The 5th Hampden District comprises the City of Holyoke

The City of Holyoke is one of the first planned industrial cities in the world. A 57-foot drop in the Connecticut River proved to be an ideal location for capturing the power of the River when investors dammed the River in mid 1800s. The power from this dam fed reliable and inexpensive power through a network of canals to immense complexes of mill buildings.

The resulting combination of inexpensive power, reliable transportation and a steady influx of workers allowed Holyoke to become the global center of paper production. For more than a century, the City’s economic center was tightly linked with the Connecticut River, as can be observed in the City’s historical manufacturing core. The Connecticut River and Mount Tom/East Mountain range frame Holyoke, which can be found midway between the Vermont and Connecticut state borders.

The City is the third largest community in the Greater Springfield Metropolitan Statistical Area, after Springfield itself and Chicopee. Holyoke is on the west bank of the Connecticut River, with South Hadley and Chicopee across the river to the east and Easthampton, Southampton, and Westfield on the City’s western boundary, and West Springfield on the City’s southern border. With its topographically and naturally defined borders, Holyoke exists as geographically distinct community. Holyoke is a densely populated city of 22.44 square miles (14,367 acres).

Most of its 39,880 residents live east of Mount Tom, in the historical urban, industrial, and commercial portion of the City. In contrast to the urban core, West Holyoke, located on the west side of East Mountain, is a small, mostly rural/ agricultural section of the City. In addition to its considerable Connecticut River frontage and the dam, Holyoke has two other major regional environmental resources: Mount Tom and the Barnes Aquifer. Mount Tom and its southerly extension, East Mountain, create the western half of the striking mountain range that bisects Massachusetts’ Connecticut River Valley; the Holyoke Range is their eastern side counterpart.

Today, Holyoke strongly reflects its industrial and cultural history, with many of the mills and associated housing still standing in and near the downtown. The City still follows, in large part, the original plan proposed by the developers of the City. More recent development has filled in much of the area between the downtown and the mountains, leaving the City with a dense urban Core and a less densely developed mountain range and western half of the City.

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