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  • A town meeting was reportedly held in early 1821 to discuss the construction of a cabin atop Mt. Holyoke. The cabin would make refreshments available to those who came to the summit for its view. A committee of five, with John Lyman as chairman, is appointed to secure funds via subscription.

  • On June 17... the anniversary of Bunker Hill Day, some 25-50 men with ox and horse teams haul materials up to the Mt. Holyoke summit. By the next day a 18x24 foot cabin is built. Willis Pease verbally agrees to lease the house for three years. Zadok Lyman convinces those who agreed to the lease to break it.

  • In August Willis Pease buys land directly adjacent the cabin and builds a second house.

  • During the first season some 6000 people visit the summit.


  • Willis Pease sells his house to Joel Smith for $600.


  • The Mt. Holyoke Association starts to sell shares in a proposed stone mountain house.


  • The Mt. Holyoke Association persuades Joel Smith to sell his property on which is the Pease House.


  • In November the Association buys the original summit house which is moved adjacent to the Pease house. The Association also begins planning for a new road to the summit.


  • Daniel Stebbins, one of the investors in the Association, is placed in charged or leasing the summit house.


  • With the Association's plans for a new summit house never materializing, Stebbins buys out his partners and becomes sole owner.


  • Edward Hitchcock, Amherst College Professor of Geology, publishes a massive study on the geology of Massachusetts. In his research he adds colorful names to local geologic features like Titans Piazza seen here. Titans Piazza is a columnar lava formation and is located in the cliffs above the main gate to Skinner State Park. Hitchcock deals with Mt. Holyoke and Mt. Tom in a section called "Scenographical Geology". Here is the excerpt on Mt. Holyoke from the 1841 edition. Here's a more recent picture of Titan's Piazza shot in December 2006. It is a photo mosiac that covers about 130 degrees from looking slightly down to looking straight up.

  • Hudson School landscape painter Thomas Cole visits the summit of Mount Holyoke. The result is his famous painting "View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm"... also known simply as the Oxbow. It shows the Oxbow before the river broke though its narrow neck in 1840.


  • Young women from the Mt. Holyoke Seminary in South Hadley hold their first Mountain Day atop Mt. Holyoke.


  • Spring floods break though the narrow neck of the Oxbow. Some 400 acres of what was Hadley is now stranded on the other side of the river proving the old adage "what the river steals from Hadley it gives to Northampton". However, the new course of the river shortens river navigation by several miles. Over the course of the next few years, the northern end of the Oxbow is closed with sediment. By the next year the northern opening is sealed by sediments.


  • A few years after the Oxbow breakthrough, the Connecticut River Valley Railroad builds an elevated causeway across the Oxbow and its lowlands connecting Holyoke and Northampton. Records are unclear, but a road along these tracks soon follows. This road shortened the distance between Holyoke and Northampton by 2 miles. But this section of road remained problematic for another 60 years. Aside from the muddy conditions, the route was prone to seasonal flooding. For more information please go to US-5: A Highway to History.


  • Inspired by the complaints of a hiker the year before, Prof. Edward Hitchcock of Amherst College surveys a route for a new trail to the summit from the Halfway Area.

  • Hitchcock advertises the event for July 4. Local residents invited to join in the effort scoff at his plan to build the path in half a day claiming two weeks would be necessary yet it was built in one day. The trail still exists running from the Halfway Area to the summit. This is the first of numerous mountain paths built by Amherst College students. Here is his account from his book "Reminiscences of Amherst College".


  • On July 4 Amherst College students and residents of South Amherst begin to construct a carriage road to the summit of Hilliard Knob. Upon completion of the road Hitchcock has ceremony at the summit renaming the mountain Mt. Norwottuck.


  • Newlyweds John and Frances (Fanny) French visit the mountain house. Convinced of the commercial possibilities, John, with partner William Cooper, buy the cabin along with 10 acres of land for $1100 from Daniel Stebbins with a condition a small hotel is built by 1853. These photos show Fanny and John French in later life.


  • French replaces Cooper as a business partner with Edward Graves.

  • French and Graves erect a two story, eight room, hotel. This 25'x30' structure survives as the northeast corner of today's Summit House. Once the new summit house is built, the 1821 cabin is torn down. The new hotel is dedicated on July 5 with 3-400 people present.

  • Jenny Lind, the world-famous singer, visits the summit house.


  • French rehabs the house at what is now known as the Halfway Area for his home.

  • John Eden publishes a small booklet called "Mount Holyoke Handbook and Tourist Guide".


  • John French builds a single-track, horse-powered tramway from Halfway Area to Summit House. The single car was assembled from two sleighs. It is used not only for visitors but to supply the summit house.

  • A large barn is built at the Halfway Area. It serves as a stable and terminus for the tramway. The building becomes known as the Halfway Station.


  • French replaces the horse with a steam engine.


  • The 1845 trail to the summit is widened to a wagon road.????


  • In the 1830's Edward Hitchcock began an intensive study of the fossil tracks of the Connecticut Valley which he believed were made by ancient birds. His effort culminated in a monumental volume "Ichnology of New England".


  • The single-track tramway is replaced by a double-track design. The two cars act as counter-balances.


  • This is how the Summit House appeared in 1861 after the addition to the 1851 house. This new addition wraps around the 1851 house and nearly tripled the size of the Summit House. The result is what we see today. French renames the newly enlarged hotel the Prospect House. In the process of this expansion a large section of bare bedrock was covered over. On this rock was the chiseled-rock graffiti of the time.

    Here are some floorplans that show the 1851 and 1861 sections of the Summit House: first floor      second floor


  • In July William Street opens the Eyrie House, a competing hotel, on the summit of Mt. Nonotuck... the northern-most peak on the Mt. Tom Range overlooking the Oxbow. This hotel has a competitive advantage over the Prospect House being conveniently located near the Mt. Tom train depot at Smiths Ferry.

    View of the Oxbow looking north from Mt. Nonotuck. Scene taken from the 1879 "History of the Connecticut Valley, Massachusetts Vol 1" by Louis Everts


  • Fearful of competition from the Eyrie House, French arranges for stage transportation between Northampton and Mt. Holyoke.


  • French builds a rail line from the Halfway Area to the Connecticut River to pick visitors up at the Hockanum Ferry. French also commissions the building of a small steamboat.

  • French sells 2.5 acres to Hockanum farmer Loren Pease for $120.


  • The steamboat Wawillowa begins service begins picking up passengers at the Mt. Tom railroad station near the Oxbow delivering them to Hockanum. John Dwight helps finance the venture.


  • French builds a cover over the tramway from the Halfway Area to the Summit House.

    This is a view of the Summit House from the Halfway Area. The picture was probably taken after a rail line was constructed to the river in 1872. The Halfway Station pictured here burned down in 1967.


  • Loren Pease, a rival of French, builds a two-story hotel on a small peak some 1000' south of today's Summit House. If you have a picture of this house please write me!

  • The Gazette reports that in February $80,000 in shares have been sold for the Mt. Holyoke Quarry Co. This from an 1941 article asking if anyone knows where this quarry was located.

  • French puts the property up for sale. His hope is to create a public company with himself as majority shareholder... and that he continue to operate the Prospect House.


  • In September the steamer Mt. Tom is found sunk at its Mt. Tom Station berth. Given the watchdog had been killed and a hole drilled in the boat's hull, foul play is suspected.

  • In December John Dwight, who summers at the mountain and is already an investor in the Prospect House, purchases the property. John and Fanny French remain on to operate the business as before.


  • A single-track rail line is constructed from the Halfway Area down to the Connecticut River.


  • When it opens for the season the Prospect House is renamed the Mt. Holyoke Hotel.

    A fanciful view of the Mt. Holyoke and Mt. Tom Ranges from Northampton. Source of etching a 1874 book, name unknown.

  • French has three telephones installed... one at the summit, one at the Halfway Area, and one at the ferry landing.


  • With an agreement from the local lumber companies not to have their log-drives interfere with French's steamboat operation, a new riverboat, the Mt. Holyoke is put into service.


  • In August the Journal, a local newspaper, joins French's campaign against the Connecticut River Lumber Company. Their use of the river to transport logs to a mill at the Oxbow has caused havoc with others who use the river... including French's steamboat operation.


  • French's rivalry with Loren Pease comes to an end. Pease discovers he had no right to build his hotel where he did. Whether it was ever finished or open for business is not known. By mid-1884 the Pease House is torn down. Though badly damaged by vandals in the mid-1990s, the remains of the loose stone foundation are still visible on the M&M trail. Other elevated walkways also survive.


  • Hockanum resident Clifford Johnson publishes an illustrated booklet called "Mount Holyoke and Vicinity".


  • In May John Dwight undertakes the construction of a new road from the cemetery in Hockanum to the Halfway House. The road is named Dwight Avenue.


  • A large barn near the ferry dock is torn down.


  • John French dies on June 23. Fanny French stays on to operate the Hotel.


  • In early spring John Dwight begins construction on a large, four-story, addition to the east side of the Summit House. This nearly triples the size of the 1851/1861 structure.

    Note the small hut in the foreground of picture one. This was one of numerous... possibly as many as 5, thatched-roof summer huts on the grounds. The second picture was taken from the north, where today's picnic grove is located. The surviving Summit House is the section on the right.

    Views at the Mt. Holyoke Hotel late 1890's

    tennis courts at halfway area     thatched-roof summer hut      croquet court at summit  

    1894 continued:

  • William Street announces plans to construct of an electric railway to take visitors up to the Eyrie House on Mt. Nonotuck.


  • In constructing the Whiting Street Reservoir, the City of Holyoke turns 5000 acres on Mt. Tom into protected watershed.


  • The US Geological Survey publishes its first topographical map of the region. Original survey work was done in 1884-85.

  • Work begins on Mountain Park, a "trolley park" at the base of Mt. Tom. It is to be operated by the Holyoke Street Railway Co. HSRCo also announces a large hotel will be built at the summit of Mt. Tom... the highest summit in the region. The HSRCo later scales back the plans for the summit house and it never becomes a hotel.


  • The Lane family buys Bare and Round mountains which form the Notch. They open a traprock quarry on Round Mountain.


  • The Holyoke Street Railway Co. opens up the Mountain Park amusement park as well as their house on the summit of Mt. Tom. The summit house features a restaurant, constant entertainment, and a spectacular view. Access to the summit from the lower terminal is by way of two counter-balanced trolleys. Here are some links for the Mt. Tom Summit House: and


  • Amherst College professor of geology B. K. Emerson publishes his monumental "Geology of Old Hampshire County" though the US. Geological Survey. It contains surface geology maps of the region as well maps showing underlying bedrock of the Range.

  • A small summit house opens on Mt. Sugarloaf in Deerfield.


  • Fanny French dies on August 8. Control passes to Elisha Bliss who leases the Summit House from owner John Dwight.

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    mt. holyoke range timelines copyright 2001-2005 chronos historical services.