The campus architecture dates back as far as the late 19th century, with several dormitory houses predating the founding of the campus. The college appears moderately funded, for it's architecture is mostly modest in architectural detail. Nevertheless, a walk through the campus on the hill is totally worthwhile, particularly in spring when the trees are flowering.
Behind some dormitory houses off Elm Street is Capen Garden. When I visited the spring garden hadn't quite bloomed, but some students were lounging around appreciating the pleasant day. I had hard time finding where the gardens were hidden and eventually asked some college coeds for some help on where to walk.
There are gardens adjacent to the greenhouses that are tended to produce a variety of herbs and flowers. Organization of these gardens is according to the Botany departments taxonomic plant species plan. Nearby is the bronze statue and fountain which symbolizes Smith College on it website.
There are 10 smallish but impressive greenhouses connected to each other that are fun to walk through. There are tropical plants that have survived the harsh new England winters for many many years through the protection of the greenhouse environment. There are also desert cacti, a fish pond, and places to sit and meditate on it all. The greenhouses and gardens are maintained not by the students, but by hired and trained gardeners. The history of the greenhouses date back to the early 20th century. The greenhouses are free, with a recommended donation of a dollar. There's a quaint garden gift shop.
The county courthouse building is the most substantial structure in downtown Northampton and can't be missed. It recently received a grant for it's restoration, and at present, outside on the grounds are several works of metal art by a local artist.
Smith College has an very impressive set of botanic gardens spread across the campus, with the majority concentrated around or near the Botanic Garden exhibit hall, which traces the history of the garden and explains the thinking behind some of the displays. Outside, they have gardens which focus on themes such as wildflowers and ferns, as well as a rock garden. The systematics garden arranges plants by their family, so that resemblances can be seen (the small Capen garden, in another part of the campus, has a display with multiple examples of the same plant side-by-side, which gives a very vivid sense of the variations). Inside, the various conservatory rooms focus on succulents (cacti and similar plants, some of them highly unusual), tropical plants, orchids and so on. There are plants from all across the globe, including a surprisingly large section from Australia/New Zealand, and some exceptionally strange rock-resembling succulents from southern Africa. This is an extremely worthwhile stop while in Northampton.
We are a fun town to watch. In a given five minuite period, sitting in exactly the same spot, you could see a man w/ a boa constrictor around his shoulders, a Tibetan monk ( compleate w/ saffron colored robe), a kid w/ a mohawk wearing a dress, a kid w/ a squillion piercings in his face wearing a suit, and a bearded woman. There are gaggles of Smithies- usually about four to seven girls strong, sometimes more- all toting shopping bags and squeeling/ screeching at various levels.
We like to play "Guess That Gender" of those who pass us. Sometimes it can be quite difficult.
The best spots for sitting are: City Hall steps, the steps at Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium, outside at Cha Cha Cha's or Starbucks. Of course, this year the city installed a whole slew of benches, so, there are even more spots to take load off and watch the parade- but, remember- to walk through Northampton is to join the parade.
The Smith College campus is beautiful and there's no better time to see it than in the Fall when the leaves change color. The New England Autumn is one of the things I miss most about the area. The art museum is really good although they're renovating and the ground's all gutted up now.