About Northampton, MA

In 1851, opera singer Jenny Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale", declared Northampton, MA to be the "Paradise of America". Among the city's famous residents are: author William Cullen Bryant, the fire and brimstone preacher Jonathan Edwards; the ascetic health guru Sylvester Graham, namesake of the Graham Cracker; children's author and illustrator Eric Carle, Sojourner Truth, African American abolitionist and orator; Lydia Maria Child, authoress of the Thanksgiving poem "Over the River and Through the Woods"; musicians Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Chris Collingwood of Fountains of Wayne; Calvin Coolidge, who served as mayor of Northampton before becoming governor of Massachusetts and U.S. president.

The Northampton City motto appears at the bottom: caritas, educatio, justitia, which means Caring, Education, and Justice. These are three themes that continue to be important to the people who make their homes here.

Northampton, MA is renowned as an arts and entertainment destination in Western Massachusetts, named “Number One Best Small Arts Town in America” by author John Villani and one of the “Top 25 Arts Destinations” in the nation by AmericanStyle magazine.

Look Park, consisting of over one hundred & fifty acres, is located on the Berkshire Trail (Route 9) in the Florence section of Northampton, Massachusetts, in the heart of the Pioneer Valley.

It hosts attractions, concerts and several special events. Open 365 Days per year for all to enjoy.

Northampton is a city located in Hampshire County, Massachusetts. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 28,978. It is the county seat of Hampshire County. Inclusive within the city limits are the villages of Florence and Leeds.


Gina-Louise Sciarra

Mayor, Gina-Louise Sciarra

210 Main Street, Room 12, Northampton, MA 01060

Mayor's Office Hours
Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Phone: 413.587.1249

Fax: 413.587.1275

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Northampton's founders, though strongly Puritan in conviction, were drawn to the area more by accounts of abundant tillable land and ease of trade with the Indians than by the religious concerns that characterized their brethren in eastern Massachusetts. In May 1653, 24 persons petitioned the General Court for permission to "plant, possess and inhabit Nonotuck." Northampton was settled in 1654 on a low rise above the rich meadowlands by the Connecticut River. Relations between settlers and Native Americans, though initially cooperative, became increasingly strained, culminating in King Philip's War in 1675, when Chief Metacomet's uprising was put down by the English.

Though Northampton grew as a trade and marketing center in the 18th century, religious fervor was quickened by the ministry of Jonathan Edwards whose preaching sparked the religious revivals of the Great Awakening in the 1740's. The Revolutionary War produced heroes like General Seth Pomeroy. The economic upheavals in the wake of the war moved Daniel Shays and his followers into open rebellion on the eve of the Constitutional Convention. A delegate to the Convention, Caleb Strong became Massachusett's first senator and an eleven-term governor.

In the early 19th century, great hopes were raised by the prospect of the Northampton-New Haven Canal, but shareholders never recouped their investment and the coming of the railroad signaled the end of the company. Other industries grew and prospered, including the utopian community of the Northampton Association, which combined radical abolitionism with a communally owned and operated silk mill. Sojourner Truth was, at one time, a member of that community which included William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass among its circle of supporters. Other reformers included Sylvester Graham, diet and health food enthusiast and inventor of the Graham cracker, and abolitionist Lydia Maria Child.

19th century Northampton drew visitors like Timothy Dwight, the Marquis de Lafayette, Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Jenny Lind who proclaimed it to be the "paradise of America." Indeed, artists like Thomas Cole thought the environs of Northampton to be the epitome of the "picturesque" - the ideal middle landscape between the sordid city and wild nature.

Northampton was the site of a number of schools and educational institutions. Historian George Bancroft established the Round Hill School in 1823 and Smith College opened its doors in 1871. Author George Washington Cable founded the Home Culture Clubs in 1892, and the Hill Institute sponsored one of the earliest kindergartens in America. The Northampton Law School sent one of its students, Franklin Pierce on to the Presidency. Northampton was also the home of Calvin Coolidge, who became President in 1923.

Northampton's streets follow, essentially, the same paths that were laid out in the 17th century. There are a number of surviving 18th century structures in and around Northampton. The downtown district retains its 19th century character. The modest fortunes of local merchants and industrialists financed numerous Victorian mansions and picturesque cottages as well as the commercial blocks in the Downtown Historic District. Northampton possesses two fine 19th century residential neighborhoods, Pomeroy Terrace (1850-1885) and Elm Street (1860-1920), where Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival Styles contribute to the City's diverse architectural heritage.


The old state mental hospital grounds, once wild, overgrown boarded up buildings is now being developed. "Cider House Rules" was filmed here. People find it beautiful to walk around. There is a circular loop that goes through farm fields and woods and is a perfect place to walk your dog. The grounds are in the permanently protected agricultural area (400 acres) of the site.


In addition to the nightly lectures and performances held on Smith’s campus and around town, there are also lots of local options for informal learning from yoga to arts and crafts. Look at the bulletin boards around town and pick up a local paper. The City of Northampton, MA has so much to offer. It's no wonder why we're the "Paradise City".