History of Lowell
“Art is the Handmaid of Human Good” - Lowell City Motto
The constantly evolving City of Lowell started as an industrial mill city in the 1820’s, focusing on textile manufacturing. With the Merrimack River running through the city, it was an excellent place for industrial manufacturing because of the opportunity for the easy, inexpensive use of hydropower. The city was named after the visionary leader, Francis Cabot Lowell, who had died five years before the city officially formed.
In the 1830’s and 1840’s Lowell continued to acquire land from neighboring towns and its population grew. By the 1850’s Lowell had become a full fledged urban center with the largest industrial complex in the United States. The textile factories in the city were weaving cotton produced in the south and for a time it had more cotton spindles combined than all eleven states that would form the Confederacy.
The early twentieth century marked a decline for Lowell as many of the manufacturing companies moved south, but at the start of World War II the mills were reactivated and used for the manufacturing of military necessities such as parachutes. After the war, the city struggled but began to find value in culture and the arts. Lowell gained notoriety as the birthplace of “Beat Generation” author Jack Kerouac in the 1950’s. Kerouac set five of his novels in a fictional version Lowell, most notably The Town and the City, in which he calls his hometown "Galloway".
As Lowell rebounded, it took on many new immigrants as well as several major companies such as Wang Laboratories. Although Wang Laboratories eventually shut down, the city continued to grow, fueled in part by a renewed interest in the arts. The art culture was booming when it became the home of Merrimack Repertory Theatre (Merrimack Regional Theatre at that time) in 1979. In 1992, the city hosted the nation’s largest free folk festival: Lowell Folk Festival which now happens annually, along with many other cultural and sporting events.
Currently, Lowell is flourishing with a culturally diverse population that focuses on the arts and education. Many of the mills have since been turned into historical sites such as the Lowell National Historical Park. Lowell is home to the University of Massachusetts Lowell as well as Middlesex Community College. Downtown Lowell is an exciting area with many interesting cultural attractions, restaurants and businesses, including MRT!
Cultural Points of Interest
American Textile History Museum
A museum that tells the history of textile manufacturing in America
491 Dutton St.
Brush Art Gallery
An art gallery that displays and nurtures the art of local artists
256 Market St.
Lowell Folk Festival
The largest free folk festival in the United States, happening annually every summer
New England Quilt Museum
A showcase for antique and contemporary quilts
18 Shattuck St.
National Streetcar Museum of Lowell
A museum that tells the history of streetcars, and also offers trolley rides around Lowell
25 Shattuck St.
A collaborative educational organization that offers teaching, art, and public outreach
290 Jackson St.
Whistler House Museum of Art
A visual art museum named after and located at the birthplace of James McNeill Whistler
243 Worthen St.