Local city information for Agawam, MA
The Town of Agawam
is a city in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 28,144 at the 2000 census. Agawam is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area and contains a subsection, Feeding Hills.
On July 13, 1636, William Pynchon purchased land on either side of the Connecticut River from the local Pocomtuc Indians known as Agawam, which included present-day Springfield and West Springfield, Massachusetts. The purchase price for the Agawam portion was 10 coats, 10 hoes, 10 hatchets, 10 knives, and 10 fathoms of wampum. Agawam and West Springfield separated from Springfield to become the parish of Springfield in 1757 and themselves split in 1800.
In 1771, John Porter moved to Agawam and founded a gin distillery nine years later. After he died, his grandson, Harry, continued to work the business as the H. Porter Distilling Company. The plant was sold in 1917, and during Prohibition, the main products produced in the building were potato chips and cider. After the Volstead Act was repealed, the mill began producing gin again, but would later close for good in 1938. The building, on Main Street near River Road, served as Agawam’s Department of Public Works garage, until it fell into disrepair.
Agawam incorporated as a town May 17, 1855.
Agawam furnished 172 men who fought in the American Civil War, 22 of which died in battle or disease.
The original town hall, built in 1874 at the corner of Main and School Streets, housed the town government divisions as the current one does today, as well as the original town library located in the building’s Tower Room. Also, a small school building was located near the premises, and held grades one through three. The building was demolished in 1938, and the property is now the site of Benjamin Phelps Elementary School.
The Feeding Hills town hall, built in 1906, was almost identical to the Agawam town hall and was located at the corner of Springfield and South Westfield Streets. The building was demolished in 1950, and the Clifford M. Granger Elementary School now occupies that piece of land.
May 29, 30 and June 1, 1931 saw the grand opening of Bowles Agawam Airport with a visit from the United States Army Air Corps Eastern Air Arm. A scheduled air service operated out of Bowles for approximately one year, before ending. The airport continued to operate as a civil airport until about 1985. A parimutuel horse racing track, including a grandstand and stable was built adjacent to Bowles Airport. Seabiscuit won the Springfield Handicap at Agawam in track record time in 1935 . The race track operated there for several years until parimutuel betting was outlawed. The airport and race track were demolished and have been turned into an industrial park.
Over 30 years ago, Marilyn and Dick Curry purchased glass negatives of photographs taken in Agawam in the late 1800s, assuming that they were the work of the Howes Brothers of Ashfield, Massachusetts. The negatives sat in the box they were purchased in, until 1991 when Dick Curry died, and they were then donated to the Agawam Historical Association. Local historians, including Kimball Howes of the Ashfield Historical Society, later revealed that the photographs were not the work of the Howes Brother. When a photograph album was donated to the Agawam Historical Association, it was compared to the negatives received from the Currys, and they were identical. This also revealed the true photographer as Reverend Hollis A. Campbell. David Cecchi, a member of one of the “founding families” of Agawam, and the Agawam Historical Association published an “Images of America” book for Agawam and Feeding Hills, which included many of the photographs previously mentioned.
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