Below is a newsletter put together by the Social Union in 1981 (based on a 1957 Gazette article, and shared by former LP residents Don and Cindy Joy):
- The original 74 acres of Laurel Park were purchased by the Springfield District Camp Meeting Association in September 1871 for $7500. Lots around the Circle were sold on June 28, 1872 to area Methodist churches. Westfield paid $160; Northampton paid $150. The highest priced cottage lots to individuals sold for $4.25. From this they went down to the “not-giveawayable” point!
- On August 27, 1872 the grounds were formally dedicated. During Camp Meeting week which followed, up to 8000 people were present on some days! Trollies from Northampton ran to the Park every 10 or 20 minutes.
- Normal Hall was built in 1892 at a cost of $1200. Part of the present kitchen was an office and post office.
- Thousands and thousands of people came to Laurel Park for Chautauqua Assemblies from 1887 to 1933. For 11 days there were lectures, music, discussions, devotional services, courses in home economics for the purpose of “building up moral character and to give a broader view of intellectual life.” The admission fee was $1.75 and board was $6.00 for the 11 days. It was reported that between 5000 and 8000 people attended Laurel Park Chautauqua in 1925.
- The Connecticut River Railroad moved an old depot building from Hadley to the hill in front of the entrance of the Park. During Chautauqua Assemblies three trains stopped each way daily. The round trip fare from Springfield was 10¢.
- The Social Union donated the massive stone gates in June 1913.
- 710 trees fell in Laurel Park in the hurricane of September 21, 1938. The Association made $1000. by opening the Park up to a logging operation.
- In addition to the religious sessions and the Chautauqua attractions, Laurel Park has been noted for years for its social gatherings through the activities of its Social Union and among those pleasant events were many Saturday evening suppers served cafeteria style on the shaded lawns outside Normal Hall.” – From the Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 22, 1957 at the time of the Centennial Celebration.
Some of you may know the song “It’s a Small World” – – ‘It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears ……” Well here is a Laurel Park version to be sung to the same tune!
It’s a place of laughter, a place of tears,
Where friendships last throughout the years,
There’s so much that we share,
that it’s time we’re aware,
It’s a good community.
There are narrow roads winding all around,
And the trees and flowers in the Park abound,
It’s a cool summer place,
with a slow easy pace,
It’s a nice community.
When a tour through here some folks do take,
Here are the comments we hear them make,
“Are these places for rent?”
“Can I set up a tent?”
“Please show me to the lake!”
Let us not forget our neighbors dear,
Our yards are one, they live so near,
When we open our door,
there are neighbors galore,
It’s a close community.
E’er since eighteen hundred and seventy-two,
Lots of folks have lived in the Park it’s true,
Some have come here to pray,
some like quiet, they say,
It’s an old community.
Laurel Park, it’s very clear,
Has a special atmosphere,
We’ve got something going here, –
A unique community.