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The Growth of Mount Holyoke College
Within The Community of South Hadley

South Hadley from Settlement to 1835: The village of South Hadley was settled in 1659 and incorporated as a town in 1775 (11). Vying for the opportunity to be the selected as the site of Mary Lyons Female Seminary, the citizens of the town in 1835 “guaranteed a subscription of $8,000”(12) which enabled them to secure the colleges position within their community. Nestled between the Mount Holyoke Range and the Connecticut River, north of the towns’ bustling business and manufacturing district—South Hadley Falls; the location was ideal for the establishment of the Seminary. In November of 1837 the Mt. Holyoke Seminary for Women opened its’ doors and welcomed its first students: forever changing the dynamics of the town.

A Shared History: The history of the town itself and its role as home to Mount Holyoke College is especially important as both the college and the town have experienced many significant changes throughout the years. A map from 1847 indicates that the present day College Street was lined with a number of small businesses of industry running along the unpaved road and waterway south of the campus, as well as a small number of tradesmen and homesteads further north on the road (see map). As both the town and the college began to grow, so did the number of homes and services available to the community. By 1873, the number of businesses and residences located along Route 116 had more than doubled since 1847 (see map). Individuals, whose services may or may not have been directly affiliated with the college, were successfully establishing themselves and their businesses within the Mount Holyoke College community.

The Great Fire and Helping Hands from South Hadley: The relationship between the townspeople and that of the college, in the 19th century seemed amicable and respectful, yet in someway—quite separate due perhaps to the busy schedules of the faculty and students and the day-to-day goings on of the members of the town. In 1896 when the original seminary burned to the ground, the college community was moved by the outpouring of support from the residents of the town. Included in President Mead’s address to the trustees at year end, were her feelings about the relationship between the two communities. “We learned that evening that all the towns-people were our friends. They opened their doors to the homeless, and before nine o’clock every student was provided with shelter for the night.”(13)

Faculty in the Community: Likewise, former president Mary Wooley noted that the dynamics of the college was changing, as members of its faculty moved from the campus to locations within the town. In her 1903-1904 report she stated that “a new feature in the life of the College (appeared)…the withdrawal of several members of the Faculty from the campus houses to rooms or small apartments in the village. The innovation seems an altogether desirable one…These apartments introduce an element of home life which is a not unimportant factor in education.”(14) This separation of faculty from campus allowed them the opportunity to function not only as members of the college community, but as members of the town as well.

This page was created by Anjanette Kelso-Watson '04 in History 283, Fall Semester 2003 -