Hadley in Hampshire County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)
Holyoke Range and Skinner State Parks
The park’s westernmost peak, Mt Holyoke, was the site of North America’s first summit house (1821) and the state’s first mountain tramway (1854). Located in the towns of Hadley, South Hadley, Amherst, Belchertown, and Granby, the two parks were acquired after a long history of resort development on Mt. Holyoke. Silk manufacturer Joseph Allen Skinner deeded the first parcel (375 acres) to the Commonwealth in 1940. Later purchases have increased the parks to over 3,000 acres
The scenic views from the five major mountain summits are the parks’ centerpiece. There are over 40 miles of marked trails, including an 11-mile segment of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (M-M). Some trails are suitable for horseback riding, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. Hiking, picnicking and birding are also popular. The Notch Visitor Center, open year round, offers exhibits and seasonal interpretive programs.
The Holyoke Range was formed 200 million years ago as lava welled up into the valley and sediments were washed in form nearby mountains. Running east-west, the back bone of the range
Geology has strongly influenced the plant communities found here. South-facing slopes support an Oak-Hickory forest more common further south. By contrast, on north-facing slopes, the forest is largely composed of Hemlock, White Pine, Birch, Beech, and Maple, and association much more typical of New England’s cold, moist habitat. Certain rocky outcrops (called “the Balds”) also support an unusual plant community featuring species typical of the tall-grass prairie far to the west. The mountain shelters a thriving wildlife population, including deer, foxes, songbirds, and raptors.
For over 12,000 years before the coming of European settlers, Native Americans knew and used the lands on an around the Holyoke Range. Its larger peaks were sacred sites in themselves, held in awe and reverence by the local Nonotuck people, who inhabited this part of the Connecticut Valley.
Mount Holyoke is named after Elizur Holyoke, one of the first Europeans to survey the area, in the 1600s. Colonial settlement at Hadley began in 1659. In the 18th century, the range was a source of timber, later it served as sheep pasture. In the late 19th century, the mountain became a popular scenic destination. In 1851, John Frances “Fanny” French built a two-story mountaintop hotel that included eight rooms and a rooftop observatory. Under their management (through the 1890s), the mountain attracted the growing middle class and a few famous visitors. In 1854, a tramway (whose remains are still visible today) began bringing people to the summit. The hotel was added onto twice and ultimately had 40 bed-rooms and a 200-seat dining room. Today, like the cabin of a great yacht, the hotel still sails proudly on, through clouds, sunshine and thunder.
(Inscription under the photo in the center)
The mountain’s famous view over the Connecticut River inspired painters such as Thomas Cole (1836) and many well-known writers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Washington Irving, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Sylvia Plath. Photo by Gene Peach.
(Inscription next to the hawk)
Broad-wing hawk. The updrafts caused by the mountains’ topography are favorite “hangouts” for migrating raptors, including red-tails, kestrels and broad-wings, the last of which may be seen congregating in groups called “kettles” above the valley floor
(Inscription under the Summit House)
The Summit House on Mt. Holyoke, Historic postcard.
(Inscription under the coach)
Coach used to transport visitors to Mt. Holyoke. Northampton Historical Society.
Erected by DCR Massachusetts.
Location. 42° 17.717′ N, 72° 35.833′ W. Marker is in Hadley, Massachusetts, in Hampshire County. Marker is at the intersection of Mountain Road and Skinner State Park Road on Mountain Road. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Hadley MA 01035, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski (approx. 2.4 miles away); Cornet Joseph Parsons (approx. 2.4 miles away); West Main Street (approx. 2.4 miles away); Pulaski Park (approx. 2.4 miles away); Upper Main Street (approx. 2.4 miles away); Town Center (approx. 2.4 miles away); Hadley (approx. 3.1 miles away); Mt. Tom B-17 Memorial (approx. 4.1 miles away).
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Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on June 7, 2013, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 481 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on June 7, 2013, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.