Historical Commission

1880 Feeding Hills Center
Feeding Hills Center, c. 1880: from left, A.K. Fuller Store, unidentified building, Hamilton House, Charles Wright House (photo courtesy Agawam Historical Association)
1895 Main Street
Agawam Center, 1895: C.W. Hastings Store, left; Agawam Baptist Church, right (photo courtesy Agawam Historical Association)

Introduction

 “Agawam…the earliest of the Springfield Settlements* was almost the last to be made a separate town. For more than a century it was part of Springfield, but in 1774, The General Court created a separate town, West Springfield, of all that part of Springfield that lay west of the Connecticut. Agawam had to wait eighty years more for independence. It had retained its original appellation as a local name, and very properly adopted it when incorporated as a town in 1855.

While the Agawam territory was designated as the Feeding Hills for cattle in 1638, the first permanent settlement south of the Agawam River was made in 1685 when grants were made to Thomas Cooper, Abel Leonard, and Thomas Merrick of Springfield.”

              •Dr. Mary C. Clune, Head of the Department of History in the Springfield Technical School

                            •West Springfield, Massachusetts Tercentenary - The West Springfield That Was and That Is

                                                     Compiled and edited by Ernest Newton Bagg and Winthrop Sears Bagg, 1936

*The first house in the region was built in the Agawam Meadows by John Cable and John Woodcock in 1635.

Agawam Historical Commission

The Agawam Historical Commission was established by vote of the Agawam Town Council on July 2, 1979, pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40, Section 8D. The first members of the newly created commission were Marilyn Curry and Geraldine Schilling Nordal. Prior to the establishment of anofficial historical commission, members of the Agawam Historical Associationand other interested residents served as an ad hoc “Historical Committee”.

The Massachusetts Historical Commission considers a local historical commission’s most important goal “the preservation of the community’s historic places.” The Agawam Historical Commission works toward this goal by planning for and implementing programs for the identification, evaluation, preservation, and protection of Agawam’s historic resources.

The Agawam Historical Commission is acutely aware of the delicate balance between the preservation of the town’s historic resources and the needs of this dynamic municipality in the twenty-first century, and works collaboratively with all parties involved to achieve its goals.

The Agawam Historical Commission is often confused with the Agawam Historical Association. It is important to understand the difference between these two organizations.

The Agawam Historical Commission is the official agent of municipal government responsible for community-wide historic preservation planning. Its members are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council.

The Agawam Historical Association is a private, non-profit organization. The Agawam Historical Association preserves and promotes local history through its public programs; its house museum, the Thomas Smith House; and its collection of artifacts and records at the Agawam Historical & Fire House Museum.

Meetings

The Agawam Historical Commission meets on the last Tuesday of the month, September through June. The commission meets in July and August as circumstances warrant. Meetings are held at 7:00 pm at the historic Captain Charles Leonard House, 663 Main Street, Agawam. The commission appreciates the generosity of the trustees of the Captain Charles Leonard House, who graciously allow the use of the Minerva Davis Meeting Room for monthly commission meetings.

The public is welcome at all meetings. For additional information on the commission’s activities, please contact the commission by calling the Agawam Office of Planning and Community Development at 413-786-0400 x8245.

Agendas & Minutes

Agendas are available prior to meetings. Minutes are available following approval.

View most recent agendas and minutes.

Members

Members of the Agawam Historical Commission are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council for three-year terms.   The commission shall consist of not less than three nor more than seven members.

David Cecchi, chairman initial appointment 1992, current term expiring January 1, 2021

Marilyn Curry  initial appointment 1980, current term expiring January 1, 2021

Charlotte Fields appointed 2018, current term expiring January 1, 2021

Teresa Kozloski appointed 2017, current term expiring January 1, 2020

Shelley Pass appointed 2018, current term expiring January 1, 2021

Alice Smith initial appointment 1986, current term expiring January 1, 2020

Leston Tingley appointed 2019, current term expiring January 1, 2022

Persons interested in appointment to the Agawam Historical Commission should send a letter indicating such to the Mayor of Agawam for consideration.

Current Activities

In addition to ongoing activities listed below, the Agawam Historical Commission, with the assistance of a grant from the Agawam Community Preservation Act Committee, is currently working with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to bring the inventory forms of nearly 400 properties within the 1985 portion of the town’s Inventory of Historic Resources up to the current standards of the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

Activities

• The Agawam Historical Commission works in cooperation with, and advises other municipal agencies, town boards, and commissions on matters concerning historic preservation.

• The Agawam Historical Commission sponsored the creation of, and advises the Department of Inspection Services with respect to, the Town’s Demolition Delay Ordinance, which affects more than 500 properties listed on the town’s Inventory of Historic Resources, on file with the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

• The Agawam Historical Commission supports the ongoing work of the Agawam Historical Association to preserve and interpret Agawam’s rich history. The Historical Association operates the Agawam Historical & Fire House Museum and owns the Thomas Smith House (c. 1757), which is preserved in near original condition and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

• The Agawam Historical Commission supports the trustees of the Captain Charles Leonard House in their efforts to maintain Agawam’s finest Federal-era (1805) building as Agawam’s community house. 

• The Agawam Historical Commission worked with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to have the Agawam Center Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

• The Agawam Historical Commission was instrumental in preventing a state highway improvement project from widening Main Street to accommodate a third travel lane and forever altering the character of our historic town center. The Historical Commission, working with MassHighway and other stakeholders, negotiated an acceptable compromise. The roadway was narrowed, granite curbing installed, vintage-style street lights, traffic signals, and street signs installed, and hundreds of trees planted as a traffic calming measure.

• The Agawam Historical Commission worked with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to nominate the School Street Barn for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

• The Agawam Historical Commission worked with the Agawam Community Preservation Committee to replace a bronze marker commemorating George Washington’s ride through Agawam that had been stolen and missing for decades.

• The Agawam Historical Commission is represented on the Agawam Community Preservation Committee by a member appointed to that position.

• The Agawam Historical Commission aids residents and property owners with available resources and information regarding matters of historic preservation.

• Members of the Agawam Historical Commission actively raise awareness of the rich history of our town and the importance of historic preservation through ongoing participation in local historical organizations, presentations, publications, and conversations.

Inventory of Historic Resources

More than 500 areas, buildings, burial grounds, objects, and structures in Agawam have been inventoried and are on file with the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) as historic resources. MHC survey forms of these resources are available on the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) website

Demolition Delay Ordinance


§ 82-3. Demolition delay of historically significant buildings.

[Added 5-17-1999 by TOR-99-1]

Intent and purpose

The purpose of the demolition delay ordinance is to preserve and protect historically significant buildings within the Town of Agawam, and to encourage owners of such buildings to seek out persons who are willing to purchase, preserve, rehabilitate or restore such buildings rather than demolish them.

To achieve this purpose, the Agawam Historical Commission is empowered to advise the Inspector of Buildings with respect to the issuance of permits for demolition of historically significant buildings. The issuance of demolition permits for historically significant buildings is regulated as provided in the town’s Demolition Delay Ordinance.