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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mt. Holyoke Summit House

Many of New England’s historic sites and attractions are seasonal, and this time of year traditionally brings them to close. One such venue is the Mt. Holyoke Summit House atop Mt. Holyoke in Hadley, Massachusetts.

It is a small mountain, only just over 900 feet, but overlooking the broad terrain of the Pioneer Valley, the perspective is panoramic. This month the Summit House will close for another year.

A summit house was first built in the 1820s, and went through various owners and renovations to become by the 1850s, quite the stop for well-to-do tourists. An early visitor in 1823 was Ralph Waldo Emerson. A tram was built up the mountain to bring visitors, along with stage coaches up the winding road. Eventually the Summit House boasted upper levels, extensions, elegant dining rooms, and such architectural embellishment that even President William McKinley could not resist its charms, and visited in June of 1898, whereupon he headed down the mountain to attend the graduation of his niece from Mount Holyoke College.

The Hurricane of 1938 tore up a chunk of the building, (Was there nothing that mammoth storm did not touch?) and the Summit House entered its declining years. Deteriorating over the next several decades, supporters kept the building from being demolished and a restoration project in the 1970s and early 1980s gave the Summit House back to Western Massachusetts. From its cozy height, you can see the patchwork farms and the winding Connecticut River, and other companionable mountain ranges that makes the view from the Summit House veranda one of the most easily accessible of lofty inspirations.

Want to go? Now part of the Joseph A. Skinner State Park, have a look at this website for more info.

Been there? Done that? Bought the T-Shirt? Let us know.

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