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