A Tour of Holyoke’s Water-powered Mill Buildings

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We spent Sunday afternoon in Van Dog land…the industrial area of the lower part of the city of Holyoke. We recently joined a group called Holyoke CRUSH, which seeks to restore, revitalize and appreciate this historic mill city, and the group organized a tour of one of the waterpowered industrial neighborhoods.

I spent five years working on Jackson Street for Eric Suher at E-S Sports, and remember driving among these towering brick mills searching for customers. The area was familiar to me and I’ve always liked the notion of having a business with 14-foot-high ceilings and amenities like an industrial loading dock. We learned about the progress of the Canal Walk, its first phase beginning next Spring, and about other buildings that the city would like to tear down.

On our walk, on a brisk and windy afternoon, we passed by the former Loomis Mills, now the home to Open Square, a collection of software, web pros, artist studios and industrial storage that has live-in lofts. Outside the building we saw where water from the canals is discharged after turning the turbines inside that generate all the power the big buildings need. John Aubin the owner has recently gotten grant money and has big plans to do a lot more

We passed another dilapidated building that once housed the Holyoke Die Cut Card Company. Apparently this too is now in Eric’s portfolio, and some day will be restored and put to good use with residential condos or live-in artists studios.

The city has a lot of potential, everyone says that. When will it become the mecca that we all envision, with the Victory Theater, a completed Canal Walk, and Open Square full of hotels, cafes, and restaurants? Well, let’s just keep being optimistic and hope that money finds this gem and that another entrepreneur takes a risk.