Hadley Falls Dam, Holyoke, Mass

The Hadley Falls Dam on the Connecticut River, on the border of Holyoke and South Hadley, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

As mentioned in the previous post, Holyoke is the site of the largest waterfall on the Connecticut River, with a drop of 58 feet. This made the location ideal for large-scale industrial development, and during the mid-19th century Holyoke was transformed into a prosperous manufacturing center. The first dam was built here in 1848, but it was poorly constructed, and it failed just hours after the gates were closed. However, a new dam was constructed the following year. It was built of wood, extending 1,017 feet across the river, and was 30 feet tall, with timbers that were firmly anchored four feet deep into the bedrock beneath the river.

This second dam proved far more durable than its short-lived predecessor, and it remained in use for the rest of the 19th century. However, by the early 1890s there was a need for a new dam, this time built of stone. Construction began in 1892, with the new dam being located 150 feet downstream of the old one. It took three years just to excavate the bottom of the river, and the work involved the removal of some 13,000 cubic yards of bedrock. Construction of the dam itself began around 1896, and it was comprised of a combination of rubble stone taken from the riverbed downstream of the dam, along with quarried granite blocks from Vinalhaven, Maine. The work was done in several different stages, as described in a 1900 article in the Journal of the Association of Engineering Societies:

The dam was constructed in four sections, the south end and a center section just north of the drain channel being built up for a considerable height first. Then a coffer dam was built on the first level of the north channel, thus turning the water through the center channel, while a section of dam 5 feet high was constructed behind it. The coffer was then transferred to the center channel, and a section 10 feet high built in that opening. In this way the alternate sections were built in until the structure was complete. The cost of the entire work is said to have been between $600,000 and $700,000.

Upon completion in 1900, the dam measured 1,020 feet across the river, and is said to have been the longest dam in the world at the time. The first photo was taken sometime soon after its completion, and shows water pouring over the top of the dam. On the far right is part of the Carew Manufacturing Company, a paper mill that was located on the South Hadley side of the dam, and in the distance on the right side is Mount Tom, with the Summit House prominently visible atop the 1,202-foot traprock mountain.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, both the Carew factory and the Summit House are gone. However, the dam itself is still here, after having survived a number of major floods during the 20th century. Holyoke is no longer the major industrial city that it once was, but the dam and the canal system are still used to generate power. Both are now operated by the city-owned Holyoke Gas & Electric, with the hydroelectric generators here at the dam provide a significant portion of Holyoke’s electricity.

Carew Manufacturing Company, South Hadley, Mass

The Hadley Falls Dam and the Carew Manufacturing Company, as seen from the Route 116 bridge over the Connecticut River on the border of Holyoke and South Hadley, in 1936. Image taken by Lewis Hine, courtesy of the U. S. National Archives.

The scene in 2017:

At over 400 miles in length, the Connecticut River is, by far, the longest river in New England, and flows north to south through the region, from the border of Canada all the way to Long Island Sound. It passes over a number of rapids and waterfalls during its course, the largest of which is here on the border of Holyoke and South Hadley, Massachusetts, with a drop of 58 feet. This is also the last major waterfall on the river, and throughout the colonial era it was a major obstacle to river navigation, requiring a costly 2.5-mile portage around the falls.

This problem was partially solved in 1795, when a canal opened on the South Hadley side of the river. It was located on the other side of where the mill buildings stood in the first photo, and it was the first navigable canal in the country, predating longer and more famous ones like the Erie Canal by several decades. However, by the middle of the 19th century, railroads had replaced canals as the most important form of inland transportation, and the South Hadley Canal ultimately closed in 1862.

With the decline of river transportation, along with the rise of industry, this waterfall began to be seen as a major asset, rather than as an obstacle. Industrial development began in the early 19th century, with mills on the South Hadley side, but the most dramatic change to this area came in the the middle of the century. The west side of the river, once a part of West Springfield, was incorporated as Holyoke in 1850, and was developed into a major industrial center. This included the construction of a dam across the river, an extensive power canal system through Holyoke, and a number of large factory complexes.

As a result, Holyoke’s industrial development quickly outpaced that of its older neighbor on the other side of the river. However, South Hadley continued to operate several factories of its own, including two paper mills on the right side of the dam. The one closest to the dam was the Carew Manufacturing Company, and was established in 1848. Its original factory burned in 1873, but it was subsequently replaced by the brick building in the first photo, and produced writing paper for many years. Just to the right of the Carew factory was the Hampshire Paper Company, which was built in the early 1860s and produced the well-known Old Hampshire Bond writing paper.

The first photo was taken in 1936, by prominent photographer and social reformer Lewis Hine. It was in the midst of the Great Depression at the time, and Hine was traveling around the country documenting its effects. He made a visit to Holyoke, where he photographed many of the mills, and he wrote the following caption about this scene:

Mt. Holyoke, Massachusetts – Scenes. The dam: The Connecticut River: the old and famous Hampshire bond manufacturing plant, recently bought by its neighbor, Carew Manufacturing. Also an old and independent mill; founder paternalistic enough to build a church which still stands, enough local feeling to employ from South Hadley because on the Hadley side of the River – Carew Manufacturing Company, 1936

As Hine mentioned in his description, the Hampshire Paper Company closed in 1935, and the property was acquired by the Carew Manufacturing Company. However, the old Hampshire mill was later owned by Stevens Paper Mills, Inc., and it stood here until it was demolished around 1970. In the meantime, the Carew mill was purchased by Texon in 1948, and it produced a variety of goods until it closed in 1986. The property was later sold to Holyoke Gas & Electric, but the historic mill stood vacant for many years before finally being demolished around 2012.

Today, all of the mills from the first photo are gone, but otherwise the scene is still easily recognizable from the first photo. The dam, which was completed in 1900, is still there, and it still provides hydroelectric power for the city of Holyoke. Further in the distance, Mount Tom still forms the backdrop of this scene, although it now features a number of broadcast transmitters atop the 1,202-foot summit. These are hardly visible in the 2017 photo, though, and the only other addition to this scene is the Joseph E. Muller Bridge, which carries U. S. Route 202 across the river just upstream of the dam.

Hadley Company Mills, Holyoke, Mass (2)

The Hadley Company Mills, seen from the Route 116 bridge over the Third Level Canal in Holyoke, in 1936. Image taken by Lewis Hine, courtesy of the U. S. National Archives.

The scene in 2017:

As mentioned in the previous post, this mill complex was built starting in the late 1840s, and was originally owned by the Hadley Falls Company, which was responsible for developing Holyoke into a major industrial center. The company built the dam on the Connecticut River, along with the extensive canal system that powered the factories, including the Third Level Canal, which is seen here. In addition, the Hadley Falls Company built a large group of worker tenement houses, directly across the canal from this factory.

The canal system, along with many of the buildings that the Hadley Falls Company constructed, are still standing today. However, despite its profound influence in the history of Holyoke, the company proved to be very short-lived. The Panic of 1857, and the subsequent economic recession, hit the company hard, and in 1859 its assets were sold at auction. The company was literally sold for pennies on the dollar, with shareholders receiving just $1.32 for each $100 share, and its property was acquired by the Holyoke Water Power Company.

By 1863, this mill complex was used by the Hadley Company, a thread manufacturer that produced a variety of threads, yarns, and twine. It is hard to tell when each section of the facility was built, but the part in the left side – with the gabled roof and dormer windows – appears to have been the oldest section. The section on the right side does not appear in an 1853 map of Holyoke, but it was added by 1870. However, the top two floors have a different shade of bricks, suggesting that they may have been added at a later date.

The Hadley Company continued to produce thread here in this facility until 1898, when it was one of many thread manufacturers that were consolidated into the American Thread Company. It continued to be run as a division of American Thread for the next 30 years, but it closed in 1928, with about a thousand workers losing their jobs on the eve of the Great Depression. The first photo was taken only about eight years later, by prominent photographer and social reformer Lewis Hine. He documented life across the country during the Great Depression, including a visit to Holyoke, where he photographed a number of mills and their employees.

By the mid-20th century, the former Hadley Company mills were the home of Graham Manufacturing Company, which was later acquired by Johnson & Johnson. Today, the mill buildings on the property have several different owners, but the main building here on the canal has not seen many changes in more than 80 years since the first photo was taken. Overall, the only significant alterations to the exterior have been the loss of the cupola and the addition of what appears to be an elevator shaft, just to the left of the fire escape on the right side.

Hadley Company Mills, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north toward the Hadley Company mills, from the corner of Canal and Center Streets in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The caption of the first photo reads “Twelve o’clock at the Hadley Mills,” and it shows a group of workers leaving the Hadley Company thread mill in Holyoke, evidently on their lunch break. The factory is among the oldest in Holyoke, and was built around the late 1840s by the Hadley Falls Company. This company played a major role in turning Holyoke into a prosperous industrial center, including building the dam and canal system, but it was hit hard by the Panic of 1857 and the subsequent recession. The company’s assets were liquidated in 1859, and were subsequently acquired by the newly-established Holyoke Water Power Company.

In 1863, these mills here on Canal Street became the Hadley Company, a thread manufacturer that had no direct connection to its similarly-named predecessor. It was part of Holyoke’s booming textile industry, producing a variety of threads, yarns, and twine, and by 1879 it had an annual output of 727,315 pounds of yarn. Like most of Holyoke’s industries during this time, the company relied heavily on immigrant labor, and many workers lived in the nearby tenement rowhouses on the other side of Canal Street.

The Hadley Company was acquired by the American Thread Company in 1898, at a time when many industries were consolidating into large corporations. This mill was operated as a division of American Thread for the next few decades, but it was closed in 1928, leaving about a thousand workers unemployed on the eve of the Great Depression. At the time, the New England textile industry was in decline, and the nearby Lyman Mills here in Holyoke had closed just a year earlier, leaving a similar number of unemployed workers. However, it would only get worse for Holyoke, which would continue to lose its industrial base throughout the mid- to late-20th century.

By the 1940s, this mill complex had become the home of the Graham Manufacturing Company, which was later acquired by Johnson & Johnson. Today, the former Hadley Company property has a variety of different owners, but many of the historic mill buildings are still standing, including the three in this scene. The building in the center has lost its cupola, and the fence in the foreground is long gone, but otherwise the scene is still easily recognizable from the first photo 125 years ago.

Hadley Falls Company Worker Housing, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on Center Street from the corner of Lyman Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Holyoke was once the sparsely-settled northern section of West Springfield, but in the mid-19th century it developed into a major industrial center, thanks to its location at a major waterfall on the Connecticut River. The Hadley Falls Company played a key role in this transition, including constructing a dam and an extensive canal system to provide water power for the factories that were soon to be built. These projects were completed in the late 1840s, around the same time that the Hadley Falls Company built a mill, which can be seen in the distance in the center of these photos.

The mill was accompanied by a group of tenement rowhouses for workers, as shown in this scene. These were constructed starting around 1848, and a total of six buildings would eventually be completed. However, an 1853 map shows only four, with one on each side of the block bounded by Center, Canal, Grover, and Lyman Streets. This included the one on the left side of Center Street, but the one on the right did not appear on the map. However, it was evidently completed a year or two later, because it appears on the 1855 map of Hampden County. Both buildings had similar Greek Revival-style architecture, although the ones on the right were evidently not built with dormer windows, as the first photo indicates.

The Report of the History and Present Condition of the Hadley Falls Company, published in 1853, provides the following description of these tenements:

Convenient boarding-houses are erected for the use of the operatives. These are owned by the company, and rented, at comparatively low rates, to respectable keepers. They are built of brick, in the most substantial style, and are supplied with all the usual conveniences of modern dwelling-houses.

The report goes on to describe the regulations that residents were required to follow:

The tenants of the boarding-houses are no to board, or permit any part of their houses to be occupied by any person not in the employ of the manufacturing department of the Hadley Falls Company, without special permission; and when required, give an account of the number, names, and employment of their boarders, and report the names of such as are guilty of improper conduct.

They will be considered answerable for any improper conduct in the house, and not permit their boarders to have company at unseasonable hours.

The doors to be closed at ten o’clock in the evening. They are also requested not to allow their boarders or other persons to collect on the front steps, or side-walk in front of the tenement.

The buildings, yards, and front walk of each tenement must be kept clean and in good order; and if injured, otherwise than from ordinary use, all necessary repairs will be made and charged to the occupant.

The rents must be paid monthly, and within three days after the operatives have been paid in the factory.

The Holyoke Water Power Company later took over operation of the dam and the canals from the Hadley Falls Company, following the economic recession caused by the Panic of 1857. By the 1860s, the mills and tenements were acquired by the similarly-named Hadley Company. It was part of Holyoke’s lucrative textile industry, and produced a variety of threads, yarns, and twine at the mill in the distance. The first photo was taken several decades later, and shows a group of young children, presumably the children of the mill workers, walking along Center Street.

The 1900 census shows ten families living in the tenements on the right side, and 14 on the left. The vast majority of these families were immigrants, with most coming from Ireland or Quebec. For example, the rowhouse at 20 Center Street, closest to the camera on the right side of the photo, was rented by Bridget Barrett, a 65-year-old widow who had arrived in the United States in 1865. She was widowed by 1900, and only two of her five children were still alive. These two daughters, Mary and Bridget, had been born in England, and were only a few years old when they immigrated to the United States. Mary was 38 and unmarried during the census, and the younger Bridget was, like her mother, a widow with two surviving children. At the time, Mary worked as an inspector in the thread mills, the younger Bridget was a nurse, and her 17-year-old son James was a spinner at the thread mills.

On the other side of the street, the rowhouse on the far left at 15 Center Street was occupied by two families. One unit was the home of John and Susan Platt, and their son Edward. All three were born in England and came to the United States in 1890, and by 1900 John was working as a machinist and Edward as a paper cutter. The other unit at 15 Center Street was evidently more crowded. It was the home of Pierre and Christian Chartier, French-Canadian immigrants who arrived in 1896. They had a total of 11 children, nine of whom were still alive by 1900. Of these, seven were living here during the census, with ages that ranged from 12 to 26. The youngest child was still in school, but the rest were working at nearby mills, with jobs that included cotton spoolers, a tailor, a paper sorter, and a cotton spinner. In addition, the family also lived here with a 24-year-old French-Canadian boarder, who also worked in the mills as a spooler.

In the meantime, the Hadley Company had been acquired by the American Thread Company in 1898. The mill remained in operation as the Hadley Division of the company, but it closed in 1928, leaving about a thousand employees out of work on the eve of the Great Depression. Over the years, Holyoke’s industrial base would continue to decline, along with its population. The 1920 census recorded just over 60,000 residents, but this number would steadily drop throughout the rest of the 20th century, eventually dropping below 40,000 in the 2000 census.

During this time, many mills and other historic buildings were abandoned, and a number of them have since been demolished. However, the Hadley Company mills and the adjacent worker tenements have, for the most part, survived relatively well-preserved. One of the tenements, which had been located along Canal Street between Center and Grover Streets, is now gone, but the other five have survived. The ones here on Center Street were restored in the 1970s, and today the scene does not look substantially different from its appearance 125 years ago, aside from the addition of the dormer windows on the right side. These buildings, along with the other three tenement buildings, now comprise the Hadley Falls Company Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Connecticut River Railroad Station, Holyoke, Mass

The Connecticut River Railroad station, seen from the corner of Bowers and Mosher Streets in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Railroads came to Holyoke in 1845, when the Connecticut River Railroad opened from Springfield to Northampton. This coincided with the area’s development into a major industrial center, and within a few years the canal system was completed and the first few mills were operational. The first passenger station was a small wood-frame building at the corner of Main and Dwight Streets, near where the modern Amtrak station is located, and it remained in use for about 40 years. However, Holyoke’s population grew exponentially during this time, from around 3,200 in the 1850 census, to over 21,000 by 1880, and the original station had become inadequate for the needs of the city.

In 1885, the Connecticut River Railroad opened a new passenger station here on the east side of the tracks, bounded by Mosher, Bowers, and Lyman Streets. It was designed by Henry H. Richardson, who was one of the most important American architects of the 19th century, and it was one of the many railroad stations that he designed across the state during the early 1880s. Richardson was a pioneer of Romanesque Revival style architecture, and his station incorporated many common elements, including the rough-faced granite exterior, the brownstone trim, a complex roofline, and arched windows.

On the interior, the central part of the station included the main waiting room, which occupied about half of the ground floor. There was also a separate ladies’ waiting room, and a room that, on the original floor plans, was labeled “Emigrant’s Room.” The latter was evidently used to screen and administer smallpox vaccinations to incoming immigrants, who comprised a large portion of Holyoke’s population during this time. Other facilities inside the building included a baggage room, a ticket office, and a telegraph office, along with several restrooms.

The first photo was taken around 1892, only a few years after the station was completed, and it shows the view from the southeast, from the corner of Bowers and Mosher Streets. About a year later, in 1893, the Connecticut River Railroad was acquired by the Boston and Maine Railroad, and the station became part of an extensive rail network that spread across northern New England. During this time, the station continued to play an important role as the point of arrival for many immigrants to Holyoke, including large numbers of French-Canadians who traveled south along the railroad from Quebec, in search of jobs in the factories here.

The station remained in use throughout the first half of the 20th century. However, Holyoke’s economy began to decline by the middle of the century, with many of the factories closing or relocating. Passenger rail travel suffered as well, both here in Holyoke and in the country as a whole. Cars and airplanes began replacing trains, and ridership continued to decline. The station closed in 1965, and passenger service on the line ended just a year later.

Following its closure, the former station was converted into an auto parts store, and at some point the platforms were enclosed on the southern side of the building. Passenger service would not return to Holyoke until 2015, after Amtrak’s Vermonter was rerouted through the city, but the plans did not involve restoration of the old station. Instead, a new one, consisting of just a single covered platform, opened a little to the south of here, near where the original 1845 station had stood. In the meantime, the old station has been vacant since at least the early 2000s. It is currently owned by Holyoke Gas and Electric, and has been the subject of various redevelopment proposals, although none of these have begun yet.