Hampshire and Hampden Canal: Gone but not Forgotten
Photographer Examines Hidden History of Local Landscape in the Valley
As part of Historic Northampton’s Contemporary Art series, Anthony W. Lee will exhibit seven large format photographs, collectively titled A River of Dreams, from Friday, August 8 through Saturday, September 6, 2014.
Lee, an historian and documentary photographer, is the Idella Plimpton Kendall Professor of Art History at Mt. Holyoke College. His show is inspired by the history and legacy of the early-nineteenth-century Hampshire and Hampden Canal, which ran from New Haven, Connecticut to Northampton, Massachusetts. Established in the 1820s, the canal was New Haven’s attempt to prevent the city of Hartford from gaining a monopoly on the trade and movement of goods in the region. In Northampton, the canal ran along the west side of New South Street, then known as Canal Street, and continued north, crossing King Street at Damon Road until it joined the Connecticut River. Despite the relatively successful operation of commerce over a ten year period, the venture as a whole was fraught with problems, and the canal was defunct by 1946. The remains of the canal beds were rapidly repurposed into railroad lines, streets, and other modern edifices, and it takes a discerning eye to see the subtle clues left on the landscape.
Anthony Lee’s series of photographs of Easthampton and Northampton reveal these clues to viewers, and meditate on the legacy of the canal and its mortal creators. The photographs will be on display alongside a selection of canal-related artifacts from the Historic Northampton collection, including early daguerrotypes, stockholder shares, advertisements, and photographs. This exhibition is a great way to link an interest in landscape studies with local history, photography, and issues pertaining to American industrialism.
Families interested in learning more about the canal should check out Carl Walter’s Map of the Hampshire & Hampden Canal at Historic Northampton’s gift shop. Can you match that map with a contemporary map of Northampton? Where did the canal run in relation to the places you like to go in town? Where is the land your house, favorite business or local park located on in relation to the canal? If you are able to explore parts of the land where the canal once ran, can you find any visible clues in the landscape?
From 5-8pm on Friday, August 8, there will be an opening reception for A River of Dreams in conjunction with Arts Night Out.
At 2pm on Saturday, August 16, 2014, Carl Walter, a canal historian, will give a talk in Historic Northampton’s Gallery III. He has been studying the Hampshire and Hampden Canal since 1991, and has created a digital database that contains several thousand photos and documents containing information about the canal. In his talk, he will explain why the canal was built, where it was located, and how it was constructed, as well as its importance to the canal towns, with an emphasis on the relationship between the town of Northampton and the canal.