Sunday, February 7, 2010

Visiting Mount Holyoke College aka The Hogwarts of Massachusetts!

While Amanda and I were in Massachusetts last weekend visiting her friend Sami, I took the opportunity to drive over to the Mount Holyoke College campus and take a few pictures after dropping the girls off at the movies.  Unfortunately the weather gal I had listened to earlier in the day was wrong in her prediction of sunny skies so the lighting wasn't the best in the world (I seem to have really bad luck with lighting) but at least you can get an idea of what a really cool old campus it is.

Located in South Hadley, Massachusetts - just about smack in the middle of Massachusetts - Mount Holyoke College is one of the oldest women's colleges in the United States and the first member of The Seven Sisters.

For those not familiar with The Seven Sisters, they are seven prestigious liberal arts colleges founded between 1837 and 1889 that are historically women's colleges and were the equivalent of the male Ivy League colleges.  The other six colleges are Barnard College in New York, Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania,  Radcliffe College in Massachusetts, Smith College just up the road from Holyoke College in Northampton, Vassar College in New York, and Wellesley College also in Massachusetts.  Radcliffe (which merged with Harvard College) and Vassar (which is now coeducational) are no longer women's colleges but are still part of The Seven Sisters.

Mount Holyoke was originally named the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary after it was established by its founder, Mary Mason Lyon, who was a pioneer in women's education.  A remarkable woman who believed that women deserved the same opportunities in education as men, Miss Lyon served as the first president of the school for 12 years until her death in 1849.  If you'd like, you can read more about Mary Lyon here.

Miss Lyon's vision for Mount Holyoke fused intellectual challenge and moral purpose as she strove to maintain high academic standards by setting rigorous entrance exams and admitting no students under the age of 16. In keeping with her social vision to make the seminary affordable for students of modest means, she limited the tuition to $60 a year and required students to perform domestic tasks — an early version of work/study - to keep costs low.  Just as an FYI, the current annual cost of attending Mount Holyoke is $50,576. 

Even though Mount Holyoke was founded as a women's seminary and Mary Lyon was a devout Christian, the school had no particular religious affiliation welcoming women of all faith or even no faith at all.  Students, however, were still required to attend church services, chapel talks, prayer meetings, and Bible study groups. Twice a day teachers and students spent time in private devotions and every dorm room had two large lighted closets to give roommates privacy during their devotions.

The 800-acre campus of Mount Holyoke was designed and landscaped between 1896 and 1922 by the landscape architecture firm of Olmsted and Sons which was founded by Frederick Olmsted, the man who also designed Central Park and many other well-known urban parks throughout the country. A native of Hartford, Connecticut, Olmsted established in 1833 what is considered to be the first full-time landscape architecture firm in Brookline, Massachusetts from where he designed the Mount Holyoke campus.

In addition to the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden, the campus includes two lakes, several waterfalls, tennis courts, stables and woodland riding trails - none of which I saw because it was too freakin' cold to really do much exploring at all except for some of the major buildings near the front entrance of the campus. I would love to have seen more but my fingers were turning into popsicles just from the short amount of time I spent walking around between Abbey Chapel, pictured above, and the Williston Library, below.

Named for A. Lyman Williston in 1917, Williston Memorial Library was built on the site of the original 1870 library. The main reading room, built in 1905, was designed to resemble Westminster Hall, an early English legal chamber.  These pictures are, I believe, actually the back of the library which face the main road.  I'm willing to bet it looks even nicer from the other side but I'm going to wait for warmer weather to go back and find out!

The first time we went up to visit Sami, Amanda and I drove past Mount Holyoke and she remarked that it looked like something out of Harry Potter.  Sami said that locally it's called "The Hogwarts of Massachusetts" so I guess Amanda wasn't wrong in her assessment!  It really is a very beautiful campus, though, and I hope to get a chance to go back and explore when the temperature is above 20 degrees!

Oh, and remember that coffee shop that I mentioned going to on Friday night that was complete with a singer strumming her guitar?  It's actually located across from the Mount Holyoke campus in the college-owned center of shoppes called Village Commons and is named the ThirstyMind Coffee and Wine Bar.

It's not just a coffee and wine bar, though, as they also make a mean cup of hot white chocolate that's guaranteed to melt the frost off the coldest of noses!  Trust me on that one, okay?

Before I end this post, I've got one more picture that I have to post as I was thinking about Miss Bee when I took it.

This monument is located on a small green across from the college campus and the inscription reads:  "This monument is erected to commemorate the loyalty and patriotism of our citizen soldiers who fought for liberty and the Union in the Great Rebellion 1861-1865"   I had to chuckle a little bit when I read the inscription as every time I read a Civil War monument these days I always hear Miss Bee's voice in my head calling it "The War of Northern Aggression" as she fondly refers to the War Between the States.  So there you are, Miss Bee, this picture is for you!


  1. Loved all those photos! Beautiful buildings. But you got me on that 'Great Rebellion' inscription. Nope, it was definitely 'Northern Aggression,' as everyone in the South knows!

    Great job...pass that hot chocolate. It is chilly here in WPB this morning. Big hugs...

  2. Anonymous10:11 AM EST

    What a beautiful campus! Montuments to education. They don't build beautiful colleges like that anymore. Everything is just square, brick, and glass...

    It definitely has that Hogwarts look.

    Pass the white cocoa, please... YUM!

  3. Great photos and a very informative post. You do this so well Linda. :)

  4. I thinkthe grey skies worked out well! 50K a year? Wow...

  5. thanks linda! too funny!

    when i see photos of a school like this i can't help but think about the people that went there and where are they now and about their lives.

    smiles, bee

  6. The light was perfect for the subject matter, Linda--dark and brooding buildings against a dark and brooding sky. Terrific shots! And great info. too!

  7. Interesting post, Linda. I love the old buildings and the history that lies within. What a gorgeous campus. And yes, it does look Harry Potter-esque

    Mary Lyon wrote the curriculum (today she'd be a consultant - ha) for the former "female seminary" I attended in Massachusetts as well. When I went there it was an all-women's college.

    One of the main classroom buildings is named after her.

  8. How I love places like this and yes, it definitely looks like something out of a Harry Potter film:-) I had never heard of the Seven Sisters so it was so interesting to read about them. Miss Lyon must be turning in her grave now, though, that her $60 tuition fee is now over $50,000!!! Your pictures truly capture the character of this college...oh if only the walls could talk! xoxo

  9. WOW! Great captures here.

  10. It is a beautiful place. I would love to attend a vintage college. Those buildings are gorgeous!

    And as for the cost...I have a strong opinion on how college tuitions have gone through the roof. Kids come out of school in such debt. Then they can't find a job in the profession they went to school for.

  11. whew! very nice photos. i think is kinda classy College School.

  12. Interesting post, Linda. I love the old buildings and the history that lies within. What a gorgeous campus. And yes, it does look Harry Potter-esque


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