Downtown Amherst. Shops along the west side of South Pleasant Street, February 2005.
Location in Hampshire County in Massachusetts
|• Type||Representative town meeting|
|• Total||27.8 sq mi (71.9 km2)|
|• Land||27.7 sq mi (71.8 km2)|
|• Water||0.0 sq mi (0.1 km2)|
|Elevation||295 ft (90 m)|
|• Density||1,365.3/sq mi (526.7/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||Eastern (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||0618195|
Amherst is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States in the Connecticut River valley. As of the 2010 census, the population was 37,819, making it the largest community in Hampshire County (although the county seat is Northampton). The town is home to Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, three of the Five Colleges. Amherst consistently ranks as one of the most progressively liberal regions of the United States, due in large part to five colleges within the area. The Amherst-Northampton region is known as the Happy Valley due to the art and music communities, progressive ideas, prestigious colleges, and large student population. Unlike some other towns of the same name, the name of the town is pronounced without the h ("AM-erst"), giving rise to the local saying, "only the 'h' is silent", in reference both to the pronunciation and to the town's politically active populace.
Amherst is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. Lying 18 mi (29 km) northeast of the city of Springfield, Amherst is considered the northernmost town in the Hartford-Springfield Knowledge Corridor Metropolitan Region.
The earliest known document of the lands now comprising Amherst is the deed of purchase dated December 1658 between John Pynchon of Springfield and three native inhabitants, referred to as Umpanchla, Quonquont and Chickwalopp. According to the deed, "ye Indians of Nolwotogg (Norwottuck) upon ye River of Quinecticott (Connecticut)" sold the entire area in exchange for "two Hundred fatham of Wampam & Twenty fatham, and one large Coate at Eight fatham wch Chickwollop set of, of trusts, besides severall small giftes" [sic]. Amherst celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. The Amherst 250th Anniversary Celebration Committee was established to oversee the creation and implementation of townwide activities throughout 2009. The Amherst Historical Society also organized events, including a book published by them and written by Elizabeth M. Sharpe, Amherst A to Z.
When the first permanent English settlements arrived in 1727, this land and the surrounding area (including present-day South Hadley and Granby) belonged to the town of Hadley. It gained precinct status in 1734 and eventually township in 1759.
When it incorporated, the colonial governor assigned the town the name Amherst after Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst. Many colonial governors at the time scattered his name amidst the influx of new town applications, which is why several towns in the Northeast bear the name. Amherst was a hero of the French and Indian War who, according to popular legend, singlehandedly won Canada for the British and banished France from North America. Popular belief has it that he supported the American side in the Revolutionary war and resigned his commission rather than fight for the British. Baron Amherst actually remained in the service of the Crown during the war—albeit in Great Britain rather than North America—where he organized the defense against the proposed Franco-Spanish Armada of 1779. Nonetheless, his previous service in the French and Indian War meant he remained popular in New England. Amherst is also infamous for recommending, in a letter to a subordinate, the use of smallpox-covered blankets in warfare against the Native Americans along with any "other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race." For this reason, there have been occasional ad hoc movements to rename the town. Suggested new names have included "Emily," after Emily Dickinson.
In 1786, as the American Revolution was ending, many soldiers returning home found themselves in debt because they had been unable to attend to business and property while away fighting. Farmers unable to pay taxes and debts had their property and livestock confiscated by the courts. Daniel Shays, a Pelham resident who was promoted from the ranks to a captain in the Revolutionary Army, organized Shays' Rebellion.
Geography and climate
According to the United States Census Bureau, Amherst has a total area of 27.8 square miles (72.0 km2), of which 27.7 square miles (71.7 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km2) (0.14%) is water. The town is bordered by Hadley to the west, Sunderland and Leverett to the north, Shutesbury, Pelham, and Belchertown to the east, and Granby and South Hadley to the south. The highest point in the town is on the northern shoulder of Mount Norwottuck; the peak is in Granby but the town's high point is a few yards away and is about 1100 feet. The town is nearly equidistant from both the northern and southern state lines. For interactive mapping provided by the Town of Amherst, see External Links on this page.
Amherst's ZIP code of 01002 is the second-lowest number in the continental United States after Agawam, (not counting codes used for specific government buildings such as the IRS).
|Climate data for Amherst, Massachusetts (1981–2010 normals)|
|Record high °F (°C)||70
|Average high °F (°C)||34.6
|Average low °F (°C)||13.2
|Record low °F (°C)||−30
|Precipitation inches (mm)||3.31
|Snowfall inches (cm)||12.7
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||10.2||8.6||10.1||10.9||12.5||11.5||10.4||10.0||9.0||9.8||10.2||10.1||123.3|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||5.5||4.0||2.7||.4||0||0||0||0||0||.1||1.0||3.4||17.1|
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.
As of the 2008 U.S. Census, there were 35,564 people, 9,174 households, and 4,550 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,283.4 people per square mile (485.7/km²). There were 9,427 housing units at an average density of 340.1 per square mile (131.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 76.7% White, 5.10% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American, 9.02% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 2.89% from other races, and 3.35% from two or more races. 6.19% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 9,174 households out of which 27.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 10.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.4% were non-families. 28.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the town the population was spread out with 12.8% under the age of 18, 50.0% from 18 to 24, 17.2% from 25 to 44, 13.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.8 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $40,017, and the median income for a family was $61,237. Males had a median income of $44,795 versus $32,672 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,427. About 7.2% of families and 20.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.3% of those under age 18 and 3.5% of those age 65 or over.
According to the 2010 5-year American Community Survey estimates, occupied housing units had a median household income of $50,063, which includes both renter and owner-occupied units. More specifically, owner-occupied units had a median income of $100,208, while renter-occupied housing units had a median income of $23,925. Large disparities in income between the two groups could explain the high poverty rate and lower median income, as students are the primary tenants of renter-occupied units within Amherst.
Of residents 25 years old or older, 41.7% have a graduate or professional degree, and only 4.9% did not graduate from high school. The largest industry is education, health, and social services, in which 51.9% of employed persons work.
These statistics given above include some but not all of the large student population, roughly 30,000 in 2010, many of whom only reside in the town part of the year. Amherst is home to thousands of part-time and full-time residents associated with the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, and Hampshire College and many of those students are involved with the liberal politics of the town.
|Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of October 18, 2006|
Amherst is among relatively few towns of its size in Massachusetts in not having moved to a mayor-council or council-manager form of government. Instead, it has maintained the traditional town meeting (legislative) and select board (executive), though with the important modification, allowed through a special state law, whereby Town Meeting is made up of elected representatives of each precinct in the town. In addition, the select board hires a town manager to handle the day-to-day administrative details of running a town.
In recent years, some have sought to abolish the 254-member Town Meeting with a new charter that would create a directly elected mayor and a nine-member Town Council. The charter was rejected by voters in spring 2003 by fourteen votes and defeated again on March 29, 2005, by 252 votes.
The Amherst Conservation Commission voted to ban off-leash dogs from local conservation areas (Amethyst Brook and Lower Miller River) for most hours of the day. The decision was taken over objections of some commissioners.
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA), funded by local governments and the Five Colleges, provides public transportation in the area and runs well into the early morning hours on weekends when school is in session. Passenger fares on Amherst routes are prepaid by member academic institutions; students and staff simply show their ID to ride as often as they like.
Rail service is available through Amtrak at the Amherst station (AMM) on the soon-to-be-rerouted Vermonter service between Washington D.C. and St. Albans, VT. More frequent service to New York City and Washington, D.C. is available from Springfield.
The closest major domestic and limited international air service is available through Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Bradley is located approximately one hour's driving time from Amherst. Major international service is available through Logan International Airport (BOS) in Boston, 90 miles away.
- Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) born and lived in Amherst, one of the most prominent and celebrated American poets.
- Robert Frost (1874–1963) Pulitzer prize-winning poet who taught at Amherst College and retired there.
- Noah Webster (1758–1843) Author of An American Dictionary of the English Language
- Edward Hitchcock (1793–1864) educator, early geologist and a founder of the science of ichnology
- Osmyn Baker (1800–1875) born in Amherst, United States Congressman and lawyer
- Mason Cook Darling (1801–1866) born in Amherst, US Congressman from Wisconsin and first mayor of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
- Edward Dickinson, (1803–1874), born in Amherst, lawyer, United States Congressman, and father of Emily Dickinson.
- William S. Clark (1825–1886) politician, businessman; principal founder of the Massachusetts Agricultural College (now the University of Massachusetts Amherst), founder of the Sapporo Agricultural College (now the Hokkaido University).
- Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–1885) born in Amherst, noted author best known for A Century of Dishonor and her novel Ramona.
- Eugene Field (1850–1895) raised in Amherst; poet and humorist who wrote children's poem Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
- Arthur Lithgow (1915–2004) lived and died in Amherst, actor, producer, director, founder of the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, father of actor John Lithgow.
- Harlan Fiske Stone (1872–1946), attended public schools in Amherst and Amherst College; dean of the Columbia Law School, Attorney General of the United States, and Chief Justice of the United States
- Howard Roger Garis (1873–1962) children's author who wrote the Uncle Wiggily book series
- Lilian Garis (1873–1954) author of juvenile fiction; wrote early volumes in the Bobbsey Twins series
- Robert Francis (1901–1987) poet
- Melvil Dewey (1851–1931) devised the Dewey Decimal System while an assistant librarian at Amherst College in 1876
- Chinua Achebe (1930 - 2013) was a professor at the University of Massachusetts from 1972 to 1976.
- Paul Nitze (1907–2004) born in Amherst, diplomat who shape defense policy over numerous presidential administrations.
- Ebenezer Mattoon (1755-1843) born in North Amherst, Lieutenant in Continental Army during the Revolution, justice of the peace, sheriff, US Representative, Namesake for Mattoon Street in Amherst, plaque on Amherst Town Hall.
Born or raised in Amherst
- Annie Baker, playwright
- Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, poet
- James Ihedigbo, Baltimore Ravens defensive back
- Martin Johnson, of rock band Boys like Girls
- Amory Lovins, scientist and environmentalist
- J Mascis, Singer, guitarist and songwriter for alternative rock band Dinosaur Jr.
- Eric Mabius, star of ABC show Ugly Betty, attended Amherst Schools
- Julie McNiven, actress with recurring roles on Mad Men and Supernatural
- Ilan Mitchell-Smith, actor starring in 80's movie Weird Science attended Amherst public schools
- Gil Penchina, CEO of Wikia, Inc., attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Steve Porter, music producer
- Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML, attended public schools in Amherst and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Uma Thurman, Oscar-nominated actress, whose father, Robert Thurman, taught at Amherst College
- Martin M. Wattenberg, artist and computer scientist
- Zoe Weizenbaum, child actress
- Jamila Wideman, basketball player
- Elisha Yaffe, comedian, actor, and producer
- Helen Palmer Geisel, children's author and first wife of Dr. Seuss.
Live in Amherst
- Cassandra Clare, author of the famous The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices
- Christian Appy, author of Patriots and Working-Class War, professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Christopher Benfey, author of The Great Wave, professor at Mount Holyoke College
- Black Francis, singer/guitarist of the alternative rock band the Pixies, attended U-Mass Amherst
- Holly Black, author of Tithe, Valiant, Ironside, and co-author of the Spiderwick Chronicles
- David Bollier, author, activist-scholar on the commons, and blogger.
- Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors
- Tony DiTerlizzi, author of The Spider and the Fly and co-author/illustrator for Spiderwick Chronicles
- Peter Elbow, compositionist and professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Joseph Ellis, historian and author of Founding Brothers
- Martín Espada, poet, professor at the University of Massachusetts and author of the 2006 The Republic of Poetry, among others
- Rebecca Guay, artist specializing in watercolor painting and illustration
- Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth
- Julius Lester, author and professor at the University of Massachusetts
- Michael Lesy, author of Wisconsin Death Trip, professor at Hampshire College
- Michelle Chamuel, singer/songwriter, finalist on The Voice
- J Mascis of alternative rock group Dinosaur Jr.
- John Olver, politician who served in the US House of Representatives
- John Elder Robison, author, Look Me in the Eye, also older brother of Augusten Burroughs
- Joey Santiago, lead guitarist of the alternative rock band the Pixies, attended U-Mass Amherst
- Archie Shepp, jazz musician and professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts
- Chris Smither, folk/blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter
- James Tate, (b. 1943) poet and professor at University of Massachusetts
- Roman Yakub, composer
Points of interest
- Dickinson Homestead, birthplace and lifelong residence of poet Emily Dickinson, now a museum . She is buried nearby in West Cemetery on Triangle Street.
- Amherst History Museum
- Amherst Cinema Arts Center, a local theater showing mostly art and independent films
- At 26 stories, UMASS Amherst's W. E. B. Du Bois Library is the tallest library in the United States.
- Amherst College Museum of Natural History, including the Hitchcock Ichnological Cabinet
- Mead Art Museum at Amherst College: 18,000 items with a particular strength in American art
- Theodore Baird Residence, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright
- The Horse Caves are located at the base of Mount Norwottuck in the Mount Holyoke Range State Park
- National Yiddish Book Center
- Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
- The Jones Library, the town's public library, includes special collections on local history, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and others
- Digital Amherst, created to celebrate the town's 250th anniversary using images, multimedia, and documents
- Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce
- See, e.g., www.amerst.com[dead link], an Amherst College alumni website, among many other sources.
- languagehat.com, uscho.com, bbc.co.uk
- See, e.g., local t-shirt for sale; Chris Rohmann, "Stage Struck: Silent But Deadly", Valley Advocate, Oct. 20, 2011; and "Living in Western Massachusetts", Pioneer Valley Cohousing (last visited Sept. 16, 2012).
- Carpenter, Edward W. (1896). The History of the Town of Amherst, Massachusetts, pp. 1-2. Press of Carpenter & Morehouse.
- Jeffrey Amherst and Smallpox Blankets
- "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "TOTAL POPULATION (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010.
- "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1950 Census of Population". 1: Number of Inhabitants. Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1920 Census of Population". Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1890 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1870 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1860 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1850 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "2006 State Election Party Enrollment Statistics (PDF, 108k)" (PDF). Massachusetts Secretary of State. Retrieved 2006-12-08.
- "Nyeri Sister City Committee". Archived from the original on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
- "La Paz Centro Sister City Committee". Archived from the original on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
- "Kanegasaki Sister City Committee". Archived from the original on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
- Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Marquis Who's Who. 1967.
- "Mary Mattoon and her hero of the revolution" by Alice M. Walker, Carpenter and Morehouse, 1902
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Amherst, Massachusetts.|
|Wikisource has the text of a 1920 Encyclopedia Americana article about Amherst, Massachusetts.|
- Town of Amherst Official Site
- Amherst Downtown
- Amherst Bulletin newspaper
- Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce
- Amherst Firefighters Local 1764
- Property maps and more: Town of Amherst GIS
- 3D Buildings at the Google 3D Warehouse: Amherst 3D Warehouse page