Springfield Central Cultural District Background
Often called the “City of Firsts,” Springfield has been an epicenter of innovation, free enterprise, and ingenuity for well over 300 years. A veritable hotbed of progress, Springfield is home to some of the most notable and all-American industrial organizations in our nation’s history, including the first gasoline-powered car made by the Duryea Brothers, as well as the Indian Motorcycle company. It is the place where a beloved literary tradition for many families across the nation started; Springfield is renowned as the birthplace of the celebrated children’s author Dr. Seuss. If that weren’t enough – the popular sport of basketball was created in Springfield in 1891 by a doctor from Springfield College.
Beyond being the birthplace of so these many elements that have defined American culture, Downtown Springfield is host to just about all of the region’s major arts venues, such as the Springfield Museums and Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, MassMutual Center, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, CityStage, and the Community Music School. Throughout the District, visitors find themselves surrounded by a medley of other historic landmarks and arts attractions, including the Old First Church – a key stop on the African American Freedom Trail, the Pan African Historical Museum, and 1350 Main Gallery/Studio 9. The District also boasts architecturally-significant buildings (including a plethora of Victorian-era “Painted Lady” mansions), listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as public art installations, and the majestic Court Square Park which is surrounded by ornate architecture and the iconic Beaux-Arts municipal buildings.
The success of the Springfield Central Cultural District is in large part to the spectacular member organizations that are situated within the Cultural District borders. Make sure you schedule in time during your visit to each of these institutions.
- Science Museum – established as the Springfield Ethnological and Natural History Museum, the name was changed to the Springfield Science Museum in 1961 to reflect the country’s entry into the space age and the museum’s inclusion of physical science exhibits. Visitors can enjoy: The Seymour Planetarium which opened in 1937 and is the oldest American–built planetarium in the world, Dinosaur Hall with a full-size replica of Tyrannosaurus rex, R. E. Phelon African Hall with a huge African elephant, a giraffe, two lions, an ostrich, a rhino and many other animals Solutia Live Animal Center with live fish, insects, reptiles and amphibians in realistic habitats, Astronomy Hall where you can touch rocks from outer space, Native American Hall where you’ll see how New England Indians used to live, and more.
- D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts – one of the two Springfield Museums dedicated to fine and decorative arts. The Art Deco-style museum was established in response to a bequest from Mr. & Mrs. James Philip Gray, who left their entire estate for the “selection, purchase, preservation, and exhibition of the most valuable, meritorious, artistic, and high class oil paintings obtainable,” and for the construction of a museum to house them. The museum opened in 1934.
- George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum – one of the two Springfield Museums dedicated to fine and decorative arts. It represents the personal taste and Victorian aesthetic of the collector whose name it bears.The museum was built in 1895 in the style of an elegant Italian villa and opened to the public in 1896 as the “Art Museum.”
- Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History – enjoy the story of Springfield’s history from the civil war to the present in this 40,000 sq. ft. museum including the Springfield History Library and Archives which contains 2.5 million manuscripts, 50,000 photographs, 30,000 books, thousands of reels of microfilm, and computer databases for researchers and family genealogists; and the Springfield History Theater, which shows historical documentaries and presents educational programs.
Basketball Hall of Fame – home to more than three hundred inductees and more than 40,000 sq. ft. of basketball history. Located on the picturesque banks of the Connecticut River, the new museum is a fitting shrine to the game Dr. Naismith invented more than a century ago. You can enjoy hundreds of interactive exhibits and share the spotlight with skills challenges, live clinics, and shooting contests. And of course there is enough basketball history to impress the world’s most avid sports fans!
Springfield Symphony Orchestra – the largest symphony in the state of MA outside of Boston. The SSO celebrates over 70 years classical and pops performances, plus education & outreach programs. Springfield Symphony Orchestra performs at Springfield Symphony Hall, which was originally built as the Municipal Auditorium. The Orchestra consists of over 80 musicians from New England and Canada. The SSO is also the parent organization of two youth orchestras – the Springfield Youth Sinfonia (formally Young Person’s Philharmonia) and the Springfield Youth Orchestra (formally Young Person’s Symphony). Exciting performances coming up in both the classical and pops concert realms, including the next classical program January 24th featuring Fuchs, Mendelssohn and Beethoven with violin soloist Axel Strauss, and “The Music of Michael Jackson” Jeans n’ Classics concert February 7th!
Community Music School – for 30 years, CMSS has opened doors to the power of music to educate, inspire and transform lives. Housed in a landmark 1933 Art Deco building in the heart of downtown Springfield with 30,000 sq. ft. of studios, classrooms, offices and performance areas on five floors.
CityStage and Symphony Hall Springfield’s destination for live, professional theatre. Featuring a season of touring Broadway musicals, concerts and an educational series at Symphony Hall and Off-Broadway musicals and comedies at CityStage. On average, the two theatres host 250 events from September through June with an extremely broad variety of shows. The entertainment ranges from classical music to comedy, with magic shows, concerts, jugglers, an educational series, dramas, public forums, graduations, dance recitals and everything else in between. Check out a snapshot of the fun from their last two Broadway shows: Jekyll and Hyde (7 second video) and Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway (10 second video)
Springfield City Library – with nine incredible libraries across the City of Springfield we are thrilled to have the Central Library in the heart of the Cultural District in Downtown. The mission is to strive to build connections, broaden horizons, and strengthen community. The libraries serve as the community source for literacy, technology and information.
Art galleries including Studio 9 at 1350 Main Street, Artist Square Group Gallery at Tower Square, Pan-African Historical Museum at Tower Square, and of course the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts and George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum.
Public Art – an impressive permanent inventory including the original casting of Augustus Saint-Gauden’s most famous sculpture, The Puritan. Currently featuring an exhibit of James Kitchen sculptures and John Simpson murals.
The Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway – includes 3.7 mile stretch along the Springfield riverfront which provides outstanding opportunities to bike, run, walk or rollerblade in view of stunning scenic vistas of the Connecticut River, the Springfield city skyline, and Memorial Bridge.
America’s first armory – now the Springfield Armory National Historic Site and Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) campus.
MassMutual Convention Center – Standing in the heart of Western Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, the MassMutual Center is the region’s most diverse meeting and special event venue. All under one roof the facility boasts over 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space including: 40,000 square foot exhibition hall, elegant 15,000 square foot ballroom, spacious pre-function areas with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city skyline, eight fully-functional meeting rooms, 24,500 square feet of flexible meeting space, and an 8,000-seat arena for overflow or special events.
WGBY – A community-supported PBS member station, connecting people of our region striving to educate, entertain, enrich lives and improve communities. A valued partner with individuals and organizations that share the same values – working together toward the common goal of building a stronger community through learning and understanding.
New England Public Radio (NEPR) – A new addition to the fabric of Downtown Springfield with a state-of-the-art broadcast facility at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets, known to some as the Fuller Block. NEPR delivers exceptional NPR and local news, information, music, and cultural programming on air and online. For News and Music devotees, NEPR broadcasts WFCR at 88.5 FM including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, signature classical music, and Jazz à la Mode. For those who crave News and Talk 24/7, NEPR has all-news WNNZ AM 640 and 91.7 FM. Vital, in-depth, comprehensive, and provocative.