Holyoke is often referred to as the “arson capitol of the world” for the number of vacant, abandoned and burned out buildings that littered its landscape. Once an industrial capitol, the “Paper City,” known for its manufacturing of paper and textiles, ran on river power and an innovative and extensive canal system that harnessed water power. Nearly a hundred years later, Holyoke became a city of boarded up five- and six-story brick blocks and abandoned, burned out factories frequently used by drug dealers as squats, lookouts, and places for their nefarious business. Holyoke after the 1960s was a city of empty, rubble-filled lots, the remains of dozens of fires that destroyed many of these buildings. Piles of charred debris were left behind. It is densely populated with large brick tenements. For lots of reasons it has the appearance of much larger inner-city areas of the late 70's early 80's. So when you go into neighborhoods and see the kinds of disinvestments that people are familiar with in sections of Roxbury in Boston and in sections of the South Bronx you feel like you're in familiar territory.
Holyoke is in the process of revitalizing downtown as well as a "slum clearance" to rebuild some of the worst ghettos in the Northeast. The city is also attracting high-tech jobs due to its access to green hydropower.
"There are only three cities in the world, Holyoke, Paris and New York”