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Northampton at 350: The Celebration Has Begun

Three hundred and fifty years ago, a group of western Massachusetts Puritan farmers purchased an attractive tract of rich farm land from the Nonotuck Indians for the price of 100 fathom of wampum, 10 coats and a handful of trinkets.
They called it Northampton.

Throughout 2004, as Northampton hosts a series of events celebrating its 350th anniversary, Smith College is a substantial part of that celebration. The yearlong series includes an impressive docket of lectures, parties, exhibitions, concerts, tours, sporting events and a fireworks display. A high point of the festivities will include a carillon concert at Smith on Saturday, June 5, followed by the 350th anniversary convocation in John M. Greene Hall, and concluding with a citywide ringing of bells. On Sunday, June 6, a parade will proceed past the college and through downtown.
Since its founding by Hatfield resident Sophia Smith and its opening in 1875, Smith College has become a prominent institutional citizen of Northampton, contributing to the area's vast cultural palette by bringing renowned lecturers and performers to town and employing more than a thousand residents from the city and surrounding communities.

"The health of the college and the health of the city are intertwined," said Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins in a recent interview. "The college enriches the cultural life of the city, and the people it pulls here to visit, teach, perform, lecture. At the same time, North­ampton is an attractive host community for Smith."
With that symbiosis in mind, Smith College plays a suitably significant role in the anniversary celebration of the city. In February, the college staged a reenactment of the first women's basketball game, in Ainsworth Gymnasium. Smith athletes donned bloomers and bulky shirts for the game, which simulated the original game held at Smith on March 22, 1893.

Plans are under way to take that basketball game reenactment literally to the streets during the 350th anniversary parade on June 6, when Smith will sponsor a float with that historic game as its theme.

Meanwhile, the college is making available some of its many lecture spaces in support of the anniversary. On April 11, as part of a yearlong lecture series in conjunction with the anniversary, Smith hosted "Voices from an American Utopia: The Stetson Family and the Northampton Association," an afternoon panel in which Stetson family descendants read excerpts from family letters written in the 1840s. On May 2, in Leo Weinstein Auditorium (formerly Wright Hall Auditorium), the series continues with "Divisions Throughout the Whole: Northampton in the Revolution," by Gregory Nobles, professor of history at the Georgia Institute of Technology and author of Divisions Throughout the Whole: Politics and Society in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, 1740-1775, cosponsored by Historic Northampton. The lecture series, which is also sponsored by Smith's history department, will continue through Sunday, December 5.
Smith is supporting a variety of other events as well. The college joined the Walk 'n Mass Volkssport Club on April 18, in sponsoring a historic walk through campus and around the central part of town. On May 7, the Smith College Museum of Art will open an exhibition, "Wish You Were Here: Picturing Northampton," which will feature the work of 10 Northampton photographers. On Saturday, October 2, Karen Smith Emerson, professor of music, and Grant Moss, college organist, will perform a "Jenny Lind Reenactment Concert" in Sweeney Concert Hall.

Smith's collaboration with the city on its 350th anniversary marks another milestone of college-city cooperation that has grown since the college first opened its doors.

"I am delighted with the support and enthusiasm of so many members of the Smith College community for the 350th anniversary of Northampton," says Judi Marksbury, associate director of college relations and the Smith liaison to the Northampton 350th Anniversary Steering Committee. "Their involvement has generated relevant and fun programming, which brings the college and the Northampton community together in new and beneficial ways."

For a complete listing of events celebrating Northampton's 350th anniversary, consult www.gazettenet. com/350. -- ESW

 
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