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A New England Must-See
Cathy Bennett Kopf writes for TheOpenSuitcase.com I swear I could hear my daughter's eyes roll back in her head when I suggested we stop by Emily Dickinson's house after touring UMass Amherst. I explained that I feel personally responsible for supporting these types of museums. If old English majors don't visit Emily's home and other important literary sites such as the House of the Seven Gables and Poe's grave, then, really, who will? She conceded, if I promised a sweatshirt in return. Deal. I enjoy touring college campuses, at least I did, the first four or five times. After a while they begin to blend, like Caribbean cruise ports. Since precious vacation days must be spent on this important teen/parent bonding activity, I long ago began to package the campus visit with an unrelated sightseeing adventure. The Emily Dickinson museum is the perfect detour if you're spending the day at one of the schools that comprise the Five College Consortium: Amherst, UMass, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith. The Dickinson houses are operated as one museum offering two different guided tours, a 90-minute one that includes the Homestead and The Evergreens (brother Austin's house) or a shorter, 45-minute one. Our docent was a trim, somber woman who could not believe my daughter's lack of interest in the Emily Dickinson Poetry Marathon. Who could possibly pass on the chance to read all of the Belle's 1,789 poems in one sitting? Emily's house tour includes the parlor, library, and bedroom where she'd sit in the evening at her tiny writing desk and haul out the bits and scribbles that she'd tucked in her pocket throughout the day. You'll learn little fun facts about the poet; for example, she was a prize-winning bread baker. What you won't hear though are any of the salacious stories about the family, like those told in Lyndall Gordon's "Lives Like Loaded Guns." Apparently, Brother Austin routinely held trysts with his paramour, Mabel Todd, on the Homestead's living room couch. (Our guide mentioned only that the couch had been reupholstered.) The tour concluded with a brief discussion of Emily's poetry, comparing her freestyle verse with the more structured work of contemporaries like Emerson. When asked to read "I'm Nobody" out loud, I know my daughter considered vaulting through the window. Besides the sweatshirt, I offered compensatory cuisine—lunch at The Lone Wolf, one of Amherst's excellent independent restaurants. She scarfed down chocolate chip pancakes while I enjoyed an Eggs Benedict Florentine. The restaurant is open seven days a week until 2 p.m. and, in addition to traditional breakfast fare, offers a number of Southwest and vegan options. My favorite line in Dickinson's poetry is "To live is so startling, it leaves very little time for anything else." What's yours?
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Springfield is a city in the state of Massachusetts, United States, and the seat of Hampden County. Springfield sits on the eastern bank of the Connecticut River near its confluence with three rivers: the western Westfield River, the eastern Chicopee River, and the eastern Mill River. As of the 2020 Census, the city's population was 155,929, making it the third-largest city in Massachusetts, the fourth-most populous city in New England after Boston, Worcester, and Providence, and the 12th-most populous in the Northeastern United States. Metropolitan Springfield, as one of two metropolitan areas in Massachusetts (the other being Greater Boston), had a population of 699,162 as of 2020.Founded in 1636 as the first Springfield in the New World, during the American Revolution, George Washington designated it as the site of the Springfield Armory for its central location, subsequently the site of Shays' Rebellion. The city would also play a pivotal role in the Civil War, as a stop on the Underground Railroad and home of abolitionist John Brown, widely known for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and for the Armory's manufacture of the famed "Springfield rifles" used ubiquitously by Union troops. Closing during the Johnson administration, today the national park site features the largest collection of historic American firearms in the world. Today the city is the largest in western New England, and the urban, economic, and media capital of Massachusetts' section of the Connecticut River Valley, colloquially known as the Pioneer Valley. Springfield has several nicknames—"The City of Firsts", due to the many innovations developed there, such as the first American dictionary, the first American gas-powered automobile, and the first machining lathe for interchangeable parts; "The City of Homes", due to its Victorian residential architecture; and "Hoop City", as basketball—one of the world's most popular sports—was invented in Springfield in 1891 by James Naismith. Hartford, the capital of Connecticut, lies 24 miles (39 km) south of Springfield, on the western bank of the Connecticut River. The Hartford–Springfield region is known as the Knowledge Corridor because it hosts over 160,000 university students and over 32 universities and liberal arts colleges—the second-highest concentration of higher-learning institutions in the United States. The city of Springfield itself is home to Springfield College, Western New England University, American International College, and Springfield Technical Community College, among other higher educational institutions.
Hampshire County is a historical and judicial county located in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. Following the dissolution of the county government in 1999, county affairs were managed by the Hampshire Council of Governments, which itself ceased operations in 2019, due to a "fundamentally flawed, unsustainable operational model". As of the 2010 census, the population was 158,080. Its most populous municipality is Amherst, its largest town in terms of landmass is Belchertown, and its traditional county seat is Northampton. The county is named after the county Hampshire, in England.Hampshire County is part of the Springfield, MA Metropolitan Statistical Area. Together with Hampden County, Hampshire County municipalities belong to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.
The Berkshires (locally ) are a highland geologic region located in the western parts of Massachusetts and northwest Connecticut. The term "Berkshires" is normally used by locals in reference to the portion of the Vermont-based Green Mountains that extend south into western Massachusetts; the portion extending further south into northwestern Connecticut is grouped with the Connecticut portion of the Taconic Mountains and referred to as either the Northwest Hills or Litchfield Hills.Also referred to as the Berkshire Hills, Berkshire Mountains, and Berkshire Plateau, the region enjoys a vibrant tourism industry based on music, arts, and recreation. Geologically, the mountains are a range of the Appalachian Mountains. The Berkshires were named among the 12 Last Great Places by The Nature Conservancy.
Collinsville is a village and census-designated place (CDP) in the town of Canton, Hartford County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 3,746 at the 2010 census. The central portion of the village is a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built around the Collins Company Axe Factory, a manufacturer of edge tools, such as axes, machetes, picks and knives. Collins machetes were the brand of choice in South America. Collins tools were used almost exclusively for the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and axes and picks made their way across the country to be used in the California Gold Rush. Admiral Peary carried Collins tools to the North Pole.Typical of New England mills, the Collins Company axe factory was sited on a river (the Farmington), and their production was powered by utilizing the water's strength to turn turbines and power machines. The numerous old buildings ramble along the riverbanks intertwined by an intricate maze of sluices that run throughout the site. The company closed its doors in 1966, but the factory buildings stayed standing and are now rented out to local businesses. The ambiance of Main Street reflects period architecture with ornate details from the start of the 20th century.