoyed by the students and faculty alike.  The creation of the park was set for the next spring when a landscape gardener would be hired to lay out the grounds, make walks and plant trees.  (29) 

Funding: On May 19, 1882 a permanent fund for the betterment of Goodnow Park was set up by Mr. Goodnow himself in the amount of five thousand dollars a year.  "Some thousands of baby trees of various kinds are already planted in a nursery just north of the botanical gardens; from which year by year the most advanced will graduate and be transferred to a permanent position in Goodnow Park.” (6)  Mr. Goodnow also donated two thousand dollars the first year to pay for the creation of the “park”.  This included expenses suchs as laying out “pretty winding walks”, erecting a pavilion, planting trees and any other expenses.  (30)  On February 10, 1886 the bridge over Stony Brook was completed and connected the carriage road that went up Prospect Hill to main campus.  (6)

Slow in Creation: But although the college had been giving the money and the park had been planned, by June 16, 1883 no work had been done to execute the plans.  There was one solitary path leading up the hill.  All of the trees that had been grown for Prospect Hill were healthy in their places around campus but hadn’t made the move to Prospect Hill yet.  (31)  But by 1884 Prospect Hill was said to be “developing.” The path had been improved and now lead to a pavilion which was located on the top of Prospect Hill.  It was described to be both functional and ornamental as it was a twelve sided bright red building (The Pepper Box). (32)  The bridge that connected main campus with the carriage path was finally completed in 1886. (34)  This allowed Prospect Hill to become a much more usable place in terms of recreation. 

Ecological Implications: The progression seen of the ecosystem that inhabits Prospect Hill was both an act of nature and of man made creation.  The trees were all planted to create Goodnow Park which limited the species present as well as most of the trees being put in a specific location to maximize their aesthetic nature as well as function.  Trees and shrubs prevent the hill from eroding so it was a good move by the college to plant them due to the fact that crops would no longer be grown to hold the soil in place.  But the limited number of tree species may have lowered the ecosystems resistance to disaster (such as hurricanes) as well as causing the trees to grow more slowly due to competition.  On the other hand a shift from a farmland ecosystem to a maicured park ecosystem not only causes an ecological shift in terms of species composition but as stated before makes the whole ecosystem weaker.  Before with the farmland crops were planted but the surrounding area could be inhabited by natural wildlife.  From farmland to forest Prospect Hill has experienced it all and has grown back into a natural state today due to the fact that the Park was never fully realized. 

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This page was created by Molly Edson 2007 in History 283, Spring Semester 2006 -