From 1700 to 1940 the Mill River ran from Northampton’s Felt Building at the southwest corner of Smith College, then along the bike path, past Fort Hill and the Roundhouse Lot, across the parking lot behind Northampton Brewery, taking a dog leg to the south, parallel to Pleasant Street, and out into, what was then, the Connecticut River, and is now the Oxbow. This is the Hidden Mill River.
The original riverbed ran through downtown Northampton, and that part of the City recovered from countless floods over those 300 years. Finally, after the devastating flood of April 1936, the Corps of Engineers redirected the river along its current rip-rapped banks back into Hulburt’s Pond, near the Mill’s original mouth.
The Hidden Mill River project, headed by Maggie Leonard, in cooperation with Wayne Feiden with the City of Northampton, will explore options to memorialize the old the river bed. The Hidden Mill River group is considering options from cleaning up the existing riverbed, to re-diverting part of the river back into downtown, to a water feature in downtown Northampton, to pocket parks, to a simple Hidden Mill Riverwalk with signage and historic photos to signify the old bed.
Our ultimate goal is to return this great feature to public consciousness and to increase public understanding of the river. The Hidden Mill River, after all, was one of the original settlement centers of Northampton 350 years ago.