Westfield is a city in Hampden County, in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, United States. Westfield was first settled in 1660. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 41,094 at the 2010 census.
The area was originally inhabited by the Pocomtuc tribe, and was called Woronoco (meaning “the winding land”). Trading houses were built in 1639 to 1640 by settlers from the Connecticut Colony. Massachusetts asserted jurisdiction, and prevailed after a boundary survey. In 1647, Massachusetts made Woronoco part of Springfield. Land was incrementally purchased from the Native Americans and granted by the Springfield town meeting to English settlers, beginning in 1658. The area of Woronoco or “Streamfield” began to be permanently settled in the 1660s. In 1669, “Westfield” was incorporated as an independent town; in 1920, it would be re-incorporated as a city. The name Westfield would be named for being at the time the most westerly settlement. “Streamfield” was considered a name for the town for being settled in between two “streams” that flow downtown, the Westfield River and the Little River.
From its founding until 1725, Westfield was the westernmost settlement in the Massachusetts Colony, and portions of it fell within the Equivalent Lands. Town meetings were held in a church meeting house until 1839, when Town Hall was erected on Broad Street. This building also served as City Hall from 1920 to 1958. Due to its alluvial lands, the inhabitants of the Westfield area were entirely devoted to agricultural pursuits for about 150 years.
Early in the 19th century, the manufacture of bricks, whips, and cigars became economically important. At one point in the 19th century, Westfield was a prominent center of the buggy whip industry, and the city is still known as the “Whip City”. Other firms produced bicycles, paper products, pipe organs, boilers and radiators, textile machinery, abrasives, wood products, and precision tools. Westfield transformed itself from an agricultural town into a thriving industrial city in the 19th century, but in the second half of the 20th century its manufacturing base was eroded by wage competition in the U.S. Southeast, then overseas.
Meanwhile, with cheap land and convenient access to east–west and north–south interstate highways, the north side developed into a warehousing center to C & S Wholesale, Home Depot, Lowes and other corporations. South of the river, the intersecting trends of growth of Westfield State University and declining manufacturing changed the city’s character. Students comprise some 15% of Westfield’s population, and the old downtown business district caters increasingly to them while mainstream shopping relocates to a commercial strip called East Main Street, part of U.S. Route 20.
Only four buildings exceed four stories in height. Until a major fire on January 6, 1952, the Westfield Professional Building covered half a downtown city block and was six stories tall. The entire building was consumed with extensive damage to neighboring buildings because the fire department’s ladder and snorkel vehicles weren’t tall enough and the building did not have a sprinkler system. Subsequent zoning prohibited virtually all new construction over three stories, even after improvements in fire suppression technologies and vehicles became available. No building is allowed to be taller than the town’s firetruck ladders.
In the early 20th century, Westfield was at the center of the Pure Food movement, an effort to require stricter standards on the production of food. Louis B. Allyn, a Westfield resident and pure foods expert for McClure’s Magazine, lived in Westfield until his murder. In 1906, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. In June 2017, the administration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced a $300,000 grant to the city for an industrial park expansion.
In 1939, Westfield became the first city in Massachusetts, as well as all of New England, to elect a female Mayor when Alice Burke defeated incumbent Raymond H. Cowing.
Westfield’s public school system consists of one preschool, seven elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools.
The city is home to Westfield State University.
The Westfield Athenaeum began in the 1860s. In fiscal year 2008, the city of Westfield spent 0.87% ($811,000) of its budget on its public library—some $19 per person.
At the 2010 census, there were 41,094 people, 15,335 households and 10,041 families residing in the city. The population density was 860.3 per square mile (332.2/km2). There were 16,075 housing units at an average density of 331.5 per square mile (128.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.8% White, 1.6% African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.3% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 2.2% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.5% of the population.
There were 14,797 households, of which 31.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.0% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.3% were non-families. Of all households 25.9% were made up of individuals, and 10.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.07.
Age distribution was 23.8% under the age of 18, 12.6% from 18 to 24, 28.0% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.8 males.
The median household income was $45,240, and the median family income was $55,327. Males had a median income of $38,316 versus $27,459 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,600. About 6.9% of families and 11.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.2% of those under age 18 and 9.5% of those age 65 or over.