In response to this uniformed comment on a story in the Berkshire Eagle:
I wrote this response(though I couldn’t resist the urge to edit):
As a Springfield resident I cannot deny that the city suffers from more than its share of society’s ills; unemployment, gang violence, etc.. Of course, the city is also home to more workers and more jobs than any other community in western Massachusetts, and according to FBI data, has seen a 50% drop in violent crime in the last 20 years. Be that as it may, for all of Springfield’s problems it remains an important cultural center.
Start with a Museum of Fine Arts possessing masterpieces from both European and American artists including household names like Picasso, Renoir, Degas, Monet, Gauguin, Millet, Tiepolo, Stuart, Homer, Singer Sargent, and O’Keefe. Add to that the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum with one of America’s largest collections of Asian art and an impressive collection of American landscape paintings of the XIX century. The Museum of Springfield History contains the largest collection of Indian “Motocycles” and Springfield made automobiles including both the first American made car and the only American made Rolls Royce automobiles. These museums as well as the Museum of Natural History and the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum surround the Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden which is also framed by a significant and beautiful example of City Beautiful architecture: Springfield’s Central Library. That library is home to only one branch of the largest municipal library system, by circulation, collection and by number of branches, in western Massachusetts.
Moving just south of that edifice there is the famous “Puritan” statue by Augustus St. Gaudens, now located a few blocks from the St Gaudens designed Merrick Park. Walking down to Main Street you pass by Springfield’s Court Square with the former Hampden County courthouse designed by renowned architect HH Richardson. (One of the finest examples of his later “Romanesque” style is located a few blocks away, just at the edge of Mattoon Street, home of the Mattoon Street Arts Festival. ) Springfield’s “Municipal Group”, another spectacular example of City Beautiful architecture, includes Symphony Hall, home to the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. Symphony Hall, MassMutual Center (Mass Mutual being the largest corporation headquartered in Massachusetts) and City Stage host dozens of concerts, plays, and cultural events. The MassMutual Center is also home to the Springfield Falcons AHL franchise.
Springfield has four colleges, including the only law school in western Massachusetts. The University of Massachusetts recently opened a satellite campus in the heart of downtown as well. According to published sources Springfield has over 19,000 students attending institutions of higher learning. Still close to the downtown there is the Springfield Armory National Historic Site with the “Organ of Guns” made famous in Longfellow’s poem “The Arsenal at Springfield”. Nearby you can see markers commemorating Shay’s Rebellion, which historians link to the writing of the Constitution. (Also nearby John Brown and Frederick Douglas met for the first time.) The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was moved from the Springfield College campus to the riverfront years ago, but was built here in recognition of the fact that the world’s second most popular sport was invented and first played in Springfield.
Springfield also has a significant park designed by the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted (Forest Park) which is the centerpiece of one of the nation’s largest municipal park systems. The city has the largest neighborhood of Victorian homes in Massachusetts (McKnight). The region’s public television and public radio stations both have their headquarters and broadcast studios in Springfield’s downtown. Smaller cultural centers such as The Bing Arts Center, The Community Music School of Springfield, PAHMUSA, DREAM Studios, Panache Productions, and The Drama Studio (just to name the ones I am personally familiar with) provide more opportunities for cultural experiences. Springfield has the largest public school system outside Boston in all of New England, the Springfield Republican was the first periodical to publish Emily Dickinson’s poetry…
Perhaps the entirety of western Massachusetts apart from Springfield, taken in total, can surpass what the 33 square miles of The City of Homes has in terms of cultural assets, but no other single community in the region comes close to matching what my hometown has to offer. Period.