Block by block: Northampton resident walking all of the city’s streets

  • Francine Deutsch walks down Lake Street in Northampton and takes pictures of things she notices. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Francine Deutsch walks down Lake Street in Northampton and takes pictures of things she notices. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Francine Deutsch walks down Lake Street in Northampton and takes pictures of things she notices. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Francine Deutsch walks down Lake Street in Northampton and takes pictures of things she notices. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Francine Deutsch walks down Lake Street in Northampton and takes pictures of things she notices. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Francine Deutsch walks down Lake Street in Northampton and takes pictures of things she notices. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/27/2020 5:57:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — You may run into Francine M. Deutsch while taking a walk in Northampton — if you’re walking on a street that starts with a letter midway through the alphabet.

She’s on a mission to walk the entirety of every street in the city and has been walking them in alphabetical order. On a recent Saturday, she was walking on Kingsley Avenue and on a later weekday she strolled down Lake Street.

“I’m sort of compulsive person,” she said. “I like these projects where you do all of something.” She added, “When I was a kid I wanted to read all the books in the library until I realized it was impossible.”

Deutsch retired in 2017 from her job as a professor of psychology and education at Mount Holyoke College, and started walking all the streets as a hobby.

“I was just doing it very haphazardly,” she said. But when COVID-19 hit in the spring, she started doing it religiously. “Since March 15, I’ve been doing it pretty much every day.”

A 2014 list of city streets, the most recent one she could find, serves as her guide.

She has lived in Northampton for more than 30 years, but says she’s now seeing a lot she’s never seen before.

“The most amazing thing is I didn’t realize how big, physically big, Northampton is,” she said. “And also there are just so many little neighborhoods that even though I’ve live here for over 30 years, there’s so many places I’ve never been to.”

She was also struck by “how many really rural or wild paces there are in Northampton — horses, farms, woods, beautiful views of the mountains.”

There are about 160 miles of paved and unpaved roads in Northampton, according to Donna LaScaleia director of the Department of Public Works. Some streets are too long for Deutsch to walk in one day, like Burts Pit Road, which she did over two days.

Deutsch is also documenting her walks with photos. “I have thousands of pictures of Northampton,” she said.

Those snapshots include houses, political signs and people. When she runs into someone on a walk, she asks to take their photo for record. About half of people she asks say yes, she estimated.

“I’m always curious about why people don’t want their picture taken,” she said. “I’m a social psychologist, so I’m interested in human behavior. It’s funny, people will sometimes say things like, ‘not today,’ as if I am coming back next week.” There are also many who are happy to be photographed. “That’s just an interesting aspect of human behavior that I get to observe.”

Deutsch saw William Helmreich walk all of New York City’s streets — more than 6,000 miles. “He was sort of my inspiration,” she said. Helmreich died of COVID-19 in March. “I always imagined I would meet him sometime and tell him how he inspired me,” she said.

Though winter is around the corner, Deutsch plans to continue the project. “I have cleats on my shoes which I recommend to everyone,” she said. “As long as we’re not in a blizzard I plan to keep going — as long as it’s not zero degrees or inclement weather.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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