Holyoke’s 150th City-wide Celebration Underway


Holyoke’s 150th City-wide Celebration Underway

Holyoke, MA. On April 7, 1873, the city of Holyoke was incorporated as a municipality. To mark this milestone 150 years later in 2023, dozens of volunteers are underway planning a year-long celebration. The citizens of Holyoke are proud of their City and love its history. The folks that are planning this great year-long celebration would love to have others participate in the planning.  

Holyoke’s year-long celebration of its 150th birthday kicked off with the 23rd Annual Three Kings Day celebration in January. Staff from the Office of Planning and Economic Development joined community organizations, including Nueva Esperanza, Enlace de Familias, Holyoke Public Schools, Mayor Joshua Garcia, and others, to celebrate Three Kings Day and announce the sesquicentennial. A commemorative, community project, “Postcards to Our Future Selves,” launches February 4th at the ARTery at 289 High St. On April 6, City Hall will be officially dedicated for the first time, and work has begun on preparing a Time Capsule and Grand Gala Ball for November 4th. This year we look forward to promoting and growing several Holyoke key signature events like The Great Holyoke Brick Race, Fiestas Patronales de Holyoke, and the return of local favorites like Celebrate Holyoke and the Rotary Summer Concert series. 

An extensive and growing list of events for 2023 can be found at ExploreHolyoke.com on the community calendar. We encourage all organizations to list their event as part of the 150th celebration. To help the public navigate all the events, there is a featured Holyoke150 page on ExploreHolyoke.com that lists upcoming events throughout the year. Important dates to keep in mind this Spring 2023 include the St. Patrick’s Road Race, the St. Patrick’s Parade and the City Hall Dedication Event, which will honor the city’s date of incorporation with a dedication event at Holyoke City Hall, and much more! 

The committee is actively looking for volunteers, sponsors, and engagement from the community to make this year’s celebration the best it can be. Organizers need help in a variety of tasks and activities. Can your business or group sponsor a public event or be part of one? Can you or your team participate in the planning and/or celebration of this once-in-a lifetime event?

You do not have to be a business or organization to help in the planning. We welcome any and all who love Holyoke like our current volunteers. Even if you have only an hour a month to spare, we would appreciate your help! We have a variety of ways in which you can help, including, but not limited to, researching, creating lists, making calls, following up or creating some social media buzz.  

Individuals who would like to help with planning these and other events should visit www.exploreholyoke.com/150 and complete the online volunteer form.

Businesses and organizations interested in supporting these milestone celebrations should visit: www.exploreholyoke.com/150 for additional information. If you are already planning public events for 2023, and would like to be a part of the 150th Celebration’s advertising and  promotions visit www.exploreholyoke.com/150.

“What an amazing privilege it is to be involved in helping celebrate this tremendous milestone as a city.” ~ Jennifer Keitt, lifelong resident and member of the 150th Celebration Committee.

To stay informed and up-to-date be sure to engage regularly with www.exploreholyoke.com/150  and follow #Holyoke150.


Fifteen thousand years ago, the current site of the City of Holyoke lay on the bottom of Lake Hitchcock. As the waters receded it left the Connecticut River (Quinnecticot River- “at the long river”), the original motor of economic progress in the region. The river was a major source of transportation for the first inhabitants, Native Americans – the Algonguins, including the Nipmucs, Pequots, and Mohegans. Others included the Agawams to the south, and the Nonotucks and Pocumtucs to the north. Eventually early European settlers obtained the land that would be incorporated into the future boundaries of Holyoke. 

In 1633, Captain Elizur Holyoke led an expedition up the Connecticut River from Springfield to explore the potential for settlement. Two years later, European agricultural settlement began in the region. Around 1665, John Riley, an Irishman, was one of the first to farm on the West side of the river. The area became known as Ireland Parish, a name that would be in common use until 1850.

In 1847, taking advantage of the broad plain and the 57-foot drop in the Connecticut River at South Hadley Falls, the Boston Associates began planning one of the commonwealth’s first planned industrial cities. Canals, mills, boarding houses, offices, and a dam were all built by pick and shovel. On November 6, 1848, the first of three dams were completed at the South Hadley Falls. Made of wood, it only lasted a few hours. A replacement dam, also of wood, was completed the following summer with the current dam being a modern stone dam, put into service in 1900. The rapid growth of this “New City” led to approval from the State Legislature for a separate municipality to be created. On March 4, 1850, Holyoke finally became its own town.

Holyoke’s development was rapid and just twenty-three years later on April 6, 1873, the city was incorporated as a municipality. Holyoke was recognized nationally as the “Queen of Industrial Cities” and as the “Paper City of the World.” Textiles were the first major product of the City, quickly followed by paper. Paper grew as the dominant force in the City, and at one time over twenty-five paper mills were in operation. The population followed, expanding from just 4,600 in 1885, to over 60,000 in 1920.

Today, Holyoke is a city that inspires with its constant growth and continued opportunities for all.