Springfield MA is the kind of city that most people speed by on the way to somewhere "more important."Sitting at the junction of Interstates 90 and 91, people zoom by traveling between Boston, Albany, Montreal and other places. If people stopped, most likely it is to see the National Basketball Hall of Fame. On a recent trip, I found several other reasons that make Springfield worth a stop.
Founded in 1636 on the banks of the Connecticut River, Springfield played a major role. It sits along what were two major trading routes - Boston - Albany and NYC - Montreal. This made it ideal as the first site for the United States' National Armory, producing arms (the Springfield Rifle) for the U.S. army from 1777 to 1968. The Springfield Armory is Massachusetts' only national park. It was the near capture of the Springfield Armory during Shay's Rebellion that led to writing of the U.S. Constitution.
Springfield is sometimes called the City of Firsts. It produced the first U.S. English Dictionary (Miriam Webster), use of an Assembly Line (Thomas Blanchard), patent of vulcanized rubber (Charles Goodyear), gasoline powered automobile (Duryea Brothers), Indian motorcycles, and of course basketball.
My visit was to The Quadrangle, a collection of 4 wonderful museums.
The Quadrangle consists of the following museums:
The Springfield Science Museum
You enter through the Science Museum. Home to the first planetarium in the United States, The museum also has a collection of mounted and live animals, minerals and gems, and a small discovery center.
The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum
This museum houses a collection of Japanese Arms and Armour, Chinese CloisoneÉ, Plaster cast reproductions of European sculptures and Tiffiny Windows.
The Michele & Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Art
This museum houses an excellent small collection of European and American art of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, including a wonderful gallery of Impressionist Art.
Vermont Marble Quarry by John Koch
Sixth Avenue by Andre Ruellan
The Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History
This museum actually sits outside of the Quadrangle, but its entrance is included in the same fee as the other museums. This museum hosts a collection dedicated to the history of Springfield, especially its industrial history. As I stated above, Springfield has been home to many important industrial firsts, from dictionaries to guns to automobiles and motorcycles. It is also home to Smith and Wesson, Friendly's Restaurants, and many other businesses.
Duryea Brothers Automobile
The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden
What really drew me here was this tribute to Dr. Seuss. Theodore Giesel was born in Springfield, and this tribute was created by his stepdaughter - Lark Grey Dimond-Cates. These bronze sculptures represent most of Dr. Seuss' most beloved creatures.
So, the next time you are on the interstate, passing cities by at some ungodly speed, think about exiting, and seeing what they have to offer. I have always found something that I enjoy and sometimes you find a real treasure.