Liberty Heights is a large neighborhood on the North End of Springfield. Its borders include Chicopee to the North, East Springfield to the East and Memorial Square and Atwater Park to the West. The neighborhoods of McKnight and Downtown’s Metro Center are located to the South.
Liberty Heights benefits from being close to the highway, many local businesses, affordable single and multi family housing and large parks. I-291 runs through the southern part of Springfield and branches into the Mass Pike.
Liberty Heights is home to three nationally ranked hospitals: Baystate Medical Center, Mercy Medical Center and Shriner’s Children’s Hospital. The schools in this neighborhood include Edward P. Boland Elementary School, Liberty Elementary School, Alfred G. Zanetti Montessori School (K-8), Academy Hill School (private, K-8) and Van Sickle Middle School.
Van Horn Park is Springfield’s second largest park and is located at the Border of Liberty Heights and Atwater Park.
Van Horn Park contains bike trails, jogging trails, tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, playgrounds and exercise stations. It recently underwent a $600,000 renovation in 2019.
Historically, Liberty Heights was an Irish immigrant Neighborhood. Irish Americans began inhabiting the neighborhood after the Irish Potato Famine. Descendants of these immigrants still inhabit the neighborhood until this day.
Parts of the neighborhood are commonly referred to as Hungry Hill. The origins of the name are unclear but the most common theory has to do with the fact that the Irish immigrants in the neighborhood were “poor” and “hungry”. Other theories include that the large Irish families living in Hungry Hill bought the most food at the local supermarkets over fear of famine. There were also theories that stated that that there were no restaurants in the neighborhood leading to workers there always being hungry.
Liberty Heights not having any restaurants is no longer the case today as the neighborhood is home to many food options. Some of the food options in Liberty Heights include:
- Sit-down restaurants
- Take-out restaurants
- Fast Food restaurants
- Chinese Food restaurants
- Spanish Food restaurants
The largest grocery stores in the neighborhood include Big-Y, Stop & Shop and Save-a-Lot as well as pharmacies like Walgreens & CVS.
Many retailers are located in and around Springfield Plaza, St. James Ave Plaza and Liberty St. Plaza. Also located near Springfield Plaza is the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and Bounce! Trampoline Sports Park.
The housing in Liberty Heights depends heavily on which part of the neighborhood you are in. The Southern part which includes Armory Street, Stafford Street, Liberty Street and Carew Street was developed and settled by large immigrant families. A majority of the neighborhood is two and three family houses dating back to the early 1900’s. Many of these properties have porches attached to the front of each unit.
These homes stood both tall and close to each other giving the neighborhood an urban feel and providing housing for immigrants and newcomers up until this day. While triple deckers are not as common in Springfield as they are in Worcester and Boston, there are some Triple Deckers hidden throughout Liberty Heights. The most common type of three family housing in Springfield is created made by adding a third smaller unit to a two family house. This is different than a traditional triple decker you frequently see in Eastern Mass. with three equally sized stories.
As you head North on Liberty Street you will start to find that the amount of multi family houses decrease and newer single family houses built after World War 2 start appearing. The side streets that branch off of Liberty Street contain many Colonial and Ranch style houses as the neighborhood becomes less densely populated.
At the most northern point of the neighborhood is the Naismith residential community, named after the inventor of Basketball, James Naismith. Naismith is a development of large single family houses built in the 2000’s. The community begins at Naismith Street and branches into multiple short dead end streets to form an attractive community inside Liberty Heights. This neighborhood can be seen in Part 4 of 413NOW’s Liberty Heights drive through.
Today, Liberty Heights is a diverse neighborhood home to the descendants of generations of Irish immigrants, second and third generation Puerto Ricans and smaller populations of French Canadian and Polish descendants. The neighborhood is a true multi-family urban neighborhood with some suburban portions such as the Naismith community.
- Due to part of Liberty Heights being on top of a hill, the highest point in Springfield is held by the Italian Renaissance style Church of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield.
- Before Springfield Plaza was built, the land was once home to Springfield Airport. The Granville Brothers operated out of this Airport with some of their airplanes breaking the speed record. The Granville Brothers went out of business after the Great Depression and the Airport was demolished in 1952. One of the towers of the Airports still stands in the Springfield Plaza today.