Location in Hampshire County in Massachusetts
|Incorporated||February 13, 1759|
|o Total||27.7 sq mi (71.8 km2)|
|o Land||27.6 sq mi (71.5 km2)|
|o Water||0.1 sq mi (0.3 km2)|
|Elevation||295 ft (90 m)|
|o Density||1,370/sq mi (529.0/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-5 (Eastern)|
|o Summer (DST)||UTC-4 (Eastern)|
01002, 01003 (UMass), 01004 (post office boxes), 01059 (North Amherst post office)
|GNIS feature ID||0618195|
Amherst  is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Connecticut River valley. As of the 2010 census, the population was 37,819, making it the highest populated municipality in Hampshire County (although the county seat is Northampton). The town is home to Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, three of the Five Colleges. The name of the town is pronounced without the h ("AM-erst") by natives and long-time residents, giving rise to the local saying, "only the 'h' is silent", in reference both to the pronunciation and to the town's politically active populace.
Amherst is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. Lying 22 miles (35 km) north of the city of Springfield, Amherst is considered the northernmost town in the Hartford-Springfield Metropolitan Region, "The Knowledge Corridor". Amherst is also located in the Pioneer Valley, which encompasses Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties.
The earliest known document of the lands now comprising Amherst is the deed of purchase dated December 1658 between John Pynchon of Springfield and three native inhabitants, referred to as Umpanchla, Quonquont, and Chickwalopp. According to the deed, "ye Indians of Nolwotogg (Norwottuck) upon ye River of Quinecticott (Connecticut)" sold the entire area in exchange for "two Hundred fatham of Wampam & Twenty fatham, and one large Coate at Eight fatham wch Chickwollop set of, of trusts, besides severall small giftes" [sic].
Amherst was first visited by Europeans no later than 1665, when Nathaniel Dickinson surveyed the lands for its mother town Hadley. The first permanent English settlements arrived in 1727. It remained a part of Hadley, even when it gained precinct status in 1734, before becoming a township in 1759.
When it incorporated, the colonial governor assigned the town the name "Amherst" after Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst. Many a colonial governor at the time scattered his name during the influx of new town applications, which is why several towns in the Northeast bear the name. Amherst was Commander-in-Chief of the forces of North America during the French and Indian War who, according to popular legend, singlehandedly won Canada for the British and banished France from North America. Popular belief has it that he supported the American side in the Revolutionary War and resigned his commission rather than fight for the British. Baron Amherst actually remained in the service of the Crown during the war--albeit in Great Britain rather than North America--where he organized the defense against the proposed Franco-Spanish Armada of 1779. Nonetheless, his previous service in the French and Indian War meant he remained popular in New England. Amherst is also infamous for recommending, in a letter to a subordinate, the use of smallpox-covered blankets in warfare against the Native Americans along with any "other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race". For this reason, there have been occasional ad hoc movements to rename the town. Suggested new names have included "Emily", after Emily Dickinson.
Amherst celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. The Amherst 250th Anniversary Celebration Committee and Amherst Historical Society organized events, including a book published by the Historical Society and written by Elizabeth M. Sharpe, Amherst A to Z.
The Town converted from an open town meeting to a representative town meeting form in 1938. In 1953, Amherst voters passed the "Town Manager Act", which established the office of a town manager and reduced a number of elected positions. In 1995, a charter commission was approved to study Amherst's government; the charter majority recommended a seven-person Council and a mayor, while also maintaining a reduced size representative Town Meeting (150). This proposal failed in two successive votes.
In 2001, the League of Women Voters Amherst made a number of recommendations that were adopted in 2001 in the form of a revised "Amherst Town Government Act". An effort shortly thereafter to amend the charter to eliminate the town meeting, and establish an elected mayor and a nine-member Town Council, was rejected by voters twice, first in spring 2003 by fourteen votes and again on March 29, 2005 by 252 votes.
In 2016, a charter commission was approved to study Amherst's government. A majority of commissioners proposed a charter that would establish a 13-member council with no mayor. This proposal was voted on the March 27, 2018 local ballot, and was passed by over 1,000 votes, a 58% majority. The new town council was sworn in on December 2, 2018.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Amherst has a total area of 27.7 square miles (71.8 km2), of which 27.6 square miles (71.5 km2) are land and 0.12 square miles (0.3 km2), or 0.48%, are water. The town is bordered by Hadley to the west, Sunderland and Leverett to the north, Shutesbury, Pelham, and Belchertown to the east, and Granby and South Hadley to the south. The highest point in the town is on the northern shoulder of Mount Norwottuck at the southern border of the town; the peak is in Granby but the town's high point is a few yards away and is about 1,100 feet (340 m). The town is nearly equidistant from both the northern and southern state lines.
Amherst has a humid continental climate that under the Köppen system marginally falls into the warm-summer category (dfb). It is interchangeable with the hot-summer subtype dfa with July means hovering around 71.4 °F (21.9 °C). Winters are cold and snowy, albeit daytime temperatures often remain above freezing. Under the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone system, Amherst (ZIP Code 01002) is in zone 5b; however, Amherst closely borders zone 6a, which penetrates into Massachusetts in the Connecticut River Valley, and climate change may be shifting those zones.
|Climate data for Amherst, Massachusetts (1981-2010 normals)|
|Record high °F (°C)||70
|Average high °F (°C)||34.6
|Average low °F (°C)||13.2
|Record low °F (°C)||-30
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||3.31
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||12.7
|Average precipitation days||10.2||8.6||10.1||10.9||12.5||11.5||10.4||10.0||9.0||9.8||10.2||10.1||123.3|
|Average snowy days||5.5||4.0||2.7||0.4||0||0||0||0||0||0.1||1.0||3.4||17.1|
As of the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 37,819 people, 9,259 households, and 4,484 families residing in the town. There were 9,711 housing units. The racial makeup of the town was 76.9% White, 5.4% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 10.9% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.4% some other race, and 4.1% from two or more races. 7.3% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Of the 9,259 households in the town, 23.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.6% were headed by married couples living together, 16.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 51.6% were non-families. Of all households, 27.3% were made up of individuals, and 9.7% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.88.
In the town, 10.0% of the population were under the age of 18, 55.7% were from 18 to 24, 13.3% were from 25 to 44, 13.6% were from 45 to 64, and 7.4% were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 21.6 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.7 males.
For the period 2011-2015, the estimated median annual income for a household in the town was $48,059, and the median income for a family was $96,005. Male full-time workers had a median income of $64,750 versus $39,278 for females. The per capita income for the town was $18,905. About 8.7% of families and 34.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.2% of those under age 18 and 4.5% of those age 65 or over.
The reason for the large population living below the poverty line is the large number of students that live in Amherst. According to the 2010 5-year American Community Survey estimates, occupied housing units had a median household income of $50,063, which includes both renter and owner-occupied units. More specifically, owner-occupied units had a median income of $100,208, while renter-occupied housing units had a median income of $23,925. Large disparities in income between the two groups could explain the high poverty rate and lower median income, as students are the primary tenants of renter-occupied units within Amherst.
Of residents 25 years old or older, 41.7% have a graduate or professional degree, and only 4.9% did not graduate from high school. The largest industry is education, health, and social services, in which 51.9% of employed persons work.
These statistics given above include some but not all of the large student population, roughly 30,000 in 2010, many of whom only reside in the town part of the year. Amherst is home to thousands of part-time and full-time residents associated with the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, and Hampshire College.
|Rank||ZIP Code (ZCTA)||Per capita
|2||01003 (UMass Amherst Campus)||$3,531||$N/A||$N/A||11,032||16|
Amherst's town council consists of ten district councilors and three councilors-at-large. Two district councilors are elected from each of five districts in Amherst. The three councilors-at-large are elected by the whole town. Each councilor serves a two year term, except for the first council where each member will serve a three year term.
Amherst also has the following elected bodies:
Amherst also has a five member Housing Authority where three of the five members are elected by voters. Each member serves a two year term.
|Town Council Members|
|Councilor-at-Large||Mandi Jo Hanneke||At-Large||2018|
|District Councilor||Sarah Swartz||1||2018|
|District Councilor||Cathy Schoen||1||2018|
|District Councilor||Lynn Griesemer||2||2018|
|District Councilor||Patricia De Angelis||2||2018|
|District Councilor||Dorothy Pam||3||2018|
|District Councilor||George Ryan||3||2018|
|District Councilor||Evan Ross||4||2018|
|District Councilor||Stephen Schreiber||4||2018|
|District Councilor||Shalini Bahl-Milne||5||2018|
|District Councilor||Darcy Dumont||5||2018|
In the Massachusetts Senate Amherst is in the "Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester" district, represented by Democratic State Senator Jo Comerford since January 2019. In the Massachusetts House of Representatives Amherst is in the 3rd Hampshire district, represented by Democratic State Representative Mindy Domb since January 2019.
Amherst is represented at the federal level by an all-Democratic delegation, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and by Representative Jim McGovern of the Second Congressional District of Massachusetts.
Voter registration data is from the state election enrollment statistics.
|Registered Voters and Party Enrollment|
There are three tertiary institutions located in the town: the public University of Massachusetts Amherst (the flagship of the UMass system), and two private liberal arts colleges--Amherst College and Hampshire College.
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, funded by local governments and the Five College Consortium, provides public transportation in the area, operated by University of Massachusetts Transportation Services. Service runs well into the early morning hours on weekends when school is in session. Students attending any colleges in the Five Colleges Consortium have a fee included in their tuition bills (service fee for UMass Amherst students and student activity fees for the other colleges) for each semester that prepays their bus fares for the semester. UMass Transit buses operate via a proof-of-payment system, in which there are random inspections of student identification cards and bus passes and transfers.
Peter Pan Bus Lines provides service between Amherst and Springfield, Boston, and other locations in New England. Megabus provides service between New York City, Amherst, and Burlington, Vermont.
Amtrak rail service is available in nearby Northampton on the Vermonter service between Washington D.C. and St. Albans, Vermont. More frequent Amtrak service to New York City and Washington, D.C., is available from Union Station in Springfield.
The closest major domestic and limited international air service is available through Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Bradley is located approximately one hour's driving time from Amherst. Major international service is available through Logan International Airport (BOS) in Boston, 90 miles away.
Brentlinger, a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, was robustly and proudly alienated from American society and culture...he has probably benefited from living amidst like-minded people in what has been jestingly called 'the people's republic of Amherst, Mass.'
I come to you from one of those places that is in America, but not quite of it...In my case it is the People's Republic of Amherst
I live in a place whose liberal tendencies have earned it various nicknames. For example, it has been called 'The People's Republic of Amherst'