One of the popular attractions in the Connecticut River Valley in MA includes Mt Holyoke with its many hiking trails and programs offered at the Summit House that sits atop the mount.
Early in the 1800’s a guest house was built on Mt. Holyoke by a local organization, but in the 1850’s the place was purchased by John & Fanny French. The Frenches added-on to it and increased the space to provide a number of guest rooms and a dining facility. The new resort was then called the Prospect House. John French also built a tramway to get supplies in and make transportation easier for his guests.
By the 1860’s the Frenches sold the place to John Dwight, but maintained management of the tourist spot. After both the Frenches and John Dwight died the hotel found itself in the hands of Joseph Allen Skinner, son of silk magnate William Skinner of Holyoke MA. Joseph Skinner was a prosperous businessman and his interest in the mountain was environmental rather than financial. He was concerned that the fast growth in the valley would destroy the natural beauty and importance of nature and wildlife. In 1940 Joseph donated about 375 acres to the State of MA to be preserved as a state park. The only stipulation was that it bear his name.
Many people frequent Skinner State Park and extensive renovations have recently been completed. But, there is a feeling on this mountain, in this place, that you are never alone. Flashes of a white streak through trees can be seen. Orbs of bright light suddenly appear. Footfalls can be heard on the porch. And occasionally, there is a soft murmur of what could be voices – or is it a gentle wind blowing from the woods?
For me, the feeling of unseen presences is the most consistent. It isn’t scary, it’s just there. Maybe it’s one of the Frenches or Mr. Dwight wanting the welcome another guest. Fanny was known for her graciousness and both men enjoyed their visitors and offering great hospitality. Maybe they decided not to leave the place they loved best.