The History of Utilities In Ludlow

The many utilities that are available in Ludlow today are the result of years of work and development. This page discusses the development of the services and utilities that are so crucial to Ludlow today. These services include the various forms of communication that evolved in Ludlow throughout the years as well as the evolution of power and water in the town.

The Postal Service

Before 1821, Ludlow had no post office. As McChesney speculates in his book, mail was likely brought by people passing through the town for other reasons, such as stage coach drivers. In 1788, the postal routes were expanded. Since Ludlow was located on the route from Connecticut to the county seat in Northampton (Ludlow was a part of Hampshire County until Hampden County was created in 1812) it was likely there was a stop in Ludlow. At this time the mail was likely dropped off at a tavern or other public place. Finally, in 1821 the town would get it's first official post office, when Benjamin Jenks (an early Ludlow mill owner described more in depth on the agriculture page) became the first Ludlow postmaster. He set up the first post office in town in his store which was located on East Street, near the bridge to Indian Orchard.

The reason that Jenks pushed for this early post office was likely due to the fact that not only would he be able to use the postal service, but that anyone else using it would have to come to his store to do so, benefiting his business. At this time the post office used an entirely different system for determining the cost of sending mail. This system was based on the number of sheets of paper and the distance that the letter would have to travel. This made the service too expensive for most of the citizens of Ludlow at the time. Due to the fact that anyone wanting to use the postal service had to travel to Jenksville (the area where the mills were located near Indian Orchard) another post office was created near the center of town with Susan Chapen as the postmistriss in 1874. This post office was run from her house until 1919 when Leavitt Perham became postmaster and moved the post office to his house. Perham's house is located across from the First Church at 854 Center Street and was used as a post office until 1919 when he died and the center post office closed.

Over the years many improvements were made to the postal service throughout the country and in Ludlow. in 1855, the old method of requiring people to pay for letters when they were delivered was replaced with the current stamp system used today. In 1913 packages could be shipped from the post office, and in 1902 Rural Free Delivery was implemented in the town. Before RFD, those living in rural areas would need to travel to the post office to send and receive mail; now mail could be delivered to them. Two RFD routes were created in Ludlow, Route 1 being used until 1962 and Route 2 being used until 1929. The RFD carriers would also survey land and animals at farms and report on activities such as accidents and forest fires while delivering the mail. The post office remained at the site of Jenks store until 1905, when the Ludlow Manufacturing Associates who owned the land, decided to use it for other purposes. The post office was moved to the building at the corner of East and Chestnut Streets that still stands today. Over the years the post office became larger and eventually used up all of the building space facing Chestnut Street and was then moved to it's current location on Winsor Street in 1963.

Telephone Service

In 1880 the Springfield Telephone Company installed the first telephones in Ludlow. One phone was installed at a railroad depot, one at the Ludlow Manufacturing Company's offices, two at stores (Grosvenor's Drug Store and H. Root and Comapny's general store) and one at Dr. Hannum's home. In 1903 additional phone lines were constructed in Ludlow and in 1904 the town had it's first switchboard operator. The switchboard operator worked from a small room located at 30 Chestnut Street and provided the town with phone service for the entire day, at night connecting the phone line to the Fire Chief so that emergencies could still be called in until full-time service was available soon afterwards. Telephone poles and even more phone lines were installed in 1911 and since then the use of the telephone service in Ludlow has increased dramatically.

The Ludlow Reservoir

Built in 1873 and 1874, the Ludlow Reservoir was constructed to supply water to the City of Springfield, despite opposition by the townspeople. Although another site for a reservoir had been considered at the time (Little River in Westfield), Ludlow was chosen because it was less costly than the Little River site. The Ludlow Reservoir was built in what was known as Cherry Valley at the time and several homes had to be destroyed. The land in Cherry Valley was also described by Alfred Noon as containing some of the best farmland in the town. The total amount of land taken by the City of Springfield was just over 800 acres, the reservoir consisting of 445 acres with 7 miles of shoreline. The reservoir provided water for all of Springfield until 1909, when a reservoir was also constructed at the Westfield site.

Today the reservoir is open to the public. A paved trail follows a similar path to an old road that once led to several houses and a schoolhouse that were located just north of where the water ends. Many stone walls can be seen in the woods from the trail and the original path of the road can be seen when the paved trail takes a hard Eastern turn. This original section of road leads to the sites of Schoolhouse number 7 and several former residences from before the reservoir's construction. There was also a road just south of the Belchertown line that ran west into the woods to several more residences.

Gas

The Springfield Gas Light Company, formed in 1847, was the first to supply gas to the residents of Ludlow (The Ludlow Manufacturing Associates had a gas plant on an island in the Chicopee River that was likely used for lighting street lights before gas was available to the general public). It was given permission to supply homes and businesses with gas in 1906 and started out serving only 11 customers. In order for a customer to get the gas, they would have to insert 25 cents into a slot to obtain a specific amount of gas. Although initially used for lighting, until electricity became more popular in Ludlow, gas was used mainly for heating and cooking purposes. As time went on the number of people using gas in Ludlow continued to rise and in the early 1970's, the company which was now known as the Bay State Gas Company wanted to build a natural gas storage facility in Ludlow. The site that the company wanted to use to construct the plant on was off of East Street, near where it intersects Miller Street. This plan was rejected due to a protest from the townspeople about the location's close proximity to schools and houses. The plant was instead built at it's current location at the end of Miller Street near the bridge into Wilbraham.

Newspapers

Throughout the history of Ludlow, the Springfield newspapers have been the primary source of news for Ludlow residents. The only issue with this arrangement is that the Springfield newspapers are unable to cover many of the local events in Ludlow due to their size and circulation area. This has led to a number of local newspapers and tabloids being produced that covered local news and events. All of the local papers produced have always been free of charge, issued weekly, and supported by advertisements. In 1915, Henry Brady created the first local newspaper called, "The Echo". This paper did not last for more than a few years and was printed by hand. From 1926 to 1938, a weekly tabloid called, "The Traveler" was published by James Rooney, who would later be the sports editor of the Springfield Union and would have an award named in his honor (The James P. Rooney award which honors Ludlow High School athletes). In 1928, William McDonough started "The Suburban Record" which was published until 1935 when the depression caused him to stop publishing it. The last unsuccessful local newspaper venture in Ludlow would also be called "The Echo" and was a full-size newspaper published by George Dominique and Joseph Fournier.

Due to employee strikes in 1946 the Springfield newspapers were unable to print any news for about four months. It was during this time that the most successful local newspaper and the one still in use today was born. On October 17, 1946, Emmet and Helen Rooney published the first issue of "The Register" which was at the time only 4 pages long and was in the form of a tabloid. Credit for the name of the paper goes to Frank Burr, who had won a town contest to select the name. Although the company that printed "The Register" has changed a few times over the years and the size of the paper has increased dramatically, The Register continues to serve the Town of Ludlow today. The latest issue of "The Register" can be downloaded for free as a pdf file from its website (see the "links" section) or can be picked up at the Town Hall or one of many local businesses.

Electricity

According to McChesney, electrical power was first available in Ludlow in 1889 although to what extent is presently unknown. That year the Ludlow Manufacturing Company amended their charter to allow them to create a power plant and sell electrical power to some residents of Ludlow. Two years later the power generating station and the dam at Red Bridge were constructed and supplied power to the mills. Although the residents were not given any power from the Red Bridge plant, in 1903 an electric line was installed that ran from the West Street Bridge to a part of town near Granby called "Ludlow City" that residents could connect to and buy power. In the next few years street lights were switched over from burning kerosene to using electricity and by the end of 1905 Holyoke Street, Joy Street, and Hubbard Street all used electric street lights. In 1914, the Ludlow Electric Light Company gained control of the LMCs electrical lines and customers. At this time power was purchased from a company called Turners Falls Power and Electric Company and brought to a substation in Ludlow that was located at 244 Hubbard Street for distribution to Ludlow residents. According to volume 33 of the annual report by the Massachusetts Board of Gas and Electric Light Commissioners in 1917 the Ludlow Electric Light Company charged customers differently based on how they used their electricity. For lighting, electricity cost 12 cents per kilowatt-hour with a minimum monthly charge of 50 cents and "free lamp renewals". Using the electricity to power machines and using it to heat and cook had their own pricing plans at the time also.

Another interesting piece of Ludlow history pertaining to electricity can be found here. This 1914 publication describes an electrically operated oil switch used by the Ludlow Manufacturing Company that was the largest in the entire country at the time.

The spread of electricity usage in Ludlow spread very rapidly and according to a publication of "Electrical World" published in 1916:

The Board of Selectmen has granted the Ludlow Electric Light Company permission to extend its transmission lines from North Street to East Street. Application has been made to the Selectmen for permission to erect a transmission line on Center Street from Hampden Railroad to Ludlow Center, a distance of about 3 miles.

In 1942, after a series of mergers, the Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO) was formed and took over control of the towns power. WMECO still powers all of Ludlow today along with several other towns in western Massachusetts. In 1967 the Ludlow power substation on Center Street was constructed and serves as a junction for three 345-kilovolt transmission lines. Unfortunately WMECO does not offer the free lamp renewal service once offered by the Ludlow Electric Light Company.