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Agawam is a city in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 28,438 at the 2010 census. Agawam sits on the western side of the Connecticut River, directly across from Springfield, Massachusetts. It is considered part of the Springfield Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is contiguous with the Knowledge Corridor area, the 2nd largest metropolitan area in New England. Agawam contains a subsection, Feeding Hills. The Six Flags New England amusement park is located in Agawam, on the banks of the Connecticut River.
On May 15, 1636, William Pynchon purchased land on both sides of the Connecticut River from the local Pocomtuc Indians known as Agawam, which included present-day Springfield, Chicopee, Longmeadow, and West Springfield, Massachusetts. The purchase price for the Agawam portion was 10 coats, 10 hoes, 10 hatchets, 10 knives, and 10 fathoms of wampum. Agawam and West Springfield separated from Springfield to become the parish of West Springfield in 1757; Agawam and West Springfield split in 1800. Agawam incorporated as a town on May 17, 1855.
In 1771, John Porter moved to Agawam and founded a gin distillery nine years later. After he died, his grandson, Harry, continued to work the business as the H. Porter Distilling Company. The plant was sold in 1917, and during Prohibition, the main products produced in the building were potato chips and cider. After the Volstead Act was repealed, the mill began producing gin again but closed permanently in 1938. The building, on Main Street near River Road, served as Agawam’s Department of Public Works garage until it fell into disrepair.
Agawam furnished 172 men who fought in the American Civil War, 22 of whom died in battle or of disease.
The original town hall, built in 1874 at the corner of Main and School Streets, housed the town government divisions as the current one does today, as well as the original town library located in the building’s Tower Room. A small school building was located near the premises and held grades one through three. The building was demolished in 1938, and the property is now the site of Benjamin Phelps Elementary School.
The Feeding Hills town hall, built in 1906, was almost identical to the Agawam town hall and was located at the corner of Springfield and South Westfield Streets. The building was demolished in 1950, and the Clifford M. Granger Elementary School opened in 1946 now occupies that land.
May 29, 1930, and June 1, 1931, saw “grand openings” of Bowles Agawam Airport with the latter date including a visit from 100 biplanes of the United States Army Air Corps Eastern Air Arm. A scheduled air service operated out of Bowles for approximately one year, before ending. The airport continued to operate as a civil airport until 1982. A pari-mutuel horse racing track, including grandstand and stables, was built adjacent to Bowles Airport. Seabiscuit won the Springfield Handicap at Agawam in track record time in October 1935. The racetrack operated until pari-mutuel betting was outlawed by referendum in Hampden County in November 1938. The airport also had plans in the early 1960s to become a commercial airport and host airlines for the city of Springfield, but plans were shelved. The airport and racetrack were demolished in the late 1980s and the area is now an industrial park.