Easthampton is a city in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States. The town is on the southeastern edge of the Pioneer Valley near the five colleges in the college towns of Northampton and Amherst. The population was 16,053 at the 2010 census.
Easthampton was first settled by European immigrants beginning in 1664 and was originally considered part of Northampton. In 1785, the village of Easthampton was formally named its own separate political entity, and in 1809, it officially became a town. Easthampton is the youngest town in Hampshire County by date of incorporation. (It was not, however, the last incorporated; two of the three disincorporated towns of the Quabbin Reservoir in Hampshire County, Enfield and Prescott, were incorporated afterwards.)
The town grew primarily around the Manhan River, both through its phase as a strictly agricultural community and later, through the industrial revolution, when mills and factories were first built in Easthampton, mainly in connection with textile manufacturing and its offshoots. The first of these, the Williston-Knight Button Company, was established in 1847 by Samuel Williston, son of the town’s first minister, a Congregationalist named Payson Williston. The company specialized in cloth-covered buttons – a coveted item at the time – and to facilitate the operation of the machinery, a local brook was dammed, creating Nashawannuck Pond. Other mills soon opened nearby, a number of them specializing in elastic and rubber thread manufacturing.
Following this spurt of industrial development, the town’s first high school and first national bank opened in 1864, and a town hall was built in 1869. Constables were replaced by the town’s first police officer in 1871, the same year that Easthampton became a regular stop on the railroad. The town’s public library opened in 1881, and fourteen years later in 1895, the community was introduced to two new innovations, telephones and streetcars. With the influx of new residents came a number of new churches, founded for Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Methodist parishioners, as well as a second Congregational church. In 1899, the West Boylston Manufacturing Company and the Hampton Company, both specializing in cloth production, moved to Easthampton, recruiting a larger immigrant labor force, particularly from Poland and Canada.
During World War I, the town’s mills all obtained federal wartime contracts and did well financially, but long before the Great Depression hit, many factories owners were already laying off employees, seeking mergers with other companies, or looking for buyers for their facilities.
World War II provided some relief for the Easthampton economy, as several of the older textile companies as well as newer heavy manufacturing corporations received another round of federal contracts. However, beginning in the early 1960s a number of critical closures hit the town hard. Revitalization attempts began with the opening of a new industrial park and continued with joint government-private industrial mall which has failed to solve significantly higher rates of unemployment and poverty compared to Hampshire County.
Small farms and well-established small businesses remain the economic core of Easthampton. Easthampton changed its charter in 1996 to become a city. The downtown area since 1996 has attracted a small community of artists and young people migrating due to Easthampton's lower cost of living compared to nearby Northampton, a hub of the bohemian community regionally. Small stores around Main Street, Union Street, and Cottage Street have changed business due to the influx of this new demographic. This growth has produced new arts and cultural events such as the monthly Art Walk Easthampton, held each "Second Saturday," in which visual, music and performance artists showcase their talents at venues around the city.