History of Springfield, Massachusetts facts for kids
The history of Springfield, Massachusetts (est. 1636) springs in large part from its favorable geography, situated on a steep bluff overlooking the Connecticut River's confluence with three tributaries. It was an ancient Indian crossroad for two major trade routes: Boston-to-Albany and New York City-to-Montreal. Springfield also sits on some of the northeastern United States' most fertile soil.
Springfield was founded in 1636 as Agawam, the northernmost settlement of the Connecticut Colony. The settlement defected from Connecticut after four years, however, later joining forces with the coastal Massachusetts Bay Colony. During this process, the town changed its name to Springfield in honor of founder William Pynchon's hometown in England, and changed the political boundaries of what later became the New England States.
Springfield flourished as a trading post and agricultural center until 1675's King Philip's War, when a coalition of Indians laid siege to Springfield and later burned it to the ground. Its prosperity waned for the next hundred years but, in 1777, United States Revolutionary War leaders George Washington and Henry Knox recognized its advantages as a site for a National Armory.
For 201 years until 1968, the Armory made small weapons. Its first American muskets (1794) were followed by the famous Springfield rifle and the revolutionary M1 Garand and M14s. The Springfield Armory attracted generations of skilled laborers to the city, making it the United States' longtime center for precision manufacturing (comparable to a Silicon Valley of the Industrial Revolution). The Armory's near-capture during Shays Rebellion of 1787 was among the troubles that prompted the U.S. Constitutional Convention later that year.
Innovations in the 19th and 20th centuries include the first American English dictionary (1805, Noah Webster), the first use of interchangeable parts and the assembly line in manufacturing (1819, Thomas Blanchard), the first American horseless car (1825, again Thomas Blanchard), vulcanized rubber (1844, Charles Goodyear), the first American gasoline-powered car (1893, Duryea Brothers), the first American motorcycle company (1901, "Indian"), an early commercial radio station (1921, WBZ, and most famously, the world's third-most-popular sport of basketball (1891, Dr. James Naismith).
Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, Springfield endured a protracted decline, accelerated by the decommission of the Springfield Armory in 1969 and exacerbated by poor city planning decisions. Springfield became increasingly like the declining, second tier Northeastern U.S. cities from which its history and significance had long set it apart. During the 1980s and 1990s, Springfield developed a national reputation for crime, political corruption, and cronyism, which stood in stark contrast to the reputation that it enjoyed throughout much of U.S. history. Seeking to overcome its downgrade in reputation via long-term revitalization projects, the city undertook several large (but unfinished) projects, including a $1 billion high-speed rail (New Haven-Hartford-Springfield high-speed rail), a proposed $1 billion MGM Casino, and various other construction and revitalization projects.
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- "Firsts" in Springfield
Puritan businessman William Pynchon was an original settler of Roxbury, Massachusetts, a magistrate, and then assistant treasurer of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1635, he commissioned a scouting expedition led by John Cable and John Woodcock to find the Connecticut River Valley's most suitable site for the dual purposes of agriculture and trading. The expedition traveled either across the inland Bay Path from Boston to Albany via Springfield or, equally likely, along the coast and northward from the mouth of the Connecticut River. It concluded at Agawam where the Westfield River meets the Connecticut River, across the Connecticut River from modern-day Springfield, the northernmost settlement on "The Great River" at that time. The region's numerous rivers and geological history have dictated that its soil is among the finest for farming in the Northeast.
Cable and Woodcock found the Pocomtuc (or perhaps Nipmuck) village of Agawam on the western bank of the Connecticut River. The land near the river was clear of trees due to burns by the Indians, and covered in nutrient-rich river silt from both floods and glacial Lake Hitchcock. Just south of the Westfield River, Cable and Woodcock constructed a pre-fabricated house in present-day Agawam, Massachusetts (at modern-day Pynchon Point.)
In 1636, Pynchon led a settlement expedition to be administered by the Connecticut Colony, which included Henry Smith (Pynchon's son-in-law), Jehu Burr, William Blake, Matthew Mitchell, Edmund Wood, Thomas Ufford, and John Cable. Dutch and Plymouth Colonists had been leapfrogging their way up "the Great River," as far north as Windsor, Connecticut, attempting to establish its northernmost village to gain the greatest access to the region's raw materials. Pynchon selected a spot just north of Enfield Falls, the first spot on the Connecticut River where all travelers have to stop to negotiate a waterfall 32 feet (9.8 m) in height, and then transship their cargoes from ocean-going vessels to smaller shallops. By founding Springfield, Pynchon positioned himself as the northernmost trader on the Connecticut River. Near Enfield Falls, he erected a warehouse to store goods awaiting shipment, which is still called "Warehouse Point" to this day, located in East Windsor, Connecticut.
Pynchon quickly learned the Algonquin dialect, and heeded the Indians' warnings about the Connecticut River's west side being prone to flooding. He advised Springfield's settlers to move to the eastern side of the river, between the Chicopee and Mill Rivers. This site was slightly less advantageous for farming because of its prominent bluffs and hills.
In 1636, Pynchon's party purchased land on both sides of Connecticut River from 18 tribesmen who lived at a palisade fort at the current site of Springfield's Longhill Street. The price paid was 18 hoes, 18 fathoms of wampum, 18 coats, 18 hatchets, and 18 knives. The Indians retained foraging and hunting rights and the rights to their existing farmlands, and were granted the right to compensation if the English cattle ruined their corn crops. In 1636, the English settlement was named Agawam Plantation and administered by the Connecticut Colony, as opposed to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Leaving Connecticut For Massachusetts
|Town||Date of separation|
|Suffield (CT) (as Southfield)||1682|
|Enfield (CT) (as Freshwater)||1683|
|Somers (CT) (from Enfield)||1734|
|East Windsor (CT) (northern part)||1768|
|Southwick||1775 (from Westfield)|
|Montgomery||1780 (from Westfield)|
|Russell||1792 (from Westfield)|
|Holyoke (southern part)||1850 (from W. Springfield)|
|Agawam||1855 (from W. Springfield)|
|Hampden||1878 (from Wilbraham)|
|East Longmeadow||1894 (from Longmeadow)|
In 1640 and 1641, two events took place that forever changed the political boundaries of the Connecticut River Valley. From its founding until that time, Springfield had been administered by Connecticut along with Connecticut's three other settlements - at Wethersfield, Hartford, and Windsor. In the spring of 1640, grain became scarce and the Connecticut Colony's cattle were dying of starvation. The nearby Connecticut River Valley settlements of Windsor and Hartford (then called "Newtown") gave power to William Pynchon to buy corn for all three English settlements. If the natives would not sell their corn at market prices, then Pynchon was authorized to offer more money. The natives refused to sell their corn at market prices, and then later refused to sell it at - what Pynchon deemed - "reasonable" prices. Pynchon refused to buy it, believing it best not to broadcast the English colonists' weaknesses, and also wanting to keep market values steady.
Leading citizens of what would become Hartford were furious with Pynchon for not purchasing the grain. With Windsor's and Wethersfield's consent, the Connecticut Colony's three southern settlements commissioned the famed Native American-conqueror Captain John Mason to travel to Springfield with "money in one hand and a sword in the other" to acquire grain for their settlements. On reaching what would become Springfield, Mason threatened the Pocumtucs with war if they did not sell their corn at "reasonable prices." The Pocumtucs capitulated and ultimately sold the colonists corn; however, Mason's violent approach led to the natives' deepening distrust of the English. Before leaving, Mason also upbraided Pynchon publicly, accusing Pynchon of sharp trading practices and of forcing the Pocumtucs to trade only with him because they feared him. (The three southern Connecticut Colony settlements were surrounded by different tribes than Springfield, i.e. the more warlike Pequots and Mohegans.)
Ultimately, in 1640, Pynchon and the planters of Agawam voted to separate themselves from the other river towns, removing themselves from the jurisdiction of Connecticut Colony. Looking to capitalize on Springfield's defection, the Massachusetts Bay Colony decided to reassert its jurisdiction over land bordering the Connecticut River, including Agawam.
Tensions between Springfield and Connecticut were exacerbated by one final confrontation in 1640. Hartford had been keeping a fort at the mouth of the Connecticut River at Old Saybrook, for protection against various tribes and the New Netherland Colony. After Springfield sided with the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Connecticut demanded that Springfield's boats pay a toll when passing the Fort at Old Saybrook, (which, at the time, was not administered by the Connecticut Colony, but the short-lived Saybrook Colony.) Pynchon would have been agreeable to this if Springfield could have had representation at the Fort at Saybrook; however, Connecticut refused to allow Springfield a presence at the fort, and thus Pynchon instructed his boats to refuse to pay Connecticut's toll. When the Massachusetts Bay Colony heard about this controversy, it took Pynchon's side and immediately drafted a resolution that required Connecticut ships to pay a toll when entering Boston Harbor. Connecticut, which was then dependent largely on trade with Boston, immediately dropped its tax on Springfield.
When the dust finally settled, Pynchon was named magistrate of Agawam by the Massachusetts Bay Colony and, in honor of his importance, the settlement was renamed Springfield after his place of birth, in England. For decades, Springfield - which, at the time, included modern-day Westfield - was the westernmost settlement in Massachusetts.
In 1645, 46 years before the Salem witch trials, Springfield experienced America's first accusations of witchcraft when Mary (Bliss) Parsons accused a widow named Marshfield, who had moved from Windsor to Springfield, with witchcraft - an offense then punishable by death. For this, Mary Parsons was found guilty of slander. In 1651, Mary Parsons was accused of witchcraft, and also of murdering her own child. In turn, Mary Parsons then accused her own husband, Hugh Parsons, of witchcraft. At America's first witch trial, both Mary and Hugh Parsons were found not guilty of witchcraft for want of satisfactory evidence. However, Mary was found guilty of murdering her own child, but died in prison in 1651, before her death sentence could be carried out.
William Pynchon was the New World's first commercial meat packer. In 1641, he began exporting barrels of salt-pork; however, in 1650 he became famous for writing the New World's first banned book, The Meritous Price of Our Redemption. In 1649, Pynchon found time to write the book which was published in London in 1650. Several copies made it back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and its capital, Boston, which reacted with rage to Pynchon rather than with support. For his critical attitude toward Massachusetts' Calvinist Puritanism, Pynchon was accused of heresy, and his book was burned on the Boston Common. Only 4 known copies survived. By declaration of the Massachusetts General Court, in 1650, The Meritous Price of Our Redemption became the first-ever banned book in the New World. In 1651, Pynchon was accused of heresy in Boston – at the same meeting of the Massachusetts General Court where Springfielder Mary Parsons was sentenced to death. Standing to lose all of his land-holdings – the largest in the Connecticut River Valley – William Pynchon transferred ownership to his son, John and, in 1652, moved back to England with his friend, the Reverend Moxon.
William's son, John Pynchon, and his brother-in-law, Elizur Holyoke, quickly took on the settlement's leadership roles. They began moving Springfield away from the diminishing fur trade into agricultural pursuits. In 1655, John Pynchon launched America's first cattle drive, prodding a herd from Springfield to Boston along the old Bay Path Trail.
Purchases of large swaths of land from the Indians continued throughout the 17th century, enlarging Springfield's territory and forming other colonial towns elsewhere in the Connecticut River Valley. Westfield was the westernmost settlement of Massachusetts Bay Colony until 1725 - and Springfield was, as it remains today, the colony's most populous and important western settlement. Over decades and centuries, portions of Springfield were partitioned off to form neighboring towns; however, throughout the centuries, Springfield has remained the region's most populous and most important city.
Due to imprecision in surveying colonial borders, Springfield became embroiled in a boundary dispute between the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Connecticut Colony, which was not resolved until 1803-4. (See the article on the History of Massachusetts-Connecticut Border). As a result, some lands originally administered by Springfield – including the William Pynchon's Warehouse Point - are now administered by Connecticut.
King Philip's War
After years of encroaching upon Indian land and decimating the native population with European diseases, the leader of the Eastern Massachusetts Wampanoag Indian tribe, Wamsutta, died shortly after being questioned at gunpoint by Plymouth colonists. Wamsutta's brother, Chief Metacomet (known to Springfielders as "Philip,") who had long been friendly and helpful to European settlers, took revenge. Initially inciting his own tribe to rebel against English colonists in eastern Massachusetts, King Philip himself visited the theretofore peaceful Agawam (Pocomtuc) Indians by Springfield, and incited them to rebel and burn Springfield to the ground.
Springfielders were given advance warning of the attack by a Native from Windsor, Connecticut named Toto, who history often records as "The Windsor Indian." Despite the advance warning, during the Attack on Springfield, 45 of Springfield's 60 houses were burned to the ground, as were the grist and saw mills belonging to village leader John Pynchon, which became smoldering ruins. Following the Attack on Springfield, serious thought was given to abandoning the village of Springfield and defecting to nearby towns; however, wiser heads prevailed. The residents of Springfield endured the winter of 1675 under siege conditions. During that winter, Captain Miles Morgan's block-house became Springfield's fortress – it held-out until messengers had been despatched to Hadley, after which thirty-six men (the standing army of the Massachusetts Bay Colony), under command of Captain Samuel Appleton, marched to Springfield and raised the siege. Both of Captain Miles Morgan's sons died defending Springfield in the conflict, and thus today, a large bronze statue of Miles Morgan - the hero of King Philip's War - stands in Springfield's Court Square, showing him in huntsman's dress with a rifle over his shoulder.
During King Philip's War, over 800 settlers were killed and approximately 8000 Natives were killed, enslaved, or made refugees. The war ended in the summer of 1676, when colonists shot Metacomet twice with a musket, leading to the Native Americans' surrender. Following the war, Springfield's Natives, who had, before the war, frequently been seen around town, virtually disappeared. On the occasions that they were seen, they generally raided Springfield. Thereafter fighting between the Connecticut River Valley's originally peaceful First People (and their allies, the French), and the English colonists continued for over 100 years.
Today, a hilltop on which King Philip is said to have incited the Agawam Indians to attack Springfield is known as King Philip's Stockade. It is a Springfield city park that offers excellent views of the Connecticut River, city skyline, picnic pavilions, and a statue depicting the famous Windsor Indian who tried to warn the residents of Springfield of impending danger. The actual location of the stockaded Indian village is about a mile north, off Longhill Street, on a bluff overlooking the river. It was the location of an archaeological dig in the early part of the 20th century.
The Springfield Armory
Then as now, a major crossroads, during the 1770s, George Washington selected a high bluff in Springfield as the site of the U.S. National Armory. Washington selected Springfield for its centrality to important American cities and resources, its easy access to the Connecticut River and because, as today, the city served as the nexus for well-traveled roads. Washington's officer Henry Knox noted that Springfield was far enough upstream on the Connecticut River to guard against all but the most aggressive sea attacks. He concluded that “the plain just above Springfield is perhaps one of the most proper spots on every account” for the location of a National Arsenal. During the War of Independence, the arsenal at Springfield provided supplies and equipment for the American forces. At that time, the arsenal stored muskets, cannons, and other weapons; it also produced paper cartridges. Barracks, shops, storehouses, and a magazine were built, but no arms were manufactured. After the war the government retained the facility to store arms for future needs.
By the 1780s the Arsenal was the United States' largest ammunition and weapons depot, which made it the logical focal point for Shays' Rebellion (see below). On the recommendations of then U.S. President George Washington, Congress formally established the Springfield Armory in 1794. In 1795, the Springfield Armory produced the first American-made musket, and during that year, produced 245 muskets. Until its closing in 1968, the Armory developed and produced a majority of the arms that served American soldiers in the nation’s successful wars. Its presence also set Springfield on the path of industrial innovation that would result in the city becoming known as the "City of Progress" and later as the "City of Firsts."
The term Springfield Rifle may refer to any sort of arms produced by the Springfield Armory for the United States armed forces. Other famous arms invented in Springfield include the Repeating Pistol, and the Semi-automatic M1 Garand.
The 55 acres (220,000 m2) within the Armory's famous ornamental cast-iron fence are now administered by Springfield Technical Community College and the National Park Service. Most of the buildings were erected during the 19th century, with the oldest dating from 1808. The complex reflects the Armory commanders’ goal of creating an institution with dignity and architectural integrity worthy of the increasing strength of the federal government.
Shays's Rebellion - the most crucial battle of which was fought at the Springfield Armory in 1787 - was the United States' first populist revolt. It has also been called "the last battle of the American Revolution." Concerns about Shay's Rebellion resulted in a complete change of the United States' governmental structure—from the original United States Articles of Confederation to the United States Constitution, which greatly enhanced the U.S. Federal Government's power over the States. It prompted George Washington to come out of retirement, and catalyzed the U.S. Founding Fathers to craft the U.S. Constitution. On May 25, 1787, General Henry Knox, the Secretary of War, addressed the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia: “The commotion of Massachusetts have wrought prodigious changes in the minds of men in the State respecting the Powers of Government... They must be strengthened, there is no security of liberty or property.”
Shay's Rebellion was led, in part, by American Revolutionary War soldier Daniel Shays, and thus acquired the nickname "Shay's Rebellion." In January 1787, Shays and the "Regulators" as they were then called, tried to seize the Arsenal at Springfield. At the time of Shay's Rebellion, the Arsenal at Springfield was not yet an Armory; however, it contained brass ordnance, howitzers, traveling carriages, shot strapt, canisters filled, quilted grape, iron shot, shells, powder, musket ball, cylinders, caps, paper cartridges, fuzes filled, muskets, swords, various military stores, and implements. If the Regulators had captured the Arsenal at Springfield, they would have had exponentially more firepower than their adversaries, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, led by former U.S. General Benjamin Lincoln.
Supreme Judicial Court at Springfield shutdown by angry mob
In July 1786, a diverse group of Western Massachusetts gentlemen, farmers, and war veterans - often characterized as "yeoman farmers" by the Massachusetts and Federal governments, in attempt to belittle or explain participants' reasons for rebelling - convened in Southampton, Massachusetts, to write-up a list of grievances with the 1780 Massachusetts State Constitution. Among the conventioneers was William Pynchon, the voice of Springfield's - and the Connecticut River Valley's - most powerful family. The convention produced twenty-one articles - 17 were grievances, necessitating radical changes to Massachusetts' State Constitution. They included moving the Massachusetts State Legislature out of Boston to a more central location, where Boston's mercantile elite could no longer control the state government for its own financial gain; abolishing the Massachusetts State Senate, which was dominated by Boston's merchants and was in essence a redundant given that Massachusetts already had a State Legislature that dealt with similar issues; and revising election rules so that State Legislators would be held accountable yearly via elections. Grievances were also voiced about Massachusetts' excessively complex, seemingly money-driven court system and the scarcity of paper money to pay state taxes.
Rather than address the Southampton Convention's grievances, both houses of the Massachusetts State Legislature went on vacation. After this, "Regulators" as they were then called, began gathering in mobs of thousands, forcing the closure of Massachusetts' county courts. The Regulators shut down court proceedings in Northampton, Worcester, Concord, Taunton, Great Barrington, and then finally, even the Supreme Judicial Court in Springfield.
Massachusetts' Governor Bowdoin - along with Boston's former patriots, like Samuel Adams, who had, it seemed, lost touch with common people - were zealously unsympathetic to the Regulators' cause. Samuel Adams wanted the Regulators "put to death immediately." In response, Governor Bowdoin dispatched a militia financed by Boston merchants led by former Revolutionary War General Benjamin Lincoln, as well as a militia of 900 men led by General William Shepard to protect Springfield. The militia members, however, generally sympathized with the Regulators and more often than not, defected to the Regulators rather than remain with Massachusetts' militia. News of the Rebellion in Western Massachusetts reached the Continental Congress in late 1786. The Congress authorized troops to put down the rebellion; however, the government refused to give an honest reason for the authorization of troops, insisting that it was for fighting Indians in Ohio. In the Massachusetts State Legislature, Elbridge Gerry noted that the 'fighting Indians in Ohio' excuse was "laughable."
The Battle of the U.S. Arsenal at Springfield
By January 1787, thousands of men from Western Massachusetts, Eastern New York, Vermont, and Connecticut had joined the Regulators; however, many were scattered across the expanse of Western Massachusetts. On January 25, 1787, three major Regulator armies were coalescing on Springfield in attempt to overtake the U.S. Federal Arsenal at Springfield. The armies were commanded by, respectively, Daniel Shays, whose army was camped in nearby Palmer, Massachusetts; Luke Day, whose army was camped across the Connecticut River in West Springfield, Massachusetts; and Eli Parsons, whose army was camped just north of Springfield in Chicopee, Massachusetts. The plan for commandeering the Arsenal at Springfield was for a three-pronged attack on January 25, 1787; however, the day before the scheduled attack, General Luke Day unilaterally postponed the attack to January 26, 1787. Day sent a note postponing the attack to both Shays and Parsons; however, it never reached them.
On January 25, 1787, Shays's and Parson's armies approached the Arsenal at Springfield expecting Day's army to back them up. General William Shepard's Massachusetts militia - which had been withered by defections to the Regulators - was already inside the Arsenal. General Shepard had requested permission from U.S. Secretary of Defense Henry Knox to use the weaponry in the Arsenal, because technically its firepower belonged to the United States, and not the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Secretary of War Henry Knox denied the request on the grounds that it required Congressional approval and that Congress was out of session; however, Shepard used the Arsenal's weapons anyway.
When Shays, Parsons, and their forces neared the Arsenal, they found Shepard's militia waiting for them - and they were baffled by the location of Luke Day's army. Shepard ordered a warning shot. Two cannons were fired directly into Shays's men. Four of the Shaysites were killed, and thirty were immediately wounded. No musket fire took place. The rear of Shays's army ran, leaving his Captain James White "casting a look of scorn before and behind," and then fled. Without reinforcements from Day, the rebels were unsuccessful in taking the Springfield Arsenal.
The militia captured many of the rebels on February 4 in Petersham, Massachusetts. Over the course of the next several weeks, the rebels were dispersed; however, skirmishes continued for approximately a year thereafter.
Governor Bowdoin declared that Americans would descend into "a state of anarchy, confusion, and slavery" unless the rule of the law was upheld. Shays's Rebellion, however, was - like American Revolution - an armed uprising against a rule of law perceived to be unjust. Ultimately, Shays's Rebellions' legacy is the United States Constitution.
The City of Progress
The City of Springfield, and, in particular, the Springfield Armory played an important role in the early Industrial Revolution. As of 2011, Springfield is nicknamed The City of Firsts; however, throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, its nickname was The City of Progress. Throughout its history, Springfield has been a center of commercial invention, ideological progress, and technological innovation. For example, in 1819, inventor Thomas Blanchard and his lathe led to the uses of interchangeable parts and assembly line mass production, which went on to influence the entire world - while originally making arms production at The Springfield Armory faster and less expensive. Blanchard – and Springfield – are credited with the discovery of the assembly line manufacturing process. Blanchard also invented the first modern car in Springfield, a "horseless carriage" powered by steam.
The first American-English dictionary was produced in Springfield in 1806 by the company now known as Merriam Webster. Merriam Webster continues to maintain its worldwide headquarters in Springfield, just north of the Springfield Armory.
In Springfield, "The City of Progress," many products were invented that are still popular and necessary today. For example, in 1844, Charles Goodyear perfected and patented vulcanized rubber at his factory in Springfield. (The automobile had not yet been invented, so Goodyear patented his rubber stamp rather than tires, for which he later became known). In 1856, the world's first-ever adjustable monkey wrench was invented in Springfield. In 1873, America's first postcard was invented in Springfield by the Morgan Envelope Factory. Also, America's first horse show and dog show were both produced in Springfield – 1853 and 1875, respectively.
Well known for it “firsts," Springfield also has the distinction of being the last New England city to free another state's slave. In Massachusetts, the cruel institution was outlawed by 1783, in a court decision based on the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution. In 1808, a man from New York – where slavery, at the time, was legal – came to Springfield demanding the return of his escaped slave: a woman named Jenny who had been living in Springfield for several years. In a show of support for abolitionism, the citizens of Springfield raised enough money to buy Jenny's freedom from the New Yorker. Jenny lived a free woman in Springfield thereafter.
John Brown, the celebrated abolitionist and hero of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, became a national leader in the abolitionist movement while living in Springfield. Indeed, Springfield's role in the abolitionist movement was far greater than the city's population at the time, (approximately 20,000 before the separation of Chicopee). In 1836, Springfield's American Colonization Society was its first radical abolitionist group. Nearly all Springfielders - from its wealthiest merchants to its influential newspaper publisher - supported abolitionism. In 1846, Brown moved into this progressive climate and set up a wool commission. Brown began attending church services at the traditionally black Sanford Street Church (now St. John's Congregational Church.) In Springfield, Brown spoke with Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, while learning about the successes of Springfield's Underground Railroad. Also, in Springfield, Brown met many of the contacts he would need in later years to fund his work in Bleeding Kansas. In 1850, in response to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, John Brown formed his first militant anti-slavery organization in Springfield: The League of Gileadites. Brown founded the group by saying, "Nothing so charms the American people as personal bravery. [Blacks] would have ten times the number [of whites friends than] they now have were they but half as much in earnest to secure their dearest rights as they are to ape the follies and extravagances of their white neighbors..." The League of Gileadites protected slaves who escaped to Springfield from slaver-catchers. It is worth noting that after the foundation of Brown's organization in 1850, a slave was never again "captured" in the city. As of 2011, St. John's Congregational Church - one of the Northeast's most prominent black congregations, now celebrating its 167th year in existence - still displays John Brown's Bible.
In 1852, Springfield was chartered as a city; however, only after decades of debate, which, in 1848, resulted in the partitioning off of the northern part of Springfield into Chicopee, Massachusetts - in order to reduce Springfield's land and population. The partition of Chicopee from Springfield deprived Springfield of approximately half of its territory and approximately two-thirds of its population. To this day, the two cities of Springfield and Chicopee have relatively small land areas and remain separate. Springfield's first mayor was Caleb Rice, who was also the first President of MassMutual Life Insurance Company. As of 2011, the MassMutual Life Insurance Company, headquartered in Springfield, is the second wealthiest company from Massachusetts listed in the Fortune 100.
Wason Manufacturing Company of Springfield – one of the United States' first makers of railway passenger coach equipment – produced America's first sleeping car in 1857, (also known as a Pullman Car). On May 2, 1849 the Springfield Railroad was chartered to build from Springfield to the Connecticut state line. By the 1870s the endeavor had become the Springfield and New London Railroad.
In 1855, the formation of the Republican Party was championed by Samuel Bowles III, publisher of the influential Springfield daily newspaper, The Republican. The Republican Party took its name from Bowles' newspaper. On Friday, Sept. 21, 1855, the headline in The Republican read: “The Child is Born!” This marked the birth of the Republican Party. By 1858, the Republicans had taken control of many Northern States' governments. In 1860, Bowles was on the train to the Republican convention in Chicago where his friend, Springfield lawyer George Ashmun, was elected chairman of the convention that would eventually nominate Abraham Lincoln for president.
In 1856, Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson formed Smith & Wesson to manufacture revolvers. Smith & Wesson has gone on to become the largest and, it can be argued, the most famous gun manufacturer in the world. The company's headquarters remains in Springfield and as of 2011, employs over 1200 workers.
On September 20, 1893, Springfielders Charles and Frank Duryea built and then road-tested the first-ever American, gasoline-powered car in Springfield. The Duryea Motor Wagon was built on the third floor of the Stacy Building in Springfield, and first publicly road-tested on Howard Bemis's farm. In 1895, the Duryea Motor Wagon won America's first-ever road race – a 54-mile (87 km) race from Chicago to Evanston, Illinois. In 1896, the Duryea Motor Wagon Company became the first company to manufacture and sell gasoline-powered automobiles. The company's motto was "there is no better motorcar." Immediately, Duryeas were purchased by luminaries of the times, such as George Vanderbilt. Two months after buying one of the world's first Duryeas, New York City motorist Henry Wells hit a bicyclist – the rider suffered a broken leg, Wells spent a night in jail - and that was Springfield's peripheral role in the first-ever automobile accident.
The birthplace of basketball
Today, the city of Springfield is known worldwide as the birthplace of the sport of basketball. In 1891, James Naismith, a theology graduate, invented the sport of basketball at the YMCA International Training School – now known as Springfield College – to fill-in the gap between the football and baseball seasons. The first game of basketball ever played took place in the Mason Square district of Springfield. (The game's score was 1 – 0). As of 2011, the exact spot where the first game took place is memorialized by an illuminated monument. The first building to serve as an indoor basketball court resides at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in suburban Wilbraham, and has since been converted into a dormitory (Smith Hall). In 1912, the first ever specifically crafted basketball was produced in Springfield by the Victor Sporting Goods Company. As of 2011, Springfield-based Spalding is the world's largest producer of basketballs, and produces the official basketball of the National Basketball Association.
Basketball became an Olympic sport in 1936, and since its burst of popularity during the 1980s and 1990s, has gone on to become the world's second most popular sport (after soccer).
On February 17, 1968, The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was opened on the Springfield College campus. In 1985, it was replaced by a larger facility on the bank of the Connecticut River. In 2002, a new, architecturally significant Hall of Fame was constructed next to the existing site, (which was subsequently converted into restaurants and an LA Fitness club). Shaped like a giant basketball and illuminated at night, the Basketball Hall of Fame is currently one of the most architecturally recognizable buildings recently constructed in Springfield.
Today, both amateur and professional basketball are an integral part of Springfield's culture. Springfield's professional basketball team, the NBA Development League Springfield Armor – the official affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets – play in the MassMutual Center, several blocks from the Basketball Hall of Fame and the site of the first-ever basketball game. Basketball-related events take place in Springfield year-round, including the Basketball Hall of Fame's annual enshrinement ceremony, the NCAA's college basketball Tip-Off Tournament, the NCAA MAAC division tournament, and the high school Hoop Hall Classic, among numerous other basketball-related events. Many non-basketball-related events in Springfield also draw inspiration from the sport; for example, the annual Hoop City Jazz Festival brings jazz greats and tens of thousands of people to the "Hoop City."
"Art & Soles", a 2010 public art installation in Springfield, featured 6-foot (1.8 m) painted basketball shoes commemorating the city's history as birthplace of basketball and home of the Hall of Fame. Each of the nineteen shoes was painted by a local artist and displayed in a prominent location in the downtown area, with the overall goal of providing an artistic answer to the question “What Makes Springfield Great?” The shoes were sold at auction in March 2011 with the proceeds going to support public art in Springfield.
The Duryeas were joined in Springfield's automobile industry in 1900 by Skene, (which disappeared shortly after), and Knox Automobile, which survived until 1927. In 1905, Knox famously produced America's first motorized fire engines for Springfield's Fire Department – the first modern fire department in the world.
In 1901, "Indian" motorcycles (officially spelled Motocycle) were the first successful motorcycle manufacturers in the United States. Chief and Scout models were the company's best sellers from the 1920s to the 1950s. The Hendee Manufacturing Company, Indian's parent company, also manufactured other products such as aircraft engines, bicycles, boat motors, and air conditioners.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Springfield was known worldwide for its precision manufacturing and as "a beehive of diversified production." The American Civil War brought "intense and concentrated prosperity" to Springfield, which manufactured nearly all of the Union Army's small arms. From this period until the mid-20th century, Springfield's housing stock became increasingly attractive and ornate – not only for the wealthy, but for the middle-classes – earning Springfield its nickname The City of Homes. A 1910 publication notes that "Springfield has the most beautiful homes in New England. It has the most attractive streets in New England." To this day, Springfield's housing stock consists mostly of ornate, older homes, many of which would cost small fortunes to build today – Victorian "Painted Lady" mansions, elegant Queen Anne's, and Tudor style architecture dominate Springfield's housing stock; however, the city also features attractive condominiums, in particular in its urban, Metro Center neighborhood.
By the first decade of the 20th century, the City of Springfield featured over 10% of all manufacturing plants in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a far greater percentage of its precision machinery manufacturing plants, (as opposed to textile manufacturing plants, which were more prevalent in eastern Massachusetts.)
In the 1920s, the city's precision manufacturing base attracted England's Rolls-Royce, who concluded, “The artisans of Springfield – from long experience in fine precision work – were found to possess the same pride in workmanship as the craftsmen of England." From 1921 until 1931, Rolls-Royce located its only manufacturing plant outside England in Springfield. It assembled nearly 3000 Silver Ghosts and Phantoms before production was halted by the Great Depression and the decision by Rolls Royce not to retool the plant. The Rolls Royce factory is adjacent to the former Indian Motorcycle manufacturing plant, by American International College.
Granville Brothers Aircraft manufactured aircraft at Springfield Airport from 1929 until their bankruptcy in 1934. They are best known for the trophy and speed record holding Senior Sportster ("GeeBee") series of racing aircraft.
During this time, Springfield pioneered developments in mass media. For example, the United States' first commercial radio station was founded in Springfield in 1921, WBZ, broadcasting from Springfield's most luxurious hotel, the Hotel Kimball. Also, the United States' first UHF television station was founded in Springfield in 1953, WWLP, (which, today, is Springfield's 22 News, Working for You).
During this period, then-U.S. Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, who served under U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, famously opined, "Here is a center from which thought emanates. What is said in Springfield is heard around the world."
The great floods of 1936 and 1938 and their effects
In 1936, at the height of America's Great Depression, the City of Springfield suffered one of its most devastating natural disasters prior to the tornadoes of 2011. The Connecticut River flooded, reaching record heights, inundating the South End and the North End neighborhoods, where some of Springfield's finest mansions stood. Damages were estimated at $200,000,000 in 1936 dollars.
Much of the water damage was repaired after WPA money was made available to Springfield. However, two years later, high flood waters hit Springfield again. The standing flood waters were exacerbated by the New England Hurricane of 1938, which came up the east coast of the United States on September 21, 1938.
Due to Springfield's two Great Floods, large portions of the North End and South End neighborhoods no longer exist.
During the 1960s, I-91 was constructed over the areas affected by the great floods. Several of Springfield's grandest houses, including the mansion of skating blade magnate Everett Hosmer Barney, were demolished to construct the highway. Originally, plans called for the highway to be routed along the west bank of the Connecticut River, through West Springfield; however, Springfield civic officials campaigned for it to cross the river through the North End, Metro Center, and South End neighborhoods. This decision effectively cut off the City of Springfield from the Connecticut River, its greatest natural resource. In 2010, plans were announced to finally reunite Springfield with the Connecticut River.
Forty year decline and immigration trends
In 1968, the theretofore stalwart Springfield Armory was controversially closed-down amid the Vietnam War. From this point onward, precision manufacturing companies, which had long provided Springfield's economic base and were also the driving factor behind its famous creativity, left the city for places with lower taxes. (As of 2011, there are 36,300 manufacturing jobs in Metro Springfield). During this time of decline, unlike its Northeast American peer cities like Providence, Rhode Island, New Haven, and Hartford, Connecticut, which hemorrhaged large portions of their populations, Springfield lost comparatively few residents. As of 2011, Springfield had only 20,000 fewer people than it did in its most populous Census year, 1960. (See population chart below). The exodus of its wealthy and middle-class - mostly Caucasians - to surrounding suburbs was compensated for by an influx of Hispanic immigrants, which changed the demographics of Springfield to a great extent by the 2010 Census. Springfield, which had once been a primarily Caucasian city, (featuring large populations of English, Irish, Italian, French Canadian, and Polish residents) with a steady 15% Black minority is now evenly split between Caucasians and Hispanics, primarily of Puerto Rican descent. Initially poor on arrival in Springfield, the Hispanic community's integration and subsequent increase in buying power set the stage for Springfield's resurgence in the first decade of the 21st century.
In addition to the influx of Latinos, as of the 2010 Census, Springfield is one of the top five most populous East Coast cities for Vietnamese immigrants – and one of the Top 3 East Coast cities for Vietnamese immigrants per capita, behind Boston and Washington, D.C. Also, the 2010 Census indicated a substantial increase in Springfield's LGBT population, likely catalyzed by Massachusetts' 2004 decision to legalize gay marriage. The 2010 Census indicates that Springfield now ranks tenth among all U.S. cities with 5.69 same-sex couples per thousand. (San Francisco, California ranked first). Since approximately 2005, Springfield's Club Quarter in Metro Center has seen a large increase in LGBT bars and clubs.
Interstate 91 is constructed, amputating Springfield from the river
During the late 1960s, the elevated, 8-lane Interstate 91 was constructed on Springfield's riverfront - effectively blocking Springfielders' access to "The Great River." For generations, the land that became Interstate 91 was the city's most valuable land for both economic and recreational purposes. The I-91 construction also covered the mouth of the Mill River. Academics note that both rivers would present major economic opportunities if I-91 was altered. In 2010, the Urban Land Institute proposed a plan for Springfield to reclaim its rivers.
The original plan for Interstate 91 - detailed in the 1953 Master Highway Plan for the Springfield, Massachusetts, Metropolitan Area - called for I-91 to occupy West Springfield's Riverdale Road, (also known as U.S. Route 5), and which had been, historically, the highway used to reach Springfield from both the north and south. Indeed, between 1953 and 1958, to make way for Interstate 91, West Springfield's Riverdale Road was widened and added on to, and businesses were moved. The 1953 plan called for I-91 to connect with Springfield via several state-of-the-art bridges. In 1958, however, Springfield's city planners - believing that the river had become too polluted, and thus no longer useful - campaigned intensely for Interstate 91 to occupy Springfield's riverfront. They boasted that the construction of I-91 on Springfield's riverfront would catalyze economic growth comparable to that experienced during the great railroad expansion of the mid-19th century. However, the highway that blocks Springfield's (now clean) rivers became the city's most famous and disastrous attempt at urban renewal.
Although West Springfield had a right and legal claim to Interstate 91, State highway officials relented to Springfield's City Planners' pressures when confronted with a technicality - a short, existing section of US 5 through West Springfield that was built during the early 1950s failed to meet Interstate design standards. Thus, the plans for I-91 were shelved in West Springfield, and hastily moved to the eastern bank of the river.
From its construction until the present, Interstate 91's design flaws have contributed to logistical problems in Springfield. Due to I-91's close proximity to both Springfield's densely built downtown and the city's rail lines and riverfront, no more than a few businesses could be built to capitalize on highway traffic. Thus, Springfield never received the promised economic benefit from I-91 - indeed, the highway's construction coincided with the start of Springfield's four decades of economic decline. Also, throughout Springfield, I-91 was constructed as an elevated highway, which blocked all riverfront views in downtown. Beneath the elevated highway, the City of Springfield's largest parking garage was constructed at 1756 spaces, as were a series of stone walls and grassy knolls, which have made the riverfront difficult to access by foot.
The highway construction sliced through three of Springfield's most (theretofore) most desirable neighborhoods and many historical landmarks - among them, Court Square, Forest Park, and the Everett Hosmer Barney Mansion. In addition, the loss of Springfield's riverfront and the ugliness of the elevated Interstate 91 contributed to white flight from the city to its suburbs. Indeed, the word "stupid" has been used to describe Springfield's first, and most unfortunate attempt at urban renewal.
In 2010, the Urban Land Institute released a plan that proposed several different options for re-configuring Interstate 91. Currently, many Springfielders are enthused at the prospect of finally being reunited with the Mill River, and especially the Connecticut River.
History of Springfield's skyline
See: List of tallest buildings in Springfield, Massachusetts
As of 2011, Springfield's skyline features relatively fewer skyscrapers than most of its peer cities. The reason for this has to do with the 1908 construction of Springfield's neo-classical 1200 Main Street building, also known as 101 State Street. The building stands at 125 feet (38 m), which, at the time of its construction, caused great controversy in both Springfield and Boston because of its "extreme height." That year, the Massachusetts State Legislature set a maximum height for buildings in Springfield – at 125 feet (38 m) – the height of 1200 Main Street, and also the height of Court Square's Old First Church's steeple. The only exception to this law was made for the construction of Springfield's landmark, 300-foot (91 m), Italianate, Campanile – part of the Springfield Municipal Group, dedicated in 1913 by President William Howard Taft.
Springfield's building height law remained in effect until 1970, when the city's economy began to falter, and residents started to complain that Springfield looked "old-fashioned." In response to this, the city's 62-year-old building height law was abolished, and renowned architect Pietro Belluschi designed Tower Square in the brutalist, International style, popular at the time. Tower Square stands at just over 370 feet (110 m). In 1987, the Monarch Life Insurance Company constructed Springfield's 400-foot (120 m) tall), post-modern Monarch Place. During the building's construction, the Monarch Life Insurance Company filed for bankruptcy; however, the graceful, mirrored tower still bears the former company's name despite being owned by Peter Pan Bus.
As of 2011, the 400-foot (120 m) Monarch Place remains Springfield's tallest skyscraper; however, the city's lack of numerous skyscrapers is now looked on as a positive trait by city advisors such as the Urban Land Institute, who write that Springfield's "Metro Center now stands out from its peers, most of which long ago demolished the human-scale architecture that made their downtowns livable." During Springfield's resurgence in the new millennium, prominent architects – like Moshe Safdie, who built the $57 million, 2008 U.S. Federal Court Building; Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, who built the $47 million, 2004 Basketball Hall of Fame; and TRO Jung Brannen, who are building the $110 million, 2012 adaptive reuse of Springfield's original Technical High School – adapted to Springfield's human-scale to a create monumental buildings rather than attempting to "achieve monumentalism through over-scaling," as has happened in other cities. With energy prices rising, Springfield's 1908 building height limit now seems like an idea that was far ahead of its time.
Finance board: 2004–2009
Springfield began experiencing fiscal trouble during the 1980s; however, the city's finances nearly collapsed in the first decade of the 21st century with budget shortfalls of approximately $40 million. City and state officials disagreed over the crisis' causes. The State blamed overspending relative to income by the City. City officials blamed inequities in the ways additional assistance appropriations were allocated to Springfield relative to other Massachusetts cities. Both sides were correct. Springfield was overspending relative to its income, as the Commonwealth claimed. However, Springfield officials were also correct – for every $287.66 per capita in additional assistance appropriations allocated to Boston, $176.37 per capita were allocated to Cambridge, $67.50 per capita were allocated to Worcester, and a mere $12.04 per capita were allocated to Springfield. Aside from overspending and gross inequities in State funding, other observers of Springfield's fiscal crisis noted a weak economy, years of incompetent management, and corruption in city government.
The city's financial problems had already resulted in wage freezes for city workers, cuts in city services, layoffs, and various city fee increases; however, on June 30, 2004, the Massachusetts General Court granted control of the city (including financial, personnel, and real estate matters) to the Springfield Finance Control Board. The Board was composed of three appointees by the State Secretary of Administration and Finance, Springfield's Mayor, and the President of the City Council.
The Financial Control Board (FCB) operated under the overall direction of the State Secretary of Finance and Administration. The FCB legislation included a state loan of $52 million to be paid back with future city tax receipts. A $20 million grant was originally included, but then-House Speaker Thomas Finneran eliminated that section, fearing it would invite fiscal irresponsibility among other municipalities.
The original FCB bill filed by then-Governor Mitt Romney included a suspension of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 150E, the state law that defines the collective bargaining process for public employees. (State employees are not covered by federal labor laws). Opposition from unions eliminated that section.
During the first several years of the Financial Control Board, officials concentrated on "controlling personnel costs," However, in 2006 the FCB hired the Urban Land Institute to study Springfield and then conceive a viable plan for the city's revitalization. The ULI's study and subsequent 'Plan for Springfield' resulted in significant improvements throughout Springfield's Metro Center, a dramatic citywide drop-off in crime, and a viable course for the city's continued resurgence.
On June 30, 2009, the State of Massachusetts disbanded the Finance Control Board and returned financial control to the City of Springfield
Revitalization: 2007 – June 1, 2011
From 2007 until mid-2009, Springfield pursued the National Urban Land Institute's "Plan for Springfield," which revived the city's fortunes, engendering large-scale aesthetic improvements, infrastructure investments, and construction projects. For several years, these projects renewed Springfield's traditionally robust civic pride. Despite the National Urban Land Institute's Plan's success, following the Massachusetts' Finance Board 's departure from Springfield in June 2009, the National ULI Plan was disregarded by Mayor Domenic Sarno, who purged City Hall of most of its (Boston-based) staff, which oversaw Springfield's comeback. After operating for three years without a city plan, Mayor Sarno adopted a privately funded plan known as RebuildSpringfield, which was unveiled in 2012.
During the days of the National ULI Plan, Metro Center saw the construction of numerous, new buildings, (e.g., architect Moshe Safdie's $57 million new Federal Courthouse;) and the adaptive re-use of several historic buildings, (e.g., the $110 million adaptive re-use of Springfield's original Technical High School into Massachusetts' new, high-tech Data Center). The North End continues to benefit from the construction of Baystate Health's "Hospital of the Future" – a $300 million, private construction project that will add over 550 new doctors to the facility – expected to be complete in 2012.
Concurrently, from 2007 until 2011, numerous destination events took root in Springfield, increasing liveliness in the city. These include the annual Hoop City Jazz Festival – sponsored by Springfield-headquartered Hampden Bank – which has featured blues legend, Springfielder Taj Mahal; Springfield's new, annual Gay Pride Week, which features political discussions, films, and celebrations; and the Vintage Sports Car Club of America's new, officially sponsored race, the Springfield Vintage Grand Prix, which is held on the streets of Metro Center.
Decrease in crime
Since 1997, U.S. and local crime statistics indicate that Springfield experienced a decrease in both violent crime and property crime, with both falling over 50%. Crime numbers bottomed out in 2009, increasing negligibly in 2010 and 2011. Independent sources also note Springfield's decrease in criminal activity, including Morgan Quinto's annual "United States City Crime Rankings," which also show a 50% drop-off in the city's overall crime. In 2010, Springfield ranked 51st in those rankings, in which it had once – in just 2003 – ranked 18th.
Springfield's mature economy: healthcare; higher education; and transportation
From 2007 to 2010, Springfield prospered economically in relation to its peer cities, while enduring "the worst American economic crisis since the Great Depression." Springfield is considered to have a "mature" economy, built on primarily healthcare, higher education, transportation, and to an extent, a still existent precision manufacturing center, (e.g. Smith & Wesson added 225 jobs in 2011.)
Major private medical investments have included Baystate Health's $300 million "Hospital of the Future". It has been reported that, on its completion in 2012, Baystate will hire 550 new doctors, approximately doubling the hospital's current capacity.
In 2010, two of Springfield's most prestigious higher education institutions built multimillion-dollar facilities, which opened in 2011. Springfield College constructed a $45 million multi-purpose university center, while Western New England University constructed a $40 million pharmacy school - the only such school in the region. In 2010, the University of Massachusetts Amherst moved its Urban Design graduate program to Court Square in Metro Center. In early 2011, UMass Amherst announced that it would move its popular radio station WFCR to Springfield's Main Street.
During Springfield's brief renaissance, the city's largest proposed monetary investment occurred in rail infrastructure - specifically, in the proposed, first-ever in the United States high-speed rail line. That proposal was an approximately $1 billion investment shared with the State of Connecticut and the U.S. Federal Government in the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail line. According to NHHSRail, the project's oversight body, Springfield-New Haven high-speed commuter rail will be fully functional by 2016, featuring a northern terminus at Springfield's Union Station and a southern terminus at New Haven's Union Station. It is reported that trains will reach speeds of 110 mph (180 km/h), making the Springfield-New Haven intercity commuter line the first truly "high-speed train" in the United States. Additionally, Amtrak's Vermonter runs through downtown Springfield. The Vermonter is in the process of being re-aligned to the former Montrealer route, through the more populous Pioneer Valley cities of Chicopee and Northampton, as opposed to smaller towns like Palmer.
Springfield tornado of June 1, 2011
On June 1, 2011, at approximately 4:45pm, the City of Springfield was directly hit by a tornado with wind speeds estimated at 160 mph (260 km/h), (a high-end EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale), which, according to the National Weather Service, was the 2nd largest ever to have hit New England – the 1953 tornado in Worcester, Massachusetts was slightly larger. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration called the Springfield Tornado "very significant... Noted not only for its intensity but also for the length of its continuous damage path – approximately 39 miles. The tornado was also very wide at some points, reaching a maximum width of one-half mile." According to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Springfielders were given only 10 minutes, warning that a tornado was approaching the densely populated city. CNN delayed warning of the impending tornado due to a live interview with New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, who was discussing explicit photographs of himself that he had posted online.
The Springfield Tornado disaster left four people dead, hundreds of people suffering in hospitals with injuries ranging from lightning strikes to trauma, and over 500 people homeless in the City of Springfield alone, most of whom stayed at the MassMutual Center arena and convention center. Over two weeks after the disaster, more than 250 people were still living at the MassMutual Center, homeless.
The Springfield Tornado crossed over the Connecticut River from West Springfield, Massachusetts into the City of Springfield near the Springfield Memorial Bridge. First, the tornado caused extensive damage to Springfield's Connecticut River Walk Park, deforesting much of the park's formerly lush tree canopy and removing large sections of its attractive wrought-iron fencing. Next it damaged Court Square – Springfield's historic center – ripping off parts of the Old First Church (established in 1637), and uprooting approximately half of Court Square's 200-year-old "heritage trees." Then the tornado proceeded southward down Main Street, devastating Springfield's historically Italian South End. In less than two minutes, much of the South End's commercial district – built more than a century ago and consisting of mostly brick, commercial buildings – lay in complete ruins, while the South End's recent improvements, e.g. new ornate, street lamps, were either bent or flung far from their places of origin.
After devastating the South End, the tornado moved east and headed up historic Maple Street, on and around which it caused significant damage. It seriously damaged the campus of MacDuffie School. Less than a mile eastward, large sections of Springfield College and the Old Hill neighborhood were completely destroyed, as were hundreds of homes in East Forest Park, an upper-middle-class neighborhood. East Forest Park's Cathedral High School was completely ravaged by the tornado. Due to the experience with these tornadoes, Springfield College's twelfth (and incumbent) president Dr. Richard B. Flynn of Omaha, Nebraska turned a ten-month-to-a-year restoration of campus into a ten-week project. Debris from Cathedral was found roughly 43 mi (69 km) away in Millbury, Massachusetts. Springfield's most suburban neighborhood – the upper-middle-class Sixteen Acres – also incurred significant damage. However, Sixteen Acres' newer homes did not weather the tornado any better than did Springfield's famous Victorians. The East Forest Park and Sixteen Acres neighborhoods remained without power for days. In Springfield, the tornado completely destroyed over 100 homes, made countless others structurally unsound or uninhabitable, and caused other structures deemed hazardous to be quickly demolished.
Immediately following the Springfield tornado, Governor Deval Patrick declared a "State of Emergency" for the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. That day, United States Senator from Massachusetts John F. Kerry cited city damages as "astronomical... well beyond tens of millions of dollars." As of June 18, 2011, there have been over $140 million in tornado-related insurance claims.
"Firsts" in Springfield
The City of Springfield is known as the City of Firsts because, throughout the centuries, its citizens have boldly created avante-garde products, organizations, and ideas. Today, the most famous among Springfield's "firsts" is the sport of basketball, invented in 1891 and now the world's second most popular sport. Below is a partial list of the City of Springfield's "firsts:"
- First Springfield in the New World
1636 – William Pynchon
- First Accusation of Witchcraft in the New World
1640 – Mary and Hugh Parsons
- First Meat Packer (exporting salt pork)
1641 – William Pynchon
- First banned book in the New World
1651 – William Pynchon
- First Federal Arsenal
- First Armory in the United States
1794 – Springfield Armory
- First American-Made Musket
1795 – Springfield Armory
- First American-English Dictionary
1806 – Merriam-Webster, Inc.
1820 – Thomas Blanchard
- First Modern Burning Steam Carriage
1826 –Thomas Blanchard
- First Major American History Book
1830 – George Bancroft
- First Kitchen Friction Match
1834 – Chapin & Phillips Company
- First Vulcanization of Rubber
1844 – Charles Goodyear
- First Clamp-On Ice Skate
1849 – Everett Hosmer Barney (Barney & Berry, Inc).
- First National Horse Show in United States
- First Adjustable Monkey Wrench
1854 – Bemis & Call Company
- First Show of School Colors
1855 – Harvard vs. Yale Rowing Race on the Connecticut River
- Naming of the United States Republican Party
1855 – Samuel Bowles
- First American Railroad Sleeping Car (also known as Pullman Car)
1857 – Wason Company
- First American Popular Parlor Game
1860 – The Game of Life by the Milton Bradley Company
- Pocket-Size Travel Games
1861 – Game for Soldiers by the Milton Bradley Company
- First United States Registered Bank
1863 – National Bank of Springfield
- First Producer of Supplementary Education Material for Kindergarten Education
1869 – Milton Bradley Company
- First Postcard in United States
1873 – Morgan Envelope Factory
- First Dog Show in United States
1875 – Springfield Rod & Gun Club
- First Social Service Agency in United States
1877 – Union Relief Association
- First Planned Residential Neighborhood – The McKnight Historic District
1881 – John and William McKnight
- First Music Appreciation Course
1882 – Springfield Public Schools
- First Revolver Club
- First Game of Basketball
1891 – Dr. James Naismith of Springfield College
- First Gasoline-powered Automobile
1893 – Charles E and J. Frank Duryea
- First Public Swimming Pool in United States
1899 – Forest Park
- First Successful Motorcycle
1901 – Indian Motorcycle
- First Window Envelope
1902 – U. S. Envelope Company
- First Modern, Motorized Fire Engine
1905 – Knox Automobile
- First Modern, Motorized Fire Department
1907 – Springfield Fire Department
- First Camp Fire Girls
1910 – Charlotte Guilick
- First Factory Air Conditioning
1911 – Bosch Magneto Company
- First Agricultural Course
1912 – Hampden County Improvement League
- First Physical Education Course
1912 – International Y. M. C. A. College (Springfield College)
- First Basketball
1912 – Victor Sporting Goods Company of Springfield
- First American Military Regiment Decorated by a Foreign Power (France, with Croix de Guerre)
1918 – 104th Infantry Regiment
- First Community Chest
- First Junior Achievement
1919 – Horace A. Moses
- First Rolls Royce American Automobile Plant
1920 – Frederick Royce
- First Commercial Radio Station in United States
1921 – WBZA, located at The Hotel Kimball
- First Test Market for Frozen Foods
1930 – Clarence Birdseye
- First American Built Planetarium
1937 – Springfield Science Museum
- First Fluorescent Lighting System
1939 – Springfield Armory
- First American Discount Store
1949 – King's
- First UHF TV Station in United States
1953 – WWLP-22News
History of Springfield, Massachusetts Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.