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Holyoke, Mass., Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary - Congressional Record: September 20, 1973

Holyoke, Mass., Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary


Thursday, September 20, 1973

Mr. CONTE. Mr. Speaker, this year, the city of Holyoke in the First Congressional District of Massachusetts is commemorating its 100th anniversary. Its citizens have dubbed it "Holyoke's Historic Hundredth." I would like to invite my colleagues to join me today in wishing this remarkable community a happy birthday.

The history of Holyoke, the first planned industry city in our Nation, is one that merits our attention.

Located in the west central portion of the Commonwealth, Holyoke owes its establishment and expansion to the Connecticut River and those who would harness its power.

The community of Holyoke was the dream of the Hadley Falls Co., which still exists today as the Holyoke Water Power Co. The Hadley Falls Co. in the mid-1800's saw potential in a section of falls on the Connecticut and envisioned a city built on the firm foundation of industry. Upon that dream, officials of that firm laid a blueprint. And according to that blueprint, the city grew.

The growth of the community was spurred by the great milling concerns that clustered around the river and the innovative canal system developed there. Three dams have spanned the Connecticut at Holyoke for the purpose of diverting water into these canals. The first, a wooden dam erected in 1848, failed to contain the river and was destroyed on its day of dedication. A second dam was successfully built in 1849. A third dam, completed in 1900 and considered an engineering marvel in its time, still stands.

The location now known as Holyoke was once called Ireland Parish in honor of the background of one of the residents of that section, John Riley. Later in the history of the area, that title became even more apt with the influx of Irish immigrants. Along with immigrants from Canada, Poland, Germany, Scotland. and other countries, they made Holyoke the "melting pot" which 1t remains today.

Holyoke's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, a tradition in Massachusetts and one of the best of this type of pageant in the Nation, is only one example of the continued vitality of the ethnic groups in Holyoke.

In more recent times, a large number of Spanish-speaking Americans have found homes in the city of Holyoke.

In 1850, the community was incorporated as a town and took its name from the English pioneer, Elizur Holyoke, who came to the region 20 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. In 1873, Holyoke ratified its charter as a city—population 14,000.

Those early inhabitants and today's citizens of Holyoke have always sought and received strength from their belief in God. At the time of its incorporation as a city, several religious sects had already located in the city. In Holyoke today are found no fewer than 27 places of worship for followers of all faiths.

Not only has the need for moral leadership been superbly met in this community, the desire for quality education for all has been fulfilled. Formal education in Holyoke had its beginnings in a humble, one-room schoolhouse in 1802. As the community grew, so, too, grew Holyoke's schools. Today, excellent public and parochial systems provide the young residents of Holyoke with a variety of opportunities for instruction.

In 1969, Holyoke High School brought honor upon itself and its community by being named recipient of the 28th National Bellamy Award, an award which recognizes exemplary characteristics of patriotism and good citizenship. I was honored to be a participant in the ceremonies when the award was formally bestowed upon his deserving hall of learning.

Today, Holyoke's educational horizon continues bright. Work is nearing completion on the construction of the new campus of Holyoke Community College, one of the finest in the commonwealth's community college network.

Its educational system is not the only one of its attributes that have drawn public attention. Just this summer, the city was cited for excellence by the U.S. Conference of Mayors for its community development programs.

The physical wellbeing of Holyoke's citizens ls monitored by three local hospitals, including a fine municipal hospital; Providence Hospital, operated by the Roman Catholic Sisters of Providence, which is also marking its centennial this year; and the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Holyoke also boasts forward looking municipal police and fire departments.

The citizens of Holyoke have never lacked for places of great beauty and sources of entertainment. The Holyoke Opera House provided a home for the theater and the performing arts in early Holyoke. The Mount Tom Summit House was a popular spot in the early 1900's, attracting tourists from throughout the country, including President William McKinley. The Valley Arena, for many years served as a headquarters for sportsmen throughout the region. The game of volleyball was invented in Holyoke in 1895 by YMCA instructor W. G. Morgan and this same city was a pioneer in the game of basketball.

By virtue of its natural setting, in the Pioneer Valley of New England, Holyoke lends itself to a multitude of outdoor leisure-time activities. Historically, the city distinguished itself as a leader in the development of a municipal playground system. Year-round skiing, on water or snow, is available here. Boating, water-skiing and fishing are afforded by the Connecticut River, while climbing, snow skiing and camping are much pursued activities in the local hills. Holyoke also shares with its neighboring town of Easthampton the beautiful Mount Tom State Reservation.

Wisteriahurst, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is a place of beauty as well as a repository of museum artifacts.

The information needs of the community are served by a daily newspaper. the Holyoke Daily Transcript-Telegram and a local radio station, WREB. Chronicling the events of importance to the community for more than 100 years, the Transcript-Telegram was founded in 1849 as the Hampden Freeman. In 1888, the journal came into the capable hands of William G. Dwight in whose family it has remained. One prime example of Holyoke's faith in the future is the brand new publishing plant of the Transcript-Telegram that recently opened and is ready to lead Holyoke into its second century.

In a front page salute in its special centennal edition, the Transcript-Telegram spotlighted one salient point in any discussion of Holyoke. It cited a quotation from the book, "The Founding of Holyoke, 1848" by Dr. Ralph H. Gabriel;

Technology marches on and the wonders of yesterday become the curiosities of today. But in every age, some men succeed in rising above the transcient, and in creating works which outlast the times which produce them. The founders of Holyoke were such men. They built with such honesty and intelligence that the city has never been forced to abandon its original foundations.

Since its founding, Holyoke has, of course, experienced the economic fluctuations that every industrial community knows. Throughout, however, the people of Holyoke have exhibited an undaunted spirit and Holyoke today remains as it was designed, a manufacturing city.

While the concerns that gave the city its unofficial title "The Paper City" have been sadly depleted in recent years, several of those firms remain, providing employment for many Holyoke residents and maintaining Holyoke's reputation for a high quality of manufactured product.

Holyoke today is a city fighting the ravages to which other industrial communities have succumbed. I believe it is winning this fight. In the battle, the city wisely is using every tool available to it. In recent years, it has scored great successes with its urban renewal, model cities, and housing programs with which I have been deeply involved.

Holyoke residents, Mr. Speaker, are a proud group, and they have good reason to be. This pride is being manifested especially this year. Holyokers have embraced this milestone with a vigor and enthusiasm that I dare say is unsurpassed in any other community marking a similar achievement.

Official events have spanned the entire year. The ethnic groups which throughout the years have contributed so mightily to the city, lent the strength of their unique pasts to the celebration, staging individual anniversary galas with an international flair. The celebration is now beginning to reach fever pitch with a pageant, six centennial balls and a mammoth parade all set for month's end.

The spirit of brotherhood engendered by this celebration should, indeed, endure until the next time the citizens of Holyoke gather to mark the close of another successful century. I know that my many colleagues who have had the opportunity to visit this great and historic city join me now in extending hearty wishes to the city of Holyoke on the occasion of its "Historic Hundredth."

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).