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early 1950's:

  • Prof. Walter Banfield of the University of Mass begins work on the Metacomet - Monadnoc Trail. This is from an AMC history:

    "This long-distance footpath originates in Connecticut and provides a continuous route through the Connecticut River Valley of central Mass to its northern terminus on the summit of Mt. Monadnoc in southwest NH. At the summit of Mt. Monadnoc it connects with the Monadnoc Sunapee Greenway providing a continuous hiking trail of over 200 miles. The Metacomet Trail enters Mass from Connecticut near the Agawam and Southwick town lines at which point it becomes the Metacomet - Monadnoc Trail. It then heads north parallel to and west of the Connecticut River to Mt. Tom. Here the trail turns east can be picked up on the opposite bank of the Connecticut River at the foot of the Mt. Holyoke Range and Skinner St. Park. The trail traverses this unusual east-west range of hills before heading north again along the eastern margins of the Pioneer Valley to the NH state Line.

    This 117 mile path was conceived and laid out in the early 1950's by Prof. Walter Banfield of the University of Mass. Amherst in response to requests from Connecticut hikers to extend the trail northward. Prof. Banfield worked with the Appalachian Mt. Club (AMC), the Green Mountain Club, the Mettawampee University of Mass Faculty Club, and other groups to connect existing paths and carriage roads. The trail is still maintained by volunteer efforts of the Berkshire Chapter of the AMC, college and school outing clubs, local trail enthusiasts and the newly formed Pioneer Valley Trail Conference."

    1950:

  • Plans to repair the tramway put on hold until 1951.

    1951:

  • In May William and Elizabeth Skinner donate old hotel registers covering 1822-1923 to the Northampton Historical Society.

  • In July the State announced it had completed a new section of road between the main gate and Halfway Area. Though it has a steep grade it eliminates two hairpin turns on the 1909 layout. The road is now paved from the gate to the Halfway Area.

    1952:

  • The road from the Halfway Area to the summit is paved.

  • Plans to repair the tramway have progressed little.

    1954:

  • The B&M Construction Co. opens a gravel pit on the Range. It's located off RT-47 in Hadley.

    1955:

  • In January architect Andrew Hepburn toured Skinner State Park with DNR officials. Preliminary discussions propose a large 600-car parking lot on RT-47 with a tow-line to the Halfway Area. Most of the historic Summit House would be demolished and replaced with a modern structure. Costs for the new summit house and tramway are $750,000.

  • Yankee magazine devotes a section of their August issue to the old tramway.

  • In November the State announced the old covered tramway will probably be removed the next spring. There is concern another heavy snowfall will cause the section close to the Summit House to collapse pulling away the front of the Summit House with it. No work can be done until a 2400 volt electrical line feeding the State Police radio shack can be relocated.

    1956:

  • In May the State Dept of Natural Resources [DNR] hires the prestigious architectural firm of Perry, Shaw, Hepburn, Koheo, and Dean to draw up preliminary plans for a new summit house.

  • These plans include saving as much of the old structure was possible.

  • In July the DNR reports that preliminary sketches have been drawn up. The plans call for demolishing most of the historic Summit House but saving the lobby.

  • The Town of Hadley passes a law prohibiting the removal of gravel from the Range but the B&M open pit operation is apparently grandfathered.

  • In September Senators Ralph Mahar of Orange and Maurice Donahue of Holyoke file a joint bill for $850,000 for the new summit house and the reconstruction of the tramway.

    1957:

  • In February the two State Senators continue to push a bill seeking $850,000 for reconstruction of tramway and Summit House. The bill is signed by the Governor in August of that year. In November Perry, Shaw, Hepburn, and Dean are hired to finalize plans.

  • The US Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) builds a massive underground headquarters for the 8th Air Force at the Notch in Hadley. During the Kennedy administration it was converted to a Post Attack Command And Control System at which time the facility was expanded. It provided commanders from SAC's Eigth Air Force based at Westover with shelter to conduct operations, both pre- or post-nuclear attack.

    The PACCS system consisted of "Looking Glass" located in Offutt AFB in Nebraska and the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP). There was also a network of auxiliary command posts for each Air Force. These auxiliary ground based command posts were matched with airborne command posts. One was located at Westover Field. This hardened three-story bunker complex featured three-foot thick walls, 1.5 foot thick steel blast doors, and was twenty feet underground. In the event of a nuclear war it could house 350 people for 35 days. The Notch bunker was closed in 1970 when it was moved to Grissom AFB, Indiana.

    The Notch facility like the giant NORAD complex at Cheyenne Mountain had four redundant communications channels, two microwave and two buried cables. One microwave transmitter to Westover AFB was located on the top of Bare Mountain. A second microwave path was to another hardened AUTOVON switching bunker in Chesterfield. At the height of the Cold War, the Defense Department began to construct a long-distance telephone system that would survive enemy attack thus providing give command and control capabilities. It was dubbed Dod's "Automatic Voice Network". AUTOVON used its own network of trunk lines usually built by AT&T.

    The above is not a real photograph per se. It was derived from film the USAF shot at the Notch Bunker in 1963. This film was once classified. As the camera panned from left to right, select frames were captured and merged together using special software. Source: National Archives.

    1958:

  • In January the Mt. Holyoke College Outing Club's Cabin, originally built in 1929, is destroyed by fire. The site can be found by taking an unmarked trail about 500' above the main gate at Skinner State. Park. All that remains is a large fireplace/chimney and a foundation. The "trail", known to some as the Goat Trek, used to continue on to the ridge but was discontinued about 20 years ago.

  • In August the architects reveal their final plans for a modernistic structure. Plans for the new summit house and tramway rise to over $1 million dollars. State refuses to appropriate the funds. But $50,000 is appropriated for temporary repairs to the Summit House. If any one has better pictures of these architectural models, please write me

    1960...

  • The Holyoke Water Power Company builds the Mt. Tom Station, a 136,000-kW coal electric generating plant.

    1961:

  • In June Arnold Howard, chief of recreation, announced the State was abandoning the 1958 plan to build a new summit house because of high costs. Since '58 some $23,000 had been spent to successfully stabilize the existing Summit House with more improvements on the way. That summer the State announced numerous improvements for the summit area including a new ramp from the upper parking lot to the Summit House and a "woodland picnic area".

  • On the urging of the citizens and the and South Hadley Conservation Society [SHCS], the State also announced a new cooperative project with the SHCS, and the US Dept of the Interior to study the historical, archaeological, recreational, and economic features of the Range.

    TODAY A GIANT SCAR IS BEING HACKED into the north side of the Mount Holyoke Range. The B and M Construction company of Hadley is removing gravel and rock from the mountain and leaving permanent scars to mar the beauty of the mountainside. This photo was taken from Hockanum Road on Route 47. The firm began its operations in 1954 and the Town of Hadley passed a law prohibiting the removal of gravel, etc, from the range in 1956, but evidently the law did not cover B&M because it started its operations before the law was passed. Holyoke Transcript: December 9, 1961

  • Public outrage builds over the B&M gravel operation on the Range. B&M has begun removing rock from the cliffs leaving a highly visible, and growing, scar high on the north slopes of the range. This quarry was at the same site where a huge housing development was planned in 1999. The picture above, a protest against the defacement of the Range, appeared in the Holyoke Transcript in December 1961.
  • In December a bill is filed in the state legislature for acquisition of the entire Mt. Holyoke Range.

    1961-1967

  • Interstate 91 is built from Holyoke north to the VT line. It cuts across the lower sections of Mt. Tom's eastern slopes.

    Cover of 'The Case of the Holyoke Range...' published in February 1962

    1962:

  • In February "The Case of the Holyoke Range... and a proposal" is published by the S. Hadley Conservation Society, the Mass. Dept. of Natural Resources, and the US Dept of the Interior. The photo on the cover showing the B&M quarry seems to have been taken months before the December 1961 photo shown above. The intent of the publication is to garner public support for a bill authorizing the State to purchase some 10,000 acres. This included land in Hockanum north to the Fort River, Aldrich Pond in Granby, as well as on the Range. The ambitious development plan called for camping areas on both sides of the Range between RT-116 and Harris St. From the report's introduction:

    "The survey indicated that the Holyoke Range possesses, to an unusual degree, a wide diversity of public recreational, natural and historic values, and is worthy of public ownership. The population growth in the Connecticut Valley, its increased accessibility to large population centers all over New England and the northeast through newly built and projected limited access highways, and the inadequacy of public parks in this region of Massachusetts, all point to the necessity of placing a substantial portion of the Holyoke Range under public ownership. The quarries will not wait and the interstate highway 91 planned as the main north-south access to the Connecticut Valley places a higher urgency on this proposal.

    Investment in this land now, before new highways and land pressures make the costs of acquisition skyrocket, will enable Massachusetts to provide the public with what could be one of the nation's outstanding parks."

    The above map shows the proposed boundaries of the park compared to what has been actually protected as of 2000. For a more detailed map of the 1962 plan with the key to features, please go here (300k)

  • In July 1962 an arsonist destroys the historic covered bridge over the Fort River on the old town road leading north from Mitch's Marina. The bridge was built in 1840 and served to connect Hockanum and Hadley. The road was severed during the flood of 1938 when the Connecticut River broke though a barrier strip that separated it from the Fort River. This picture was published in 1909. Mt. Holyoke is in the background.

    1963:

  • Hampshire County Commissioner Edwin Podolak proposes the State turn Skinner St. Park over to the County "since the state has not done much with it".

  • This is a view of Round Mountain taken from a once classified 1963 USAF film on the Notch Bunker. It's taken from the access road to the bunker complex looking east.

    Round Mountain in 1963

    1965:

  • In February the remains of the old tramway were burned by the state.

    1966:

  • In October a federal law is passed instructing the US Dept. of the Interior to investigate the feasibility of a Connecticut River National Recreation Area.

    1967:

  • In January a fire destroys a large barn at the Halfway House. Many historic artifacts, such as hotel guest books and old photographs, are lost.

  • This is a USGS map of the Notch quarry as surveyed in 1967. It shows the peak of Round Mt. before it was removed.

    1968:

  • In August the US Dept. of the Interior, consistent with the 1966 mandate, proposes the Connecticut River National Recreation Area which includes a Mt. Holyoke Unit comprising some 12,000 acres... 85% of which is in private hands. It recommends the State purchase the entire Mt. Holyoke Range including all of Hockanum, plus the floodplain areas of Northampton. The proposal also calls for the State to purchase 3000 additional acres on Mt. Tom for a state park.

    1969:

  • Public opposition grows against NPS proposal. Here are some news articles on the call for the NPS to develop a Master Plan from December 1969.

    1970:

  • The Mt. Holyoke Range Advisory Committee [MHRAC]forms to review the federal proposal. The committee, which is made up of two representatives appointed from surrounding towns, is chaired by State Senator John Olver.

  • In May the NPS reveals preliminary concept plans to the MHRAC for the Connecticut River Recreation Area. It calls for developing about 9% of the land and leaving the rest in a natural state. For more information on this preliminary plan read this article.

    1971

  • In June companion bills were introduced by Senator Ted. Kennedy (S. 318,18 June 1971) and Representative Edward Boland (H.R. 9273, 21 June 1971) "to preserve and promote the resources of the Connecticut River Valley, and for other purposes." The new proposed park is a scaled down version of the original 1968 proposal calling for much less development and estimating only 3,400 visitors a day instead of the 16,000 proposed in May 1970. Main access would be by a new road built from Bay Road in Hadley to a visitors center at Little Tinker at the end of Chumura Dr. From there a new connector road would be built to a new tramway base station. Car access to the summit would end. Here is a map.

  • On July 21 John Olver's Citizens Advisory Committee [MHRAC] issues a public report including maps on their support for the Mt. Holyoke Unit of the proposed Connecticut Historic Riverway. The 4 page brochure is designed to garner public support the legislation sponsored by Kennedy and Boland.

    1972:

  • The State DPW reworks the narrow southern approach to the Notch eliminating a sharp curve and adding a passing lane. Similar work is planned for the northern approach.

  • The Strategic Air Command shuts down operations at the Notch and sells the bunker complex to the Federal Reserve Bank for record storage.

  • With the federal proposal for a national recreation area going nowhere, the state is encouraged to take action.

    1973:

  • The Planning Dept. of DEM draws up a plan for preserving the Range. It calls for eventual protection of about 20,000 acres. Of this about 5000 acres are on the Range, mostly above the 450' elevation, and 15,000 acres are comprised of adjacent lowlands and wetlands. The plan becomes part of the Bicentenial Bill S1819 which also includes proposals for Boston harbor. The bill proposes that an independent corporation be established to control land purchases and to guide early recreational development.

  • The Citizens Advisory Committee [CAC] meets stressing that the eminent domain provisions will not be acceptable to local residents. This provision is changed in S1874 which gives the state eminent domain powers only with a 2/3 vote of a town's selectboard. The CAC endorses this revision in June '73.

  • The bill passes the state senate but fails in the house. The opposition seems to be that the bill only covers two areas of the state.

    1974:

  • In January the Dept. of Natural Resources returns to an earlier plan of acquiring land though its regular capital budget outlays. It floats a $5 million bond for land purchases on the Mt. Holyoke Range.

  • With startup funding from a Rockefeller Brothers grant, Steve Berkowitz of Hampshire College heads a project to study and document various aspects of the Mt. Holyoke Range. The project publishes a 204 page book called "Holyoke Range, History, Resources, Land Use".

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