For 365 years, Main Street has been a crossroads, marketplace, town center, and public square. In 1655, English settlers built their meeting house on a small hill at the center of their new village, near where the courthouse stands today. The wide rutted road in front of the meeting house became Main Street.
On the eve of the American Revolution, in 1769, the first store opened on what is now the corner of Main and Old South Streets, across from the meeting house and a tavern. More stores followed. By 1800, “Shop Row” was the place to shop for local goods and luxuries from London. The wooden stores were replaced by brick commercial blocks, and by 1900, Main Street looked like it does today.
The history of Main Street is more than a changing parade of stores. Making it on Main Street, a new exhibit at Historic Northampton, tells the story of the people who lived, worked, played, and celebrated on Main Street—how they earned a living, faced the challenges of changing times, treated their neighbors and outsiders, advocated for justice, and shaped the Main Street we walk today.