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Moody Center plans to make Northfield a destination

  • Emmitt Mitchell, president of the Moody Center, stands on the stage of the Moody Auditorium on the former Northfield campus of the Gill-based Northfield Mount Hermon School, on Thursday. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Emmitt Mitchell, president of the Moody Center, stands on the stage inside the auditorium on the former Northfield campus of the Gill-based Northfield Mount Hermon School, on Thursday, August 23, 2018. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • The Moody Center Auditorium on the former Northfield campus of the Gill-based Northfield Mount Hermon School, on Thursday, August 23, 2018. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Emmitt Mitchell, president of the Moody Center, stands for a portrait inside the auditorium on the former Northfield campus of the Gill-based Northfield Mount Hermon School, on Thursday, August 23, 2018. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Emmitt Mitchell, president of the Moody Center, stands for a portrait outside of the auditorium building on the former Northfield campus of the Gill-based Northfield Mount Hermon School, on Thursday. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • The Moody Center Auditorium in Northfield on Thursday. Staff Photo/Dan Little



Staff Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2018

NORTHFIELD — Plans to develop the former campus of the Gill-based Northfield Mount Hermon School over the coming years could include a hotel and villa-style living spaces, according to Moody Center President Emmitt Mitchell.

The Moody Center is a new Northfield-based organization for promoting the work of Dwight L. Moody, an Evangelical Christian preacher born in Northfield who came to national fame in the late 19th century. Moody was born on the land that is now the campus, and founded the two schools that eventually combined as Northfield Mount Hermon School.

“We want to make this a memorable experience. We want Northfield to be a destination,” Mitchell said. “That’s the big thing. Northfield needs to be a destination. It’s not on the way to anywhere.”

Last week, subscribers to the Moody Center’s mailing list got an email mentioning tentative plans for a lodge that could have as many as 120 hotel rooms, a living area geared toward teachers and senior citizens, and an outdoor recreation space with hiking trails and an RV park.

But construction work likely wouldn’t begin for at least five years, Mitchell said.

The plans will be discussed in greater detail at the center’s launch event on Oct. 23, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Moody Center Auditorium. Pre-registration via moodycenter.org is required.

“More than anything, (the event) is to get people on the campus, to look at this beautiful place and hear some of the plans that we have for the future,” Mitchell said.

The Moody Center occupies 11 of the campus’ 40 buildings. The rest belongs to Thomas Aquinas College, a California-based Catholic school that plans to use the Northfield land as a satellite to its main campus.

Thomas Aquinas College submitted an application to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education in April 2017. Originally, the school had hoped to open for fall 2018, “despite admittedly long odds,” Thomas Aquinas President Michael F. McLean said. The school now plans to open for fall 2019. The approval process is still within a typical timeline, said Department of Education Associate Commissioner for External Affairs Katy Abel.

So far, the center has hosted relatively small events for regional groups, using mainly the auditorium building that seats about 2,300 people. The building hasn’t changed much since it was built in 1894 for Moody’s sermons, but planned renovations will make it a “first-class venue,” Mitchell said.

The Moody Center expects to draw larger, national groups in 2019 and beyond, as it makes greater efforts to advertise itself as a venue for conferences and conventions, Mitchell said.

“We anticipate growth in the succeeding years toward a point that we’re going to need a lodge,” Mitchell said.

“These are visions and plans. We’ve talked about them for months, almost since the inception of the Moody Center. They are just taking another step forward.”

Contact Max Marcus at
413-772-0261 ext. 261,
or mmarcus@recorder.com