Paper City Scribblings

Paper City Scribblings is a collection of rambling thoughts on Holyoke Massachusetts by Sarah Campbell, Curator of Historical Collections at Holyoke public Library in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Topics will include historical jaunts through Holyoke's past, History Room happenings, and Holyoke news.

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Location: Holyoke, Massachusetts, United States

My name is Sarah Campbell and I am the Curator of Historical Collections at Holyoke Public Library. I have my MA in Art History, my MS in Information Science with a concentration in Archival Management and my BA in English. While I live in South Hadley, I am a born Holyoker. I was born in Providence Hospital and have had a permanent link with Holyoke ever since. I went to Miss Jone's Story Book Nursery, the Children's House, and finally Holyoke Community College. I love Holyoke and am quite excited about the many fascinating things that are going on right now.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Missing Photos: Religion

Next: Missing Photos: Child Welfare

I wish I could find a way to post these photographs directly into my posts- I guess that they are too large. If someone has any ideas as to how to make this possible it would be great because it takes away from the essays. But instead I am going to post a series of mini-posts providing you with the comparisons I would have liked to make in the main body of my essay.

As you can see the artist took a bit of artistic license with the perspective of the images to allow the most important visual aspects to be seen, eventhough they would normally be hidden when viewed from the front.

Here is a detail of Graziani's mural on Religion. On the left is St. Jerome's Church and in the center is the First Baptist Church.

This is a postcard of St. Jerome's Church.
It served as Graziani's influence.

And this is the First Baptist Church,
otherwise known as the Elmwood Baptist Church.
This image was also taken from a postcard
and also served as Graziani's inspiration.

Graziani's murals: History books in paint

Good Afternoon!

Just to let you know, today and tomorrow mark the end of summer hours. I will be open from 12-4:30 today (Thursday) and 8:30 to 12 on Friday. Starting Tuesday, we will be on Winter hours. And we will be closed Labor day. The following hours will hold until next summer. But of course there are a few vacations in there so be sure to call ahead, especially if you are traveling a distance. I will repost the hours on Tuesday so that they stand out and do not get lost in this posting.

Monday: 2-6
SaturdayBy appointment only

and as always you can give me a call or email me for questions and hours. My phone number is (413) 552-2842 and my email is Do mention that you read my blog. I know I'm probably a bit invisible right now but hopefully after I get connected to a few sites there will be a bit of traffic.

I best get on with the topic of historical influences in Graziani's mural series because I keep on staring at a photograph of the famous (infamous?) Frog Circus (yes-it was a circus made from real stuffed frogs) and I find myself wandering back to the 1920s when Holyoke Public Library had a Natural History Museum and this ghoulish piece of taxidermic wonderment was a main attraction. But let us go back down the grand staircase and leave the collections on the second floor of the Library for another day. (Perhaps I should keep that topic for Halloween- although I like the idea of giving a top-to-bottom view of the building, discussing the many interesting points that can be found there before moving on to another topic.(Unless of course another topic occurs to you all.)

No, today's topic is the historic elements of Graziani's murals. As Graziani stated, his style could be described as allegorical realism. This means that while he drew upon the real world to inform his murals, these figures are also archetypical forms that could be taken as universal figures that would fit in any society. However, a good portion of his mural series depicts specific moments drawn from Holyoke's timeline.

If you don't mind, I will take more time discussing the eastern wall's murals as this series of panels is rife with familiar faces. I will also touch upon the first two smaller panels depicting religion and child welfare that can be found on the wall to the right of this treasure trove of Holyoke history. Suffice it to say that the western wall, depicting Holyoke's early history, provides the viewer with views of Native American life that were informed by careful study of Algonquin society. I believe that the same amount of care research went into Graziani's research for the end-panels depicting Captain Rowland Thomas and Captain Elizur Holyoke, founders of Mt. Tom and Mount Holyoke respectively. However, as portraits of these adventurous men no longer exist, Graziani had to create figures that were representative of the 18th century.

Moving to the next wall, found underneath the second floor mezzanine, the viewer will see a group of smaller panels depicting tiny snippits of Holyoke life described by allegorical and historical figures. These are much more allegorical, however pieces of Holyoke's history do find their way into the murals, and I intend to touch upon these elements in this essay rather than entangle the symbology as that would be another essay entirely. (If you are at all interested in this I can take you through them on a more detailed level later on.)

The first of these is one depicting the three major religions practiced in Holyoke: Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism. While these figures are allegorical archetypes of the leading figures of each religion the buildings depicted in the background are real buildings. On his trips to Holyoke, Graziani painted the portraits of St. Jerome's church, found on the left and the first Baptist Church in the center. (As the images don't seem to fit into this posting I am going to put them in another posting. I will also include pictures of their real-world cognates whenever possible. The mural photos will be only be included as snippets of the full images so that I might induce you all to go view the whole recommend.) I do plan on discussing the topic of religion in Holyoke in another posting as it has in many ways shaped this city, however as this posting is about Sante Graziani's keen eye I must move on to the next panel of this mural.)

The next mural depicting Child Welfare in Holyoke includes the figure of Sister Mary of Providence, a great advocate for the rights of Holyoke's children. Upon arriving in Holyoke from Quebec in 1875, she immediately determined that too many orphaned children were going ignored. She thus turned to Dr. John O'Connell, who would later become mayor of Holyoke. Her concerns caused the institution of Brightside and Mt. St. Vincent to be designed. The woman standing beside her holding the infant mortality chart is a employee of Brightside.

The other two murals depicting education and sports do not have historical figures or buildings depicted in them but rather are more allegorical in nature.

However, the eastern wall's mural is filled with many familiar faces.

Let's start with the central panel, which depicts Holyoke's water power and industry. The portrait of George Ewing can be found in the central position of the mural. He was given pride of place to acknowledge the fact that he convinced farmers to give up their land so that Holyoke could be built. Because of his efforts Holyoke became the city it is today. At his elbow is Joseph C. Parsons, Holyoke's first papermaker.

In addition to these historical figures, Graziani also included other important historical elements that prove that he was an eagle-eyed artist who took care to represent Holyoke's history in paint. These include the plan of Holyoke's canal system, a portrait of the Holyoke Dam and copy of the Hampden Freeman . The portrait of the Holyoke Dam is especially interesting as it captures a moment in time. For in 1952, the stone abutment depicted in Graziani's portrait was replaced by the headworks of the power plant.

The left panel, depicting Holyoke's cultural aspects, includes a portrait of Professor William Churchill Hammond, organist for the Second Congregational Church in Holyoke, at his organ. We can also see a portrait of Holyoke Public Library in the background!

So that concludes my discussion on Sante Graziani's great attention to detail. He truly took time to get to know our city. I am sorry that I have been unable to include images in this postings, but I will put them into the next posting.

Until later,

I bid you ado.

Next time: The Frog Circus and the Natural History Museum at Holyoke Public Library: Captivating captives capture Holyoke's youth.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Saving Holyoke's Heritage Part Deux

Hello all,

I'm feeling guilty about not posting for a while. I have been working on my post on the historical content of Sante Graziani's murals. If you could see my dashboard you would see that there is a posting in the editing phase but it isn't finished quite yet. Perhaps I'm too verbose for this format and should really consider finding another format to present my thoughts - like a book- and believe me there is a book in my brain somewhere- I just have to find the time to sit down and write- in between managing the history room, going to meetings and working on my needlework.

So instead I am going to post my speech given at the Rotary Club yesterday to tide you over until the next historical post.

And now---

Saving Holyoke's Heritage through Historical Documents

The Holyoke History Room documents the history of Holyoke, a city whose industrial developments during the late 1890's and early 20th centuries played an influential role in the paper and textile industries both nationally and internationally. These collections document the history of Holyoke's businesses, social and charitable organizations as well as that of Holyoke Public Library itself.

The Holyoke History Room has a great variety of items, covering an extensive span of time, but when viewed through the eyes of a researcher many sizable gaps appear. For one thing, there is a distinct dearth of populated photographs. Flipping through the photograph boxes in the History Room would lead one to believe that Holyoke was a ghost town for a good portion of its existence. I am hopeful that community-wide call for photographs will allow us to rediscover the vital Holyoke described in all of our histories. Wistariahurst has begun an initiative called Sharing Our Photographs. Please contact them for more information regarding this very important project.

Another highly noticeable gap in the History Room's collection is the lack of documentation of the immigration and daily lives of Holyoke's Hispanic population. While the stories of Holyoke's other immigrant groups are widely told through documents, photographs, books and other items in the History Room, I am sad to say that this group is not well represented in our collections. I am working hard to fill this gap so that we may tell their story as well.

While these gaps can easily be filled with hard work and help from the community, there are others that are not so easily filled. Some of these gaps were created when collections were allowed to slip away from Holyoke. An example of such a collection is that of the Hadley Falls Company and Lyman Mills. When the Lyman Mills went out of business, repositories such as the History Room did not exist. Instead, this collection, which includes the records created by the very company from which Holyoke springs, went to the Baker Library at Harvard University. Thus, while these papers are available for researchers, and while they still remain in Massachusetts, the researcher suffers from having these records ripped from their original context. I believe that they would have benefited from the ability to visit Open Square, the former Lyman mills, while studying these records. Now, they may not realize that the mill still stands on the Holyoke Canal. I hope to get copies of these records, and of other Holyoke-related record groups that have been scattered to the four winds, but they will never have the same significance outside of their original formats. For nothing is more powerful than the feeling you get from holding a ledger created by one of the founding fathers of Holyoke. I know, because I feel the same power holding the records created by Holyoke Water Power. The Hadley Falls Company and Lyman Mills gap will never be fully filled as far as I'm concerned, yet at least it could be partially filled.

The most worrisome gaps that exist in our collection are those that may never be filled, or are only filled by stopgap measures that could disappear, leaving us with gigantic holes in our history. One such collection is the Holyoke Transcript. As many of you well know, the Transcript Telegram was Holyoke's Daily paper for more than one hundred years. After it closed in 1993, the photograph collection disappeared and the volumes containing the physical papers were taken out of Massachusetts. This left Holyoke with an aging collection of microfilm copies that is beginning to show its age, a few examples of the paper that were saved because they covered important topics and a tiny selection of photographs from that vast collection which would have filled the History Room with so much life.

We are also left with many questions. To this day we are unsure of who owns the copyright for the Transcript. Our hands are tied when patrons ask about publishing photographs and articles that clearly were from the Transcript and we cannot be sure about the legality of digitizing the failing microfilm. And as in the case of the Lyman Mills collection, the copies are only a paltry replacement for the originals.

But it is not my intention to end on such a negative note. Let me instead tell you about a success story. Last summer, while watching 22 News, I learned that the Parsons Mills building, home of the first and last working paper manufacturer in Holyoke, was being viewed by potential buyers. I immediately began negotiating with the caretaker to ensure that this historic company's past would be preserved. Because I was quick, I saved many items from being either thrown out or auctioned off. We thus have a detailed map of the mill, a Nurse's ledger from the 1940's and many other important documents and Heritage State Park has many artifacts, all of which may have otherwise disappeared.

Photographs, objects and documents are important. They speak for those who no longer have voices, letting future generations know who they were and how the Holyoke of today came to be. Without them, their memories will be lost in time, and what remains will lose its meaning.

Thank you,

Sarah Campbell

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I guess that the photograph was too big for my last posting. So I guess this posting will be for showing the before and after views of the Holyoke Public Library. I cannot pretend to be an expert at the inner workings of web publishing but I muddle along as best that I can.

This is the before view. I believe that it was taken soon after the Library opened. You can see the space above the door that is now occupied by the mural depicting Holyoke's dam and paper industry.

And here is a view of the east wall mural as it looks today.

Quite a difference n'est pas?

Tune in next for a discussion on Graziani's attention to historical detail.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sante Graziani's Murals: Turning terracotta blahh to terrific views of History

Hi there history buffs,

Yes I have been promising an article on the Library's mural series for a while now, and I think my mind has wandered back on track, so lets take a trip back in time to Holyoke Public Library in the 1940s before I find another interesting topic to talk about. As this is a fascinating topic filled with so many facets I think I will split this discussion into two parts: a discussion of the actual painting of the murals and a discussion of the historic elements found within the murals. This will also give me some time to visit the murals again so that I can better comment on them. Pictures and articles are all very well and good but nothing can replace being in the presence of the real piece of work. I will also have to wait to put in the phtographs for this blog as the security on this computer is not allowing me to post them. Which is certainly annoying.

The Painting of Holyoke Public Library's Murals

Before 1948, the Lobby of the Holyoke Public Library was painted terracotta. I imagine the original thought was that this color went well with the stark white column, and that it provided a blank canvas to bring out the intricate carving of the woodwork, but I personally think that it made the lobby look empty. Edward P. Bagg, President of the Holyoke Public Library and Skinner Fund Trustee said that it was a "drab cavern lined with terracotta red." If you look at this picture taken before 1948, you can almost see that the murals were always meant to be there. Joseph Clough's original plan divided the east wall of the lobby into three distinct panels, almost as if this master architect had forseeen the advent of Graziani's murals. The columns frame the murals beautifully.

Sante Graziani's murals were made possible by the Joseph Allen Skinner Art Fund, a fund established to provide Holyoke Public Library with works of art. Grazini, fresh from finishing a mural series at the Springfield Museum of Art, was deemed capable of completing such a commission. Born in Cleveland, Graziani first gained national recognition after painting the lobby of the post office in Bluffton, Ohio at the young age of 22. At the time of Holyoke Public Library's commission he was on the faculty of the Yale Art Department. He later served as the Dean of the School of the Worcester Art Musum and on the faculty of Paier College in Connecticut. After a full life, filled with beautiful paintings, fast cars, and classical music, Sante Graziani died March 21, 2005. Yet his mural series lives on.

Sante Graziani's artistic style was influenced by such Italian Renaissance painters as Boticelli and Piero della Francesca. He described his style as "allegorical although realistic and representational." However, unlike their frescos, which were painted directly on walls or into sections of wet plaster, Graziani's mural series was painted on huge panels of belgian canvas at his studio, stretched on wooden stretchers and then installed. As one can imagine, it was extremely difficult to plan a series of murals for a space hundreds of miles away. The fact that the murals look as though Joseph Clough put them into his highly detailed plan is a testiment to Graziani's wonderful ability to visualize space and plan accordingly. This was especially important in the case of the east wall where the pillasters break the space into three distinct spaces.

Graziani worked on the murals from 1948 to 1953. First creating large cartoons, or line drawings, Graziani then painted the murals using casian paint, ideal for creating the illusion of frescos as its mat-like finish gives the flat feel of true frescos.

Graziani truly loved his work. Upon returning to the Holyoke Public Library in December of 2000 to attend a ceremony honoring the installation of the lights that illuminate the murals Graziani greeted them, saying "Hello old friends." As you will see from my next posting, he really did come to know Holyoke and captured her beautifully. We are all the better for Graziani's murals. Next time you visit the Holyoke Public Library be sure to take some time looking at them. They really are spectacular.

Marvelous Microfilm Machines oh my!

Hi all,

Sorry about the delay. I have been going through the process of purchasing a new microfilm machine for the History Room. Yet this is not just your run of the mill every day machine. No- this machine will actually digitize the article on the roll, allow you to clean up the image, sharpen it and then print it out with a clear crisp image. It will also let you send the image right to email- thus allowing your patron just to put that article into whatever context they wish. Pretty neat huh? Im exited. We might actually be able to create a searchable database- wouldn't that be so cool! We will have people flocking from everywhere.

So I thought that I'd share that bit of happy news before I got into my topic for today.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sorry- no posting today:(

Well this is a perfect example of technology gone awry. The computer ate my Rotary speech. So I will have to hold my thoughts on the murals of Holyoke Public Library until next week. Now if I had been using a notepad and pen to jot down notes I'd be all set- but nooo.

See you next week!


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Why Should we protect Holyoke's History?

Hi all,

I know I've been promising a historical piece on the mural series at the Library, but my mind keeps wandering onto other topics. I did state that this was going to be a random jaunt through Holyoke, so I suppose I did warn you. I do plan on getting to the more historically-based topics so stay tuned.

Today, as I have been preparing for my part of a talk on saving Holyoke's heritage to be given before the Rotary Club in Holyoke, I would like to address the need to preserve our city's heritage, and that of your own home town. (I do apologize if this gets a bit thick at times, it is one topic in which I believe emphatically)

While we all have a tendency to live in the moment, with our day-to-day lives taking precedent over that which went before, it is so important to stop and look back from whence we came (nope- I'm NOT going to break into the Circle Game- no worries). For if we do not save items that document our past there will be no mirror on those years when the elder members of our society pass on. Here are a few specific reasons for saving our past.

1. Children

Children and Grandchildren often have an inherent need to know who they are and where they came from. Part of this process is finding out about their heritage. Plus, there is always that one school project where they will need to find out something about their family. It is ever so much easier if there is a piece of that history in the form of stories that have been passed down, or through photographs neatly annotated with the date and subject, family trees or well preserved artifacts, to tell one's own story.

2.Important Learning experiences

At times we can learn important imformation from those who went before. Is there a place on the river that was known to flood? Have there been storms that have hit our cities with hurricane-force winds without being necessarily known as hurricanes? And who exactly owns the piece of land that has sat dormant for years? All of these important questions can be answered with documents such as newspapers, oral histories, maps and deeds.

3.The advancement of scholarly research

It is important to step back and do detailed studies of historical topics. For if we don't pull back and look from the vantage of an outside observer, we often take for granted the advances we have made in technology, education and cultural and social development. For example, one need only look at the development of industry in Holyoke to see how fast we marched through several modes of power. From water-wheels, to steam-driven turbines, to electrically-driven turbines, to nuclear power, the human race has made awesome strides in a relatively short amount of time. Looking through the eyes of a Holyoker, I cannot help be excited by our history.

4. The prevention of over-zealous progress and eradication of history in the name of making way for the new.

Yes, I just mentioned that I am very excited about the vast technological advances that have occurred in Holyoke over the years. But, I also believe that it is possible to get too caught up in the unrelenting press foreword. This is perhaps a bit of a circular argument, that we must preserve our past to preserve our past, but bear with me here. I believe that if we work together in our respective communities to look back on where we came from that we can convince the powers that be that our heritage matters. When I think of places like Vegas, where they live relentlessly in the now it deeply saddens me, especially when the old Rat Pack casinos are implode to the ecstatic cheers of a future-driven society. But how can we who care about the past make an impact?

By joining your local Historical Commission, by working with your communities to educate people about the deeply historic places in your own towns, by saving photographs, stories and other mementos I believe that at least we can send up warning flags that perhaps history matters. Otherwise, buildings will be destroyed, historic records thrown, and the finely crafted pieces of our past will disappear, without any notice. And we will be left with a desert wasteland with ultra-modern buildings and no real memory of the past. Cold vision n'est pas?

So, how can you tell if something should be saved, and how can it be preserved? Tune in next week (tomorrow I promise to go back to the Library)

Bye now!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Passport Holyoke: Your guide to the City of Holyoke
Good Afternoon!

I thought that before I started on our next historical topic, Sante Graziani's mural series in the lobby of Holyoke Public Library, that I'd put in a plug for the Passport Holyoke site. Are you going to be in Holyoke area? Are you searching for something to do? Well, go to Passport Holyoke's site at and you'll find all sorts of interesting things to do! Check back often as the calander of events changes often.

Passport Holyoke is a consortium of educational and cultural organizations in Holyoke. While each institution has its own unique identity, and provides individual programming, it is our hope that by banding together we can better promote Holyoke. The site has a complete listing of partners.

Keep an eye out for future city-wide events! We have some interesting things in the works! I plan on using this blog as a way to showcase future Holyoke happenings as well as to revisit past times.

Next: Sante Graziani's Mural series: Taking the terracotta blahhh out of Holyoke Public Library

Monday, August 14, 2006

Holyoke History Finds a Temporary Home at HCC

Hi again,

As promised I have returned to bring the Holyoke History Room into the cyber world.
I am thrilled that sources like Blogger exist as it gives people the world around a chance to see what we have to offer. And by all means, drop me a line if there is something you would like me to talk about. And spread the word! Tell all your history buff friends about the History Room. We enjoy meeting people who are interested in the history of this wonderful city. We'll do our best to fill all of your requests.

Today's topic, Holyoke History Finds a Temporary Home at HCC, is a bitter sweet one for me to be sure. However, its one that needs to be addressed as I imagine it is a bit confusing to find out that Holyoke Public Library's History Room is actually at Holyoke Community College. But before I take you to our space at Holyoke Community College, let me tell you about our true home, Holyoke Public Library.

Like many venerable New England Libraries, The Holyoke Public Library has amassed quite a collection of items focused on Holyoke. Donated over the years, these items were placed willy-nilly throughout the library without any real order. By the 1980s, a small space was found to gather some of the items, but the vast majority were still found throughout the library. It wasn't until 1993, when Paul Graves converted the old Art Gallery on the second floor of the Holyoke Public Library into a place dedicated to the preservation and study of Holyoke History, that Holyoke had centralized place to find out about its past. The room was dedicated to Attorney Phillip O'Brein, member of the Board of Directors at Holyoke Public Library and long-time benefactor.

It was a grand room to be sure. Portraits of Holyoke luminaries hung on the walls; paintings by American masters, remainders of the Holyoke Museum's art collection, brightened the stark brown backdrop; four large library tables (the original tables that were chosen specifically for the Library in 1902- sans their glass-shaded light fixtures unfortunately) sat in the middle of a gorgeous honey colored floor atop lush persian rugs; a chipendale clock with a unique hand painted face graced one corner of the room; a colonial-era table said to have come from Crafts' Tavern held pamphlets for local organizations and geneological resources; chinese marble top tables and federal style endtables held flyers for the latest exhibit in the spacious exhibition space and two overstuffed leather chairs gave the feel of someone's drawing room. And topping all of this was a gorgeous light fixture whose geometric patterns echoed that of the grand ballustrade encircling the mezannine and in the heavy glass pane of a door whose weight truly reminded you that it was made of wood. But sadley our library is over one hundred years old. The fluctuating temperature, the humidity and the UV rays from unfiltered lights were all contributing to the decay of our formidable collection. The collection needed to be moved, but where? There were thoughts that the collection might have to be put into storage off site while all of these issues were addressed. That would have meant that the collection would have floated in limbo, unaccessible for an unforseen amount of time.

However, in the spirit of community, Holyoke Community College stepped foreward to provide the History Room with a space. Its smaller than our original space. However, it is much brighter and the environmental conditions are far superior. Plus, we have compact shelving for our archival collections! This is an exciting addition as it holds everything that was stored in the Holyoke Public Library's archives with room to spare. Plus, it is totally portable so we will have the benefit of this wonderful storage when we get our new space. I have done my best to make it homey here. I do hope that you will find it a nice place to visit should you get the chance to see us.

I am of course sad that we have had to move the collections. Honestly, I believe that it has been like ripping a hole right in the heart of the library. But as an archivist I had to advocate for the move. (And by the by, if anyone out there is planning a move of a special collections room I would HIGHLY reccommend National Library Relocations- they were wonderful! They even got my huge library table and glass top down the winding, narrow and steep grand staircase without even knicking it. I was scared stiff to be sure when the happy news was given to me that it wouldn't fit in the elevator- but they got it down, out, and into our new space with no trouble. I would be more than happy to talk about my experience planning for and carrying out the big move if you would like.)

I am looking foreward to a time when we can bring the collections back. This collection needs to be with its library. But while I'm here I plan on making use of my time here making collections with the College. I cannot say for sure how long we will be here. We are on the waiting list for Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners funding and we hope that this money will come through. I will keep you posted on the progress when I know something. Keep the faith, keep supporting our library and hopefully we can bring the History Room back downtown soon!

Next: Santi Graziani's Holyoke Public Library Mural series: terracotta blah becomes a bold history of Holyoke.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Holyoke Public Library: Joseph Clough's classic beauty

Hi again all you wonderful history addicts! Sorry about the delay- computer issues all around brought this blog to a standstill. I hope that I am getting my word across. I hope to link to a few local webpages. But I guess until that happens I will just keep on typing! I'll definitely put a link on Wikipedia's Holyoke page so that all of you passing through the marvelous Wikiverse can find me.

As I mentioned yesterday, today's topic is the beautiful and vibrant Holyoke Public Library. You can find it at 235 Maple St in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Do go see it, they simply don't build them like this anymore! The entire building, inside and out, was the vision of one man: Joseph Clough. I remember the first moment I walked into that library I was awestruck!
Come with me while I take you on a tour of this wonderful building.(Bear with me, my MA in Art History is going to take control of my fingers here!)

Holyoke Public Library, one of the very few examples of neo-classic architecture in the city of Holyoke, sits firmly on Library Park, which was donated by the Holyoke Water Power Company in 1887. Holyoke's citizens were charged to raise money to construct the library building and provide additional books. Under the leadership of Henry Chase $95,000 was raised. William Whiting and William Skinner, both of whom are important businessmen who will find their way into this blog, each gave $10,000 each. Joseph Clough, the architect in charge of designing the building, gave his services gratis because his daughter was a faithful patron of the library.
It was meant to be a symbol of learning, a formidable structure set apart from its surroundings. I believe that it succeeds in this goal.

After going through a gigantic wooden portal flanked on either side by ionic columns you arrive in a spacious lobby surrounded by an intricately carved mezanine. The walls, which used to be a less than savory color of terracota, have been turned into vibrant pallates as they are covered with Santi Graziani's mural series on Holyoke's history. (If you would like I can spend more time discussing them)

Yet no matter how stunning these murals were andno matter how much they enlived a rather plain lobby, the greatest visual change that has occured at Holyoke Public Library to date was the movement of the Circulation Desk from in between the pillars that stand before the doors to the stacks to its current placement. Before 1933, the stacks were closed. Patrons did not have the option of browsing the collection as they can today. Rather, they were required to make their requests known and a staff member went to get the books. (And the Director's office was upstairs in an unaccessible office, behind the scenes and removed from the flow of day-to-day activity instead of being right in the midst of everything as it is today)

The effect of the grand lobby was much more grand back then of course. The floor where the current desk stands was open. This was used as a exhibition area at times, or, as shown in this picture, as a beautiful seating area. And the partitions between the current Reference and Chidren's areas were not built yet.

By 1933, the philosophy of libraries had changed. Access became just as important as preservation of the collection. The circulation desk was moved out to its current position and was enlarged to provide for better service in the round. The erudite, grand nature of the library had been toned down a bit, but really, libraries should be homey places rather than temples to learning. This photograph was taken on the first day that the stacks were open in 1933.

Oh, I could go on and on about the history of this building and the world surrounding it. I could talk about the Holyoke Museum and the famous frog circus, about the paintings that hung on the walls. But I think that this will be it for today. I hope you enjoy these jaunts through history as much as I do.

Tune in next time for: Holyoke History finds a Temporary Home at HCC

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hello Holyoke History Room

  • Hello all,

    I thought that before I got into my first historical topic I would tell you a bit about the Holyoke Public Library's History Room, the source for all of my information.

    The Holyoke History Room documents the history of Holyoke, a city whose industrial developments during the late 1890s and early 20th centuries played an influential role on the paper and textile industries both nationally and internationally. These collections document the history of Holyoke's businesses, social and charitable organizations as well as that of Holyoke Public Library itself. Among the more exciting resources housed at the Holyoke Public Library are:
  • A collection of microfilm reels of the Holyoke Transcript spanning from the 1850s to 1993. This is a very interesting collection as it documents a gigantic span of Holyoke's history. One can watchour cityy grow up. Recorded in those pages are the events that still impact our lives today. You can also look up your family'ss' marriage, death and birth announcements, which is certainly a great resource.
  • A collection of Holyoke City Directories that span from 1869 to 1981. These are especially useful as they list the name and occupation for every working person in Holyoke. Many of these volumes also include death dates. And the later versions allow you to search by address.
  • A Photograph Collection including the Milan Warner Itinerant Photographer Collection This group of photographs, which spans from the late 19th century to the present, is a formidable collection of images of Holyoke that includes many images of buildings that no longer exist. Of particular interest is the Milan Warner Collection,which includes a set of glass slides and study photographs taken by the itinerant landscape photographer.
  • The Papers of the Holyoke Water Power Company, Graciously Loaned by Holyoke Gas and Electric The Holyoke Water Power Company papers give a wonderful view of the history of hydropower in Holyoke. Given that Holyoke was a city built around its canal system this is anincrediblyy important collection.
  • The Richards Fire Insurance Map of 1911 This map includes a detailed view of Holyoke, including property owners, building fabric, and places of interest. This is an incredibly important resource for those searching for information on historic properties as it would help date properties built before 1915, the first date that the Holyoke City Directories list by address.
  • The Holyoke Historical Index Compiled by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, this is an invaluable resource for those searching for information on Holyoke's historic buildings. Included amongst these are civic buildings, private homes, businesses, and parks.
  • Holyoke High School Yearbooks from 1914 to the Present, with a few gaps This is great for genealogists hoping to find their relatives picture. Unfortunately, we do not have the junior high school books or Holyoke Catholic's yearbooks.

In addition to these resources we also have an extensive collection of books written on Holyoke and other areas in Massachusetts, a local file of clippings on Holyoke, and a collection of maps of the area, and access to and Heritage Quest.

The Holyoke History Room staff fields questions for walk-in patrons. We also fill requests for out of town patrons however we do ask that you supply as much information as you can. Also, for microfilm requests please bear with us- this is a popular resource.

So how is it that I am at Holyoke Community College rather than downtown on Maple Street? That is a topic for next time.

Next: Holyoke Public Library: Joseph Clough's classic beauty and

There to Here- Holyoke History finds a Temporary Home at HCC

Monday, August 07, 2006


My name is Sarah Campbell and I am the Curator of Historical Collections at Holyoke Public Library in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Let me tell you a little about my adopted home town of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Holyoke, found in the absolutely gorgeous Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts, was known as the Paper City from the late 19th Century all the way up to the late 20th century. It earned this accolade as its primary industry was paper and, for many years, was one of the major producers of paper for the entire United States. In addition, Holyoke was known for its textile industry and for its machine shops that helped supply the factories with parts. I will probably go more specifically into this topic over time as Holyoke's industrial past is a rich and interesting topic.

Holyoke also has the distinction of being one the first planned cities in the United States. (It isn't my intention to get into the old argument about which city actually was the first- trust me- I know there are others who would like to take the crown as THE FIRST) Let it suffice that Holyoke was definitely planned. The Holyoke Public Library's History Room has a collection of maps that show how close Holyoke's founding fathers' vision of our city was to the actual layout of the streets.

Many innovations in industry occurred here. The Deane Steam Pump was the basis for instruments still in use and visitors from the world around used to visit our factories to view our processes for creating paper. Yet Holyoke was not only poised on the forefront of invention. It was also known as a center for the arts. The Victory Theatre was a stop on the Broadway circuit. Important pieces of art hung in Holyoke Public Library's museum and stars found their way to the Holyoke Opera House.

However, while Holyoke's past was certainly grand, and while many of our beautiful buildings are no longer in existance, it must be remembered that Holyoke is still very much a vibrant city. It is my intention to celebrate Holyoke's radiant past and brilliant future in this blog.

You are welcome to visit me here at my blog. I hope to post as often as possible. However, depending on how busy the Holyoke History Room is I might have to limit my posts to once a week. Please feel free to leave comments or request new topics for the blog. Given the fact that the History Room's resources are pretty focused on Holyoke it would be best if you kept your topics focused on Holyoke History. Also, while I will attempt to keep my comments as neutral as possible there are a few topics that I am quite passionate about so do bear with me.

You are also welcome to visit me at the History Room. We are found at:

204 Donahue Building

Holyoke Community College

303 Homestead Ave.

Holyoke, MA 01040

(413) 552-2842

Our Current Hours are:

M-W: 12:30-4:30

R: 12-4:30

F: 8:30-12

Please give us a call if you are traveling a distance as these hours are subject to change seasonally and due to holidays and staff availabily.

Next: Holyoke Public Library: James Clough's classic beauty and other topics!