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LSS240: 2017 Student Guide: The Little Forest

Spring 2017 - S. Moga

Laurel Park Forest

The western upland portion of the site is undeveloped and still heavily wooded. Here Sandra and Clelie discuss the Laurel Park landscape. Photo by Jackie Byun, April 18, 2017.

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Place Description

A beautiful grove of chestnuts, pines, and maples1

Ground Rules

"Ground Rules," handbill posted on the chapel door as park of Laurel Park historical exhibit, date unknown.

Rule #15

No trees, buildings or property of the Association shall be mutilated by cutting or marking in any way.

Sense of Place

Trees become an integral part of everyday life, not only in the context of Laurel Park. They can provide physical and spiritual security in the form of shelter and a sense of place. Trees are deeply rooted, static features on the landscape that are very much alive and gradually changing. They help us learn about our bigger place in the world aside from our immediate surroundings.


1Evans, A. H. “The Chautauqua Assembly.” From Historic Northampton, Archives.

2Knab, Frederick. In 1902-1903 Northampton of Today. Northampton, MA: Picturesque Publishing Company 1902.

3Manning, Alice H. “Northampton’s Laurel Park, Peaceful Domain for Religious Activities.” In Meadow City Milestones: A Collection of Historical Sketches. Daily Hampshire Gazette 1987.


From the earliest times, trees have been a focus of spiritual life for many people around the globe. As the largest plant on earth, they help to define a sense of place. My first impression of Laurel Park was the intriguing union of people and forest communicated through the land. This web page consists of photographs, oral histories, and archival data which serves to highlight the resounding trees within this landscape.


Group gathered at Laurel Park entrance gates, date unknown. Collection of Laurel Park.


In Laurel Park, there is a serene and yet visually striking view of the hundred or so cottages integrated through the forest in no consistent spatial arrangement. Thousands and thousands of people would come here for Chautauqua Assemblies from 1887 to 1933. There were various lectures, music, discussions, services, and courses that were held as visitors traveled near and far to enjoy a serene but intellectually stimulating summer. 

The Springfield District Camp Meeting Association formed and conducted its first meetings in 1857. They were originally settled in Wilbraham for seven years and then moved to Hatfield in 1864 for the next eight years. When they wanted to change locations again, they decided to purchase 74 acres of land in Northampton and founded the camp at Laurel Park in 1872.

"Since the land was very heavily wooded, much cleaning and grading had to be done before the first tents could be set up. The little forest was profusely covered with laurel, and the sight became known as Laurel Park...”2

Tree Scenary

“Nearly 100 acres of grove covered with pine, chestnut and maple, great ledges entwined with laurel, shady walks, pure spring water, scores of attractive cottages, large covered Auditorium, and Normal Hall with broad piazzas, are some of the attractions of Laurel Park. Just in front of the Park is the Connecticut river, which winds like a silver thread through the green meadows. Mt. Tom, Mt. Holyoke, and Mt. Tobey lift themselves against the distant skies. It would be difficult to find a more picturesque spot.” --Alice Manning, 19873

Laurel Park's "little forest" is slowly and continuously changing as trees grow, die, spontaneously regenerate from seed, and get removed or planted by people. Still, the overall landscape character persists shady, enclosed, and verdant. 

Photo by Jackie Byun, April 30, 2017.

1939 Map

1938 Hurricane Damage

Cottages #112 and #111

#112 and #111, April 25, 2017

Archived Stories

“It looks quite different now than it did when I first started coming here. Then it was a really wooded spot, but the hurricane did a tremendous amount of damage to the trees as well as to the cottages. Seven hundred and ten trees were felled at that time and all the cottages were ordered vacated.” - Mr. Holway, 19872

Connecting the Past to the Present

Although trees serve a variety of ecological functions in general, they also offer cultural meaning to the main landscape. Any tree with an extensive lifespan can be said to hold historical value. However, they become notably significant when the community ascribes reverence and vests interest to ensure that these trees are protected. 

"Special Trees"

Memorial Tree

Special status may be assigned to trees that are dedicated to other people or planted as public memorials. This is a photo of a birch tree planted by a resident and her husband in remembrance of her in-laws. 

Deck Tree

The location/ proximity of the trees to the streets and houses serve as a constant reminder of their fused relationship. This is a photo of a deck that was built around a tree at one of the residents' homes.

Sculpture Tree 1

This photo shows one of many sculpture trees in the forest created by the 2016 Artist in Residence, Gary Orlinsky. The Artist in Residence program is run by Laurel Park Arts, which is an initiative of the Laurel Park Association focused on arts programming. The first artist they invited, Terre Unité Parker, choreographed dances for a small group which they also performed in the woods.

Sculpture Tree 2

Sculpture Tree 3

Photo Gallery (example of the re-photography method by Jackie Byun)

Densely wooded path in Laurel Park, unknown date. Collection of Laurel Park.

Pathway into the little forest from the cottage grounds, April 18, 2017.

What seems to be facing the north circle of cottages surrounding the tabernacle, date unknown. Collection of Laurel Park.

View facing the north circle cottages, April 30, 2017.

West side of the circle, unknown date. Collection of Laurel Park.

View facing the west side, April 30, 2017.

Photograph facing the backside of Normal Hall, unknown date. Collection of Laurel Park.

View facing the backside of Normal Hall, with the new tabernacle close to the right. April 30, 2017.

Image Citations

[a] Easthampton map 1939, Old Maps Online

[b] Collection of Laurel Park

[c] 1938 Hurricane Damage photos taken by Jackie Byun, April 25, 2017.

[d] Ground Rules photo was taken by Prof. Steven Moga, April 25, 2017.

[e] Newspaper photo in Tree Scenery section is from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, July 25, 1980.

[f] All historic photos in Rephotographs section are from the Laurel Park archives collection on site, April 25, 2017.