A photo-mosaic of Skinner State Park's historic Prospect House, one of the last few remaining 19th century mountain houses in New England.

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INTRODUCTION TO

J.A. SKINNER STATE PARK

J.A. Skinner State Park is located on Mt. Holyoke... the peak at the west end of the Mt. Holyoke Range in western Massachusetts.

This peak, with its view of the Connecticut River Valley, had long been a tourist attraction and in 1821 the locals sought to capitalize on this fact by constructing a small structure to accommodate visitors. In 1851 a small hotel was built under the proprietorship of John and Fanny French. The hotel tripled in size with the 1861 addition and nearly tripled again the construction of an rear addition in 1894.
In its heyday, a steamer would pick up guests at the Smiths Ferry railroad station across the Connecticut River in what was then Northampton, ferry them about a mile up-river to a tramway leading to the Half Way House. From there guests could take another tram up the steep incline to the summit.

In 1908 the property is sold to the Mt. Holyoke Hotel Co. This corporation was formed by Joseph Skinner a local industrialist, L. Threadway of Threadway Inn fame, and Christopher Clarke to hold the land in trust for an eventual state reservation. The hotel continued operation until the Great Hurricane of 1938 badly damaged the 1894 annex which was subsequently demolished.

In 1939 Skinner made an offer to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to give the land as a gift on the conditions the land was preserved as a park that bore his name. The formal dedication accepting Skinner's generous offer was in June 1940.

State funds for maintenance of the summit house and tramway during the intervening years were inadequate. The tramway stopped running during WWII and the roof collapsed a few years later. The remains of the tramway were removed in 1964. In the mid-1970s the condition of the Summit House had deteriorated to such a point there were proposals to condemn and demolish the structure. The picture below was taken in March 1976.

The thought of losing a regional landmark led to a public outcry and in the mid-1980s the summit house, consisting of the original 1851 structure and the 1861 addition, was restored by the state. The summit house is now open to the public only on weekends or for special events such as a summer concert series sponsored by the Friends of the Mount Holyoke Range (FOMHR).

As for this project, I originally created this virtual tour for the FOMHR web site back in 1999.

Robb

 

HALFWAY AREA

APPROACH TO SUMMIT HOUSE

SUMMIT HOUSE: FIRST FLOOR

SUMMIT HOUSE: SECOND FLOOR

SUMMIT HOUSE: THIRD FLOOR OBSERVATORY

SUMMIT PICNIC GROVE






Rockfest '70 Robb Strycharz, 1998-2006
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