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Creating Holyoke | Browse Exhibits
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Browse Exhibits (4 total)

Natural Resources

Holyoke was one of the first planned industrial cities, drawing power from the natural resources offered by the Connecticut River. Holyoke is an industrial, working class city that went through the same processes as other cities nationwide. Holyoke, however, is unique in that it has re-invented itself each time an industry failed or a new group of immigrants or migrants entered the city. For over 150 years, Holyoke has retained its identity as a gateway city for immigrants, migrants and newcomers to begin new opportunities and make a better life for themselves.


All immigrant and migrant groups who entered America, including Holyoke, Massachusetts, faced struggles. But for each person or family that came to Holyoke, they embarked on the journey of a lifetime, whether they crossed the Atlantic Ocean, or America’s northern and southern borders. Holyoke’s immigrant and migrant families experienced different lifestyles, depending on the year they moved to Holyoke, their lifestyle, wages, and work opportunities. Compare the experiences of immigrant and migrant families through time in Holyoke and see how their lives differ from yours.


Holyoke, though known as the Paper City, was also home to dozens of textile mills. Thousands of immigrants and migrants worked in the paper mills, textile mills, and service mills like Holyoke Machine Company that provided machinery to keep the paper and textile mills running smoothly. Beyond that, many service businesses like shoe and grocery stores provided goods that all Holyoke residents needed.

Community & Social Life

In leaving their lands immigrants and migrants took with them distinctive cultures that they did not willingly surrender here. Once in Holyoke, each ethnic group staked out its own territory and attempted to preserve its cultural heritage while adapting to the strange ways of a new homeland. It was important for immigrants to retain cultural and religious traditions in the culture and community familiar to them, not only for comfort levels, but also not to forget their homeland. Inevitably, in a heterogeneous nation in which working classes were more and more comprised of recent immigrant and migrant groups, the ideology of culture assumed ethnic dimensions. In Holyoke, through many generations, traditions outside the church but reminiscent from the homeland were kept, modified and discarded. Each immigrant and migrant group established its own churches, schools, newspapers, societies, and clubs. While striving for the familiar, however, they could not reproduce their lives in the world they left behind.