Northampton, MA (NHT)
The station is within easy walking distance of the historic downtown's shops, restaurants and galleries, as well as the campus of Smith College.
170 Pleasant Street
Northampton, MA 01060
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 17,332
- Facility Ownership: MassDOT
- Parking Lot Ownership: MassDOT
- Platform Ownership: MassDOT
- Track Ownership: MassDOT
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Amtrak service to Northampton began on December 29, 2014, when the southbound Vermonter made its first scheduled stop. The station consists of a temporary wooden platform that will later be replaced with a concrete platform. It is adjacent to historic Union Station, which has not been used for passenger service since the 1960s and currently houses commercial establishments.
The Northampton station is within easy walking distance of Main Street, as well as the campus of Smith College. Running nearby is the Manhan Rail Trail, which offers access to an extensive system of biking and walking trails linking Northampton to neighboring communities. Numerous Pioneer Valley Transit bus routes also serve the Main Street-Bridge Street corridor.
The addition of Northampton to the Amtrak national network was made possible by the rehabilitation of the Connecticut River Line in Massachusetts, which parallels the famed river for 49 miles between Springfield and East Northfield, located just south of the border with Vermont. The AmtrakMontrealer (Washington-Montreal) used these tracks from 1972-1987, but later shifted its path eastward due to deteriorating track conditions. At that time, the stop in Northampton was eliminated from the timetable and Amherst was added in its place. In spring 1995, the overnight Montrealer was replaced by the state-supported, daytime Vermonter (Washington-St. Albans, Vt.).
Rehabilitation of the Connecticut River Line, owned by Pan Am Southern Railroad, was made possible through approximately $73 million granted under the Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program and $40 million in state funds. In late summer 2014, Massachusetts announced its intention to purchase the rail line.
Work included crosstie replacement, installation of continuously welded rail for a smoother ride, surfacing and alignment of track and improvements to signal and communications systems and switches. The state, regional planning organizations and Amtrak believe the project will produce a reduction in overall travel time for the Vermonter of approximately 25 minutes and improve on-time performance for the train.
Although situated on the west bank of the Connecticut River, the settlement of Northampton grew up along Mill River, whose waterpower was used to drive early grist and saw mills. When Europeans first explored the area in the early 17th century, they encountered groups of American Indians belonging to the Algonquian language family, including the Agawams and Nonotocks. The latter group had established a settlement at present-day Northampton, which included a central area for meetings and councils as well as cultivated plots in the riverside meadows.
In 1653, a small group of English settlers purchased from the American Indians approximately 64,000 acres along the bank of the Connecticut River, and the community of Northampton was established the following year. The meadowlands were perfect for livestock grazing, so the residents chose to construct their dwellings and a meeting house on a rise in the land to the west. Each male landowner received land upon which to build a home, as well as acreage in the rich meadowlands; the remainder was held in common. In the late 18th century, the original 64,000 acre parcel was divided to create the towns of Southampton, Westhampton and Easthampton.
Considered a frontier region well into the mid-18th century, western New England was subject to periods of conflict between American Indian groups and the increasing number of European settlers who pushed into outer areas to establish communities. The fighting was further complicated by struggles between the French and English for dominance in Canada and the region beyond the Appalachian Mountains; both sought to gain American Indian groups as allies.
Northampton grew as an important trade and commercial center in the 18thcentury, part of a string of communities found along the river. In addition to raising livestock and pursuing agriculture, residents established mills in the 1660s along Mill River. The first mill was located near present day Veterans’ Field (the course of the river was later changed), but was soon moved to the portion of the waterway known today as Paradise Pond in order to take advantage of greater waterpower.
In the 1730s and 1740s, the town became associated with the “Great Awakening,” an emotional Christian religious revival that swept the British North American colonies. In its wake, it produced numerous conversions while also emphasizing the importance of religious practice in everyday life. One of the movement’s leading stars was Jonathan Edwards, a prominent preacher, theologian and philosopher who served the Northampton community for more than two decades.
Following the Revolutionary War, the Industrial Revolution transformed many towns in the Connecticut River Valley. Over the course of the century, Northampton mills produced silk, hosiery, cutlery, brushes and caskets. To transport raw materials and finished goods, investors looked towards a canal to connect the town with New Haven, and thus to the sea and the rest of the East Coast.
The canal would never make much of an impact, as its construction coincided with the development of early New England railroads. Starting in 1848, the New Haven and Northampton Company (NH&NC) operated a railroad along the canal right-of-way; it was later incorporated into the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railway, more commonly known as the “New Haven.”
The first major rail link was provided by the Connecticut River Railroad (CNRR), which was created in 1845 through the merger of two lines intended to run along the river between Springfield and Greenfield. In 1845 the line between Springfield and Northampton opened, and late the next year it reached its original terminus. The CNRR was extended further north into Vermont three years later and remained independent until 1893 when it was leased to the Boston and Maine Railroad (B&M). Subsequently, it served as an important path for traffic between New York City and Montreal. Both the CNRR and NH&NC built depots close to where Main Street crosses the tracks.
The Central Massachusetts Railroad later constructed a line across the state, offering a direct route between Boston and Northampton in late 1887. This company would also eventually fall under the control of the B&M. Today, the old rail bed has been converted into a recreational trail connecting Northampton with Hadley and Amherst.
Prior to the Civil War, Northampton became a center for the abolitionist movement, with some homes serving as stops on the Underground Railroad. In 1841, a utopian community called the Northampton Association of Education and Industry was established with the purpose of promoting self-improvement, racial equality, freedom of worship and other societal ideals. Members included Sojourner Truth, who was born into slavery in New York but escaped to freedom. William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass were among the frequent visitors and guests. To support itself, the association owned and operated a silk mill northwest of downtown Northampton. After five years together, the community dissolved itself in 1846, but its members remained active promoters of their various causes.
One sign of Northampton’s prosperity in the mid-19th century was its unusual City Hall, built in 1850 in a Tudor/Norman Revival style complete with towers sporting arrow slits and crenellation. On the second floor was an auditorium that for more than eight decades hosted famous singers and lecturers including Jenny Lind, P.T. Barnum, Horace Greeley and Ralph Waldo Emerson. City Hall remains a landmark, prominently sited at a graceful bend in Main Street. Swedish singer Jenny Lind, who performed in Northampton many times throughout her career, once described the city as the “Paradise of America,” giving rise to its moniker of “Paradise City.”
Much like its neighbors in the Pioneer Valley, Northampton became home to an institution of higher learning in the latter half of the 19th century. Through her will, Sophia Smith founded a women’s college in 1871 that today bears her name. She explicitly wished to create an institution that would be of the same intellectual rigor of contemporary male-only schools. Smith College opened in 1875 with 14 students. Today it is one of the largest women’s colleges in the country with nearly 2,700 undergraduates and offers courses in more than 50 areas of study. Notable alumni include Julia Child, former First Ladies Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush and poet Sylvia Plath.
Due to the city’s growth and a desire to separate the roadways and railroad tracks in the city center, the B&M and New Haven agreed in the late 19thcentury to build a new union station to accommodate all the railroads. Northampton Union Station opened in 1897 and is located where the B&M and New Haven tracks joined together. It was designed in the then-popular Richardsonian Romanesque style, which is characterized by squat, compact buildings usually constructed with unfinished stone in dark red, tan, brown and gray hues.
Instead of stone, Union Station is constructed of light brown brick; rich Longmeadow brownstone is used for accents such as coping and door and window trim. The building’s solid massing is emphasized by its varied roofline, punctuated by dormers. Responding to the site, a rounded tower with low conical roof emphasizes the juncture of the rail lines at the building’s north end, and platforms are located on the eastern and western elevations. More than 2,000 townspeople visited the station on its first day in service. They marveled at the Italian marble floors and airy waiting room, complete with fireplace.
Following the end of passenger rail service by the B&M in the 1960s, commercial tenants altered the building. It then underwent an extensive renovation in 1986 for reuse as a restaurant. New owners completed another major rehabilitation in 2014; the platform houses a sports bar, while the original passenger areas can be rented for special events.
Northampton has the distinct honor of having shaped the life of a president of the United States: Calvin Coolidge. After graduating from nearby Amherst College, Coolidge began practicing law in Northampton in 1895 and married a local teacher. He served as mayor, governor of Massachusetts and vice president of the United States before becoming president upon Warren G. Harding’s untimely death in 1923. A year later, he won the presidency in his own right. After his time in the White House, Coolidge and his wife Grace returned to Northampton. The Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum located in the Forbes Library contains papers, photographs and other memorabilia related to the man.
Today Northampton is known for its revitalized downtown whose historic buildings are filled with shops, restaurants and galleries. Throughout the year, residents, students and folks from surrounding areas participate in events such as Northampton Arts Night Out, featuring visual and performing arts, and First Night Northampton, a popular New Year’s Eve party with activities for the entire family.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at the Northampton station, which is served by two daily trains. The Vermonter is financed primarily through funds made available by the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
- 10 Short Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Dedicated Parking
- High Platform
- Wheelchair Lift