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Hampden County was split from Hampshire County in 1812, because Northampton, Massachusetts, was made Hampshire County's "shire town" in 1794; however, Springfield—theretofore Hampshire County's traditional shire town, dating back to its founding in 1636—grew at a pace far quicker than Northampton and was granted shire town-status over its own, southerly jurisdiction. To the north of Hampden County is modern-day Hampshire County; to the west is Berkshire County; to the east is Worcester County; to the south are Litchfield County, Hartford County, and Tolland County in Connecticut.Hampden County is part of the Springfield, MA Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The two cities which once competed for similar businesses have, in the past decade, taken on more complementary roles, with Hartford increasingly defining itself as a business center and Springfield increasingly defining itself as a recreational center.
Like an increasing number of Massachusetts counties, Hampden County exists today only as a historical geographic region, and has no county government.
All former county functions were assumed by state agencies in 1998.
It was designed in 1891 by Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of New York City's Central Park.
Springfield is a city of festivals, featuring a festival nearly every week during the warmer months, and at least monthly during the cooler months.
Closed controversially during the Vietnam War, the Springfield Armory National Park features the largest collection of historic firearms in the world, and has been the site of numerous technical innovations—including the first uses of interchangeable parts and assembly line mass production.
The Springfield Armory helped to give Springfield its nickname, "The City of Firsts," catalyzing developments like the lathe, (Thomas Blanchard, 1819;) the first, American car (1825, Thomas Blanchard;) numerous editions of the Springfield rifle; the gasoline-powered automobile, (1893, the Duryea brothers;) the first successful motorcycle, (1901, "Indian" motorcycle;) and the first modern fire engine and fire department, (1905 & 1907, Knox Automobile and the Springfield Fire Department.) Other Springfield attractions include the Quadrangle, with an impressive museum and outdoor sculpture complex, particularly for a city of only 160,000 residents.
Data is from the 2007–2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
Hampden County is the economic and cultural center of Western Massachusetts – a region that spans Massachusetts' three counties in the Connecticut River Valley, and its mountainous, westernmost county, The Berkshires.
Most of Springfield's sites are located in its Metro Center district; however, its famous "City of Homes" architecture is found mostly in neighborhoods like Forest Park, the neighborhood surrounding the park—and the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District.
The heart of Springfield is Court Square, across from which is the Mass Mutual Center, named for the Fortune 100 company located in Springfield's Pine Point neighborhood.
Springfield is also home to six universities: Springfield College, American International College, Western New England University, Tufts University School of Medicine, UMass Amherst's School of Urban Design, and Springfield Technical Community College, which draw over 20,000 university students to the city annually.