An extremely brief history of South Hadley Falls
The Falls is a neighborhood in the southwestern corner of South Hadley. It has a rich history, intertwined with the Connecticut River and the industries of Holyoke. South Hadley Falls is so named because of the 53-foot drop in the Connecticut River. This is the site of the first navigable canal in the United States; the canal was operational from 1795 to 1862.
In its heyday, the Falls was home to many people who worked in the mills in Holyoke or in small businesses in the neighborhood. Over the past few decades, however, changes have happened in the Falls. Among other factors, industry has been declining in Holyoke, small businesses in the Falls have closed, and both commercial and residential development have focused primarily on the mid-section and center of South Hadley.
Revitalizing the Falls has been a goal in South Hadley for years, but it’s been difficult to figure out where to begin. South Hadley was selected as a 2012 recipient of the Sustainable Design Assessment Team program of the American Institute of Architects’ Center for Communities by Design. The town received expert advice and recommendations about improving environmental, economic, and residential conditions in the Falls. One of these recommendations was that the Falls needed a neighborhood group to promote community spirit and to advocate for changes to happen.
Thus was born the South Hadley Falls Neighborhood Association, founded by Falls residents Adam Roberts and Gillian Woldorf. SHFNA met for the first time on May 14, 2012, just a few short weeks after South Hadley’s SDAT visit. Not even two months weeks later, SHFNA hosted a community block party to celebrate the Falls and the unveiling of the Youth Commission’s mural at Beachgrounds Park.
Many changes have occurred in the Falls even in the past two years. The new South Hadley Public Library building on Canal Street is practically complete. Nearby, the derelict Texon and Fibermark buildings were finally demolished in the spring of 2014. South Hadley now has a Redevelopment Authority to facilitate economic and residential development throughout town, with a focus on the Falls. And the sights, sounds, and smells of FallsFest have delighted the public in Beachgrounds Park. SHFNA is proud to be not only a co-sponsor of this fantastic event, but also to have inspired it with our first block party.
These are certainly major accomplishments toward improving the Falls, and yet we know we have a long way to go. We would be honored to have you (yes, you!) along for the ride.
last updated July 10, 2014