A VALLEY OF PIONEERS
The First Hampden & Hampshire Senate District of Massachusetts follows the Connecticut River throughout the Pioneer Valley. Our district is home to some of the most historically rich communities our Commonwealth. The Birthplace of Basketball and Dr. Seuss, the First Hampden & Hampshire district has long been a hub of innovation.
These communities form a rich, diverse tapestry stretching from the hills of Belchertown’s Quabbin Reservoir to the idyllic town green in Longmeadow to the vibrant urban center of Springfield– the First Hampden & Hampshire district is poised to lead our region’s renaissance.
A Growing Hampshire County Community
At 54.2 square miles, Belchertown is the sixth largest community in Massachusetts in terms of land area. The eastern part of the town is located on the shore of the Quabbin Reservoir, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the country. Water supply from this “accidental wilderness” serves nearly half the residents of the state. A noted wildlife preserve surrounds the reservoir. This semi-rural, residential community, with its scenic landscape and proximity to both Amherst and Springfield, has experienced unprecedented residential development.
Summer residents discovered Belchertown in the early 1900s, establishing a few large summer hotels. Up until the time of the Civil War, an active carriage trade had thrived in town. Today, few farms are left. Small businesses flourish in the center of town with its expansive, beautiful Town Common. The annual Belchertown Fair is one of the oldest, continuously operated fairs in the country, including handicraft exhibits, horse and oxen pulls, and a church supper held on the Common.
In partnership with MassDevelopment, the Commonwealth’s economic development and financing agency, the Town of Belchertown began the redevelopment of the Belchertown State School Property. Belchertown State School Redevelopment is a planned vibrant, diverse neighborhood that is integrated with and central to the community. In 2018, Christopher Heights, an assisted living community for seniors became the first tenant to occupy the property since the closure of the State School in the early 1990’s.
Points of interest include: The Stone House Museum, built in 1827, which exhibits Rogers Group sculptures and Early American furnishing; Lake Metacomet and Lake Arcadia; the McLaughlin Fish Hatchery, one of the largest fish hatcheries east of the Mississippi River; and the Swift River Wildlife Management Area.
Home of Westover Air Reserve Base
Chicopee is among the first planned industrial communities in the United States. A group of wealthy merchants established the Chicopee Mills, which were so profitable that the investors built an elaborate complex of mills, housing and canals. These factory complexes evolved into the City of Holyoke. While many of the historic mills and industries are now gone, many 19th century churches, as well as the home of Edward Bellamy, the famous visionary who wrote the influential novel Looking Backward, have been maintained
Today, Chicopee is a thriving commercial, residential and industrial center. It is located at the “Crossroads of New England,” the intersection of Interstate 91 and the the Massachusetts Turnpike.
It is home to the Westover Industrial Airparks, developed through a partnership with the Department of Defense following the deactivation of Westover Air Force Base. The Westover Metropolitan Airport, adjacent to the industrial parks, offers private passenger and cargo service, including full customs clearance. Westover is also home to an active Air Force Reserve Base. It is estimated that the Air Reserve Base, now one of the home bases for the Galaxy C-5A cargo planes, contributed $179 million in FY05 to the region’s economy. The base is home to the 439th Airlift Wing unit, which carries out airlifts in support of humanitarian and military missions. Chicopee is also headquarters for Spalding Sports Worldwide and home to one of the largest printing plants of Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Co.) publisher.
Senator Lesser Represents Ward 1, Ward 5, Ward 6, Ward 8B, and Ward 9B.
Where Monopoly and Play-Doh are made, home of the Spartans
With half of its developed land in residential use, East Longmeadow is both suburban and rural in character, with a mix of primarily single family homes and an abundance of open space and woodland. Since 1990, industrial growth has expanded the economic base of this former bedroom community.
Hasbro Games (formerly The Milton Bradley Company), an international leader in game and toy manufacturing, has its corporate headquarters and production facility in town. American Saw & Manufacturing Company is also located in East Longmeadow. Both companies anchor successful industrial developments in the southern section of town, which borders the state of Connecticut.
Settled about 1740 as part of Longmeadow, East Longmeadow became a separate town in 1894. There is a strong community spirit, demonstrated every summer with the Independence Day Celebration, featuring a fireworks display and the region’s largest parade. A quarry town once famous for its brownstone and redstone quarries, which closed in 1972, East Longmeadow exemplifies its heritage in its Historical Commission Building. The Elijah Burt House, built in 1720, is one of the oldest houses in Western Massachusetts.
Heritage Park, a 46-acre community park, offers picnicking, fishing, ice skating and cross-country skiing. Close to the town center and along its Main Street, East Longmeadow offers an array of shopping facilities including a number of specialty boutiques.
Dinosaur Tracks, Red Fire Farm, and Charter Days
The Town of Granby is a rural suburban town on the outskirts of the Holyoke metropolitan area. Settled around 1727, and incorporated in 1768, the town is dominated in the north by the Holyoke range of hills and has a rugged terrain which hampered agricultural development as the limited water resources hindered industrial development. However, despite these obstacles, settlers developed farms and some limited industries which made up the town’s economic foundation. They grew grains, turnips, pumpkins and hops, and small distilleries were open by 1812 using the surplus grain produced. Dairy farming, making buttons and palm leaf hats followed these in economic importance in the 19th century.
However, by 1875, local industry was gone and agriculture, primarily dairy farming, was the staple in Granby. The town still retains the huge, well known milk bottle which houses a dairy bar. Granby retains its historic charm, accentuated by its original meeting house green, a fine neoclassical library and a good stock of Greek revival houses.
The large portion of the Holyoke Mountain Range in Granby serves as a key recreational attraction. Also notable is the Granby Dinosaur Museum, which is renowned for its collection of local dinosaur tracks. One footprint discovered in 1973 is from a Theropod dinosaur estimated to have been 50 feet in length. Professor Peter M. Galton of the University of Bridgewater determined the fossil to be the first record in the world of a Theropod of such magnitude of the Triassic Age. Other attractions include the historical Aldrich Mills and the Granby Congregational Church, on the town’s picturesque Common.
From Laughing Brook to Mountain View, Hampden’s rural charm is unmatched
Located only 10 miles east of Springfield and 30 miles northeast of Hartford, this small town maintains its scenic, rural landscape. Consisting of fields, forests, and hills, it is not well-suited for intense development. It also has no public water or sewer system. These factors have limited Hampden’s commercial and industrial development. This community is comprised primarily of single family homes.
Historically the town was a small textile manufacturing center. However, Hampden transitioned into a residential community with the construction of summer homes. A former cider mill and stagecoach stop are reminders of the town’s early commercial roots.
Today Hampden offers a Premier Senior Center, family-run grocery mart, convenience stores, garden and flower shops, restaurants, a thriving theater group, The Hampden Theater Guild and a flourishing boutique offering gifts, clothing and jewelry as well as small commercial operations, located in a developed industrial area.
One of Hampden’s most valuable resources is the Laughing Brook Education Center & Wildlife Sanctuary, managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Laughing Brook has 356 acres of fields and woodlands with hiking trails, and a touch-and-see trail for the blind. In addition, there are many trail along Minnechaug Mountain and goat Rock allowing people to enjoy protected lands in Hampden.
Lancer Pride is alive and well in this suburban community.
Once an agricultural community with fertile land along the Connecticut River, Longmeadow offered convenient access to Springfield and Hartford and thus developed as a classic suburban community. Longmeadow is characterized by its broad Town Green bordered by stately colonial homes built during the 18th and 19th Centuries. A large percentage of residents work in managerial and professional positions which accounts for Longmeadow having the highest median income in the region.
Suburban development began when the trolley network from Springfield reached the town in 1896. Longmeadow experienced rapid growth as Springfield’s development pushed southward through the Forest Park area. Almost all residential construction has been of single-family home, most of which were built after World War II. A commercial area along Bliss Road features specialty boutiques and general merchandise stores. Since 1970, the Town’s population has remained relatively stable.
Longmeadow’s rich history is exemplified by the Simon Colton House, the Town Hall and the Storrs House. Long Meddowe Days, the annual town festival, includes a parade, arts and crafts exhibits, musical and dance performances, and the re-enactment of a Revolutionary brigade mustering on the Green.
There is an extensive system of parks in Longmeadow. The 320 acres Fannie Stebbins Memorial Wildlife Refuge is located along the Connecticut River. The Pioneer Valley Yacht Club offers sailing enthusiasts nearby recreation on the River as well. Bay Path College, a noted women’s school, provides Liberal Arts and professional training to approximately 550 students. The highly regarded Willie Ross School for the Deaf, Yeshiva Academy, and St. Mary’s Academy are also located in Longmeadow.
With the redevelopment of the historic Ludlow Mills, this town is on the upswing
Because it is located among pleasant rolling hills, proximate to the cities of Chicopee and Springfield, and provides easy access to the Massachusetts Turnpike and Interstate 291, Ludlow is a desirable residential community. The numbers of its residents has steadily climbed during recent decades.
Settled in 1775, the town developed around the Ludlow Manufacturing Company which produced jute for twine for the U.S. Postal Service. The waves of immigrants that moved from Scotland, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Canada, and Italy to work in the mills contribute to Ludlow’s ethnic flavor. The Our Lady of Fatima Festival is one of the Pioneer Valley’s largest ethnic celebrations.
Ludlow has transformed itself from its mill-town past to a suburban community. Its residential neighborhoods of single- and two-family homes are growing. Interestingly, almost one quarter of the housing units are rentals.
While it is a residential community, Ludlow is more than a bedroom community. It has an established factory district, an outlet mall, and is, along with Chicopee, home to the Westover Industrial Park. Ludlow is also the site of the new Hampden County House of Corrections Facility. Recreational opportunities are provided at Memorial Field and Whitney Park. There is a town beach at Haviland Pond and the Ludlow Community Center is located at Randall Boys & Girls Club. Ludlow is also home to the men’s and women’s Western Massachusetts Pioneers soccer team.
The birth place of Basketball and Dr. Seuss, Springfield is the City of Firsts
The City of Springfield is the cultural and commercial center of the Pioneer Valley region. It is the third largest city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and combined with the surrounding communities, constitutes the fourth largest metropolitan area in New England. Five of the Pioneer Valley region’s twenty largest employers are located in Springfield, including the Baystate Health System, the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Eastman Chemical, and the Smith & Wesson Company. The city’s strong partnership with the business community can account for the revitalized Central Business District, as well as more recent economic development initiatives.
Springfield is also known as the “City of Firsts.” The first gasoline powered automobile was built in Springfield by J.Frank and Charles Duryea in 1891. The Indian Motorcycle, the first gas-powered cycle, was built in Springfield in 1901 by George Hendee and is home to the Indian Motorcycle Museum. The city also lays claim to the invention of Basketball and is the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Major cultural institutions include the Springfield Symphony, City Stage, MassMutual Center, and the Springfield Library and Museums Association. The region’s interstate bus and Amtrak train stations are located in Springfield. The city is the hub of intercity bus service provided by the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority. Springfield is home to several colleges, including the Springfield Technical Community College, American International College, Springfield College, and Western New England College and School of Law. Springfield’s state of the art medical facilities include Mercy Hospital, Kindred Hospital Park View, Shriners Hospital for Children, and Baystate Medical Center, a Tufts Medical School teaching hospital.
Senator Lesser Represents Ward 2G, Ward 4F, Ward 5D, 5F, 5G, 5H, Ward 6B, 6D, 6H, and Ward 7, and Ward 8A.
An idyllic town boarding Springfield, Wilbraham is wonderful place to work and live
Wilbraham, incorporated in 1763 as an agricultural center, is today primarily a residential community with some industry located in the northern section of town. Over 80% of the residents commute out of town for professional employment. The Town offers both historic and new home development. Since 2000, the population increased by more than 6% to 14,363 in 2014.
The 1997 median price of a single family home is the 2nd highest in the region, with classic homes set among large lots. Over 89% of housing units are occupied by homeowners. While Wilbraham has experienced substantial residential growth, its rural character is still present and exemplified by the thriving Rice’s Fruit Farm, Green Acres Fruit Farm, and the Bennett Turkey Farm among others. Peaches are a prime product, highlighted each year by the Wilbraham’s annual Peach Basket Festival.
The Town’s industrial area is located at the edge of town along Route 20, which connects Wilbraham to Springfield. The headquarters and a major production facility for the Friendly Ice Cream Corporation is located there. Commercial activity in the center of town includes a country store, pharmacy and gas station. The Wilbraham-Monson Academy, a private co-educational secondary school was founded in 1825. Its campus graces the Town Center.