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Florence, Massachusetts

Florence, Massachusetts

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Florence is a village in the northwestern portion of the city of Northampton
Northampton, Massachusetts
The city of Northampton is the county seat of Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of Northampton's central neighborhoods, was 28,549...

, near Westhampton
Westhampton, Massachusetts
Westhampton is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,607 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.- History :...

 and Williamsburg
Williamsburg, Massachusetts
Williamsburg is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 2,482 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.-The Mill River Flood:...

 in the U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

 of Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...


The naming of Florence, Massachusetts

The name "Florence" was suggested by neurologist Dr. Charles Munde, who also operated a hydropathic establishment there, named Florence Water-Cure.

From the very early days of Northampton till 1847, the locality now called Florence was known as "Broughton's Meadow." Soon after 1810 another name was applied commonly to this region, namely the "Warner School District." The Northampton Association of Education and Industry was started in 1842, and while it existed, the common term given to the settlement was "The Community." In 1848 these three names gave way to Bensonville, and when two years later Mr. Benson failed, and the old appellation became objectionable, the village was called Greenville, from the new cotton company.

In the fall of 1852 a meeting of the villagers was held in the South schoolhouse to choose a name for the place. Postal communication was soon to be established and a new name was desired. "Shepherd's Hollow" with its woolen mills, had been named "Leeds" after the city of Leeds in England, and the name of the great silk emporium of Italy was offered by Dr. Munde as a suitable appellation for this place. The pretty village, the clear stream, the silk mill, all suggested to his vivid imagination the proprietry of naming the village "Florence," and the stream "Arno." The citizens thought well of the neat and euphonious "Florence," and unanimously adopted it, but the "Arno" never replaced the historic term of "Mill River."

People and highlights in the history of Florence

In 1832, Samuel Whitmarsh planted 25 acres (101,171.5 m²) of mulberry
Morus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Moraceae. The 10–16 species of deciduous trees it contains are commonly known as Mulberries....

 trees in Florence in order to raise silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

worms. Later, Whitmarsh's silk mill (in nearby Leeds, Massachusetts
Leeds, Massachusetts
Leeds is a neighborhood in the western portion of the city of Northampton, Massachusetts, United States, bordering Williamsburg--along the Mill River—and Florence....

) was briefly run as a communal project by the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, a utopian community of Abolitionists, who believed that the rights of all should be "equal without distinction of sex, color or condition, sect or religion."

Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, she...

, a former slave who became a nationally known advocate for equality and justice, was a member of this community. (She had moved to Florence in 1843.) After the community dissolved in 1846, she bought a house on Park Street, where she lived until 1857. A memorial statue was erected in her honor in Florence in 2002.

Samuel L. Hill, the spiritual leader of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, invented a machine that could spin silk smooth enough to be used in sewing machine
Sewing machine
A sewing machine is a textile machine used to stitch fabric, cards and other material together with thread. Sewing machines were invented during the first Industrial Revolution to decrease the amount of manual sewing work performed in clothing companies...

s. After the commune dissolved, Hill took over the factory and ran it as the Nonotuck Silk Company. Hill's home at 31-35 Maple Street in Florence served as a stop for the Underground Railway
Underground railway
Underground railway may refer to:*The Underground Railroad, a network of clandestine routes by which African slaves in the 19th century United States attempted to escape*Rapid transit, urban railways that sometimes use tunnels...


Later, the company changed its name again, and, as the Corticelli Silk Company, grew to be one of the world's largest producers of silk thread, made with raw silk imported from Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

. In New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, the Corticelli logo—a kitten playing with a spool of thread—loomed over Broadway from a huge electrical sign at 42nd Street between 1910 and 1913 http://www.smith.edu/hsc/silk/clickmap/corticelli.html. The company went out of business in 1930.

David Ruggles was an "African-American printer in New York City during the 1830s", who "was the prototype for black activist journalists of his time". He had edited a New York paper called The Mirror. In 1841, his father died, and as he was himself ailing and almost blind, friends arranged for him to join a commune in Northampton, Massachusetts. Applying home treatment upon hydropathic principles, he regained his health to some degree, but not his eyesight. He began practicing hydropathy, and by 1845, had established a water cure hospital in the area now known as Florence. This was one of the earliest in the United States, although others, notably Joel Shew, and Russell Thatcher Trall (R.T. Trall), had preceded him.

Charles Munde emigrated from Germany. He became familiar with the water cure methods of Vincent Priessnitz
Vincenz Priessnitz
Vincenz Priessnitz, also written Prießnitz was a peasant farmer in Gräfenberg, Austrian Silesia, who is generally considered the founder of modern hydrotherapy, which is used in alternative and orthodox medicine...

 around 1836, and treated scarlet fever cases in Dresden during the winter of 1845-46. From childhood recollections of one of his sons, Paul F. Munde, the family went to the area now (but not then, per Sheffeld) called Florence "in the early fifties", after his father had struggled "for nearly a year in New York in search of a practice". After the death of David Ruggles
David Ruggles
David Ruggles was an anti-slavery activist who was active in the New York Committee of Vigilance and the Underground Railroad. He was an "African-American printer in New York City during the 1830s", who "was the prototype for black activist journalists of his time"...

 in 1849, Charles Munde learned "of the opportunity to take up his favorite method", which led him to pick up where Ruggles left off, thence to the naming of Florence, and accordingly, the name of the Florence Water Cure, also called the Munde Water Cure.

Historical highlights and more recent changes

Mirage Studios
Mirage Studios
Mirage Studios is an independent American comic book company founded in 1983 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, based in Northampton, Massachusetts and best known for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series.-History:...

, the creative force behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a fictional team of four teenage anthropomorphic turtles, who were trained by their anthropomorphic rat sensei in the art of ninjutsu and named after four Renaissance artists...

 comic books was based out of a renovated factory space in Florence.

Florence was the filming location for the 1999 movie, "In Dreams."

Landmarks include the Miss Florence Diner
Miss Florence Diner
Miss Florence Diner is a historic diner at 99 Main Street in the Florence section of Northampton, Massachusetts.The Worcester Lunch Car Company and Agnoli Sign Company constructed the diner. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999....

, a 1950s style diner famous for its milkshakes and pies, as well as the stores Cooper's Corner and Bird's.

Many areas of Florence have undergone renovations in the recent past, with former factories now playing host to art studios and small retail stores.

Places of interest

Look Park
Look Park
Look Memorial Park, commonly referred to as Look Park, is a park in Florence, Massachusetts in Hampshire Country. The park is open year round.-History:...

The largest park in Florence and greater Northampton, with many amenities and attractions.

External links