Blog Post #2: Our History: A Gift for Northampton - ACADEMY OF MUSIC

Building Plaque

By Executive Director Debra J’Anthony

Not long after the Academy of Music opened its doors to an appreciative town, Mr. Lyman proposed gifting the building to the citizens of Northampton. He presented his proposal at the State House on March 27, 1895. Not all were pleased with his proposal and there were newspaper articles and editorials aplenty in the Gazette during the spring of 1895 with voices for and against the acceptance of his gift.  Since Northampton was the first in the nation to wrestle with a potential gift of an opera house, concerns with the role of government and taxation were weighed against the benefits for the public good and community access.  In brief, here are examples of townsfolk sentiments toward accepting Mr. Lyman’s gift in the Gazette on March 21st and April 10th.

“It has been my endeavor first to prove that the desire to benefit the community by public gifts is a sentiment of such vast preciousness, not merely in its material value, but far more in its ideal influence, that we ought all to say at once that nothing less than an imperative principle plainly forbidding us, a peril which clearly balances all advantages which are promised us, should prevent us from extending our hands to Mr. Lyman in hearty acceptance of this gift.”

“The only legitimate object and purpose of government is to protect our lives and property. When that is being done, all the duties of government are accomplished, and those in authority should be held strictly within the constitutional limits, if not, we cannot tell where we shall land; one person, as a matter of sentiment wants the academy in the way as now proposed. Very soon others, who enjoy the circus more than the academy will insist, and have just as good a right to say that the city shall go into the circus business.”

Following the State House hearing, the Gazette reported,

“The educational side of the matter is of great importance. It might be to the community and Smith College what Sanders Theater is to Cambridge. To Senator Bradford, Mr. Hammond said he thought the bill was constitutional. Mayor Kimball said that the trustees could use the building for any purpose except purely political purposes.”

Today, the Academy is home to seven resident companies and partners and our educational programs fill quickly!

Help restore the Academy! We’re replacing the seats in the auditorium, repairing and repainting the ornate plaster, insulating and replacing the stage roof, and adding aisle lighting. Learn more.