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Heritage State Park (Holyoke, MA)

 

Date Of Visit: March 31, 2017

Location: 221 Appleton St., Holyoke, MA

Cost: Free, although there is a fee to enter or use some of the attractions at the park such as the Children’s Museum, Volleyball Hall Of Fame and the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round

Hours:

Park hours

Sunrise to sunset

Visitors center hours

Sunday:
12:00 pm-4:00 pm

Tuesday – Saturday:
12:00 pm-4:00 pm

Parking: Free onsite parking for about 50 cars is available in Visitors Center lot

Park Size/Difficulty: 7 acres/Easy

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes, leashed dogs are allowed

Highlights: merry-go-round, canal, children’s museum, volleyball hall of fame, easy trail, statue, picnic area, play area, guided tours of the area

Website: Holyoke Heritage State Park

Tip: From May through mid-October, the park offers hour-long narrated train rides on a 1920s vintage railroad on Saturday and Sunday.

Fun Facts:

  • Holyoke is still known as the “paper city” because during the 19th century the city produced an estimated 80% of the writing paper used in the United States and was home to the largest paper and alpaca wool mills in the world
  • Between 85% and 90% of Holyoke’s energy which is powered by the municipally owned canals pictured below was carbon neutral as of 2016
  • Holyoke is also the birthplace of volleyball

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Among the abandoned and dilapidated buildings of a once thriving mill town there is a special park that preserves the history of the area while providing family friendly entertainment and honoring their heroes.

The first building you notice upon entering the park is the Holyoke Merry Go Round.  The affordable merry go round ($2 per ride) is very popular with children celebrating birthdays (perhaps I can have mine there).  The merry go round, which was once part of Mountain Park (an amusement park that used to be located in the area), has been around in one capacity or another since the early 1900s.

 

Railroad tracks remain at the park as a reminder of what was a staple of the area.  The railroad tracks are no longer in use.  Yet they remain a reminder of the railroad system that bisected the area.  The last photo shows the end of the tracks right next to the entrance of the Children’s Museum.

 

The Children’s Museum At Holyoke is located along the path of the canal (444 Dwight St).  Although we didn’t go in, I did take some photos of the some murals on the exterior of the building.

 

Located next to the children’s museum is the Volleyball Hall Of Fame.  Again, due to time constraints, we did not visit the museum.  But, it is certainly on my list!

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I loved walking along the canal.  The views of the old factories and the canal offered some nostalgia and pretty views.  I also appreciated the simple, yet historic, feel of the park.  It is, in a word, charming, despite the many abandoned buildings in disrepair that line the canal.  It felt like a refuge from the busy, crowded streets, although I am sure it is much more crowded during the summer season and when the temperatures rise (if that may ever come).

 

Along the walkway, which is handicapped accessible, there is a small picnic area and play area.  There are also some interesting exhibits.

One of the exhibits is a storm drain art display.  The artful displays encourage people to not pollute.

 

This flywheel stands near what was once the location of Skinner Mill.  The mill was sold in 1961 and burned in 1980.

 

The pearl of the park is the statue dedicated to all of the officers who have lost their lives while on duty as police officers.  The officer’s names are all engraved on the monument.

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There are three police officers’ names listed on the monument.  All three of these officers died while on duty working for the Holyoke police.

Officer John P. Driscoll lost his life on April 25, 1922 when he succumbed to injuries sustained when he fell from the running board of a car that he had commandeered after pursuing a vehicle that was being driven by a drunk driver.  Officer Driscoll had been with the agency for five years and was survived by his wife, five children and parents.

Officer James Gatzounas  died after being assaulted as he and other officers responded to a fight at a New Year’s Eve street party on January 1, 1977. During the altercation, Officer Gatzounas was kicked and punched as he attempted to place one of the suspects under arrest.  He later died after going into cardiac arrest.

Two suspects, ages 19 and 17, were charged with first degree murder. When Officer Gatzounas’ autopsy revealed he died of cardiac arrest instead of injuries from the beating, the charges were reduced to manslaughter.  Officer Gatzounas had been with the agency for 18 months and had previously served with the United States Army during the Vietnam War. He was survived by his wife and child.

The Man displayed in the statue, flanked by two children, is John A. DiNapoli.  Officer DiNapoli was shot and killed i his vehicle while he was following a suspect.  Officer DiNapoli had served for 21 years.  DiNapoli was known for his service to the community.  he and a few other officers started a Christmas tradition of giving toys to the children of Holyoke who lived in high crime neighborhoods. He was survived by two grown children.  His son also became a police officer.

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Below is a short video from the Holyoke Merry Go Round