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Lowell, Massachusetts (Part 4)

Millyards and Canals (Mostly) October, 2006

Here are a few more pictures of Lowell's millyards. Some are no longer anything but a brick wall or two, and some are now office complexes and condominiums. Most of them I've talked about in more detail on earlier pages, so I'll try to go light on the text.

The first group of pictures is the Appleton Mills between Jackson and Dutton street. They're doing some sort of clean-out here, and there's a fence up. As I mentioned before on pages 1 and 2, these were apparently purposely partially demolished, and what is left will be rehabbed as housing. The brick building in the fourth picture is the Cottonhouse Lofts, which has been renovated relatively recently into living space. However, I've heard that the two large storage buildings next door are going to be torn down at some point as they have been taken by eminent domain. I've heard one of these was a meat packing plant long ago, and older pictures show a third storage building existing at some point.

This is the backside of the Boott Mills, which contains a major exhibit of the National Park (The weaving room is here). These rear buildings are still being converted into offices and apartments, and it was in the past few years that the Riverwalk was extended out here. It looks like it's going to be continued even further to the Concord River. There's a greenway planned for the banks of the Concord River itself that's just getting off the ground. If all goes according to plan, the Riverwalk will continue, by going right through the Massachusetts Mills on the other size of Bridge Street. They're going to turn a long, low, empty building into a "sculpture garden."

A view of the Massachusetts and Boott Mills from the Hunts Falls Bridge. You can see a lot of the Mile of Mills from this bridge, when you're not trying to get a picture out of a moving car.

These ducks were living in this little pond separated off of the Merrimack. I think that the sand that closed this water off was probably moved by the flood... along with all kinds of other things.

This is the Eastern canal just off Merrimack St - these buildings front Prescott St. These buildings belonged to the Lowell Sun, which is the local paper. However, they moved over to the American Textile Museum Building on Dutton Street. They now house an upscale Asian restaurant, and soon a cheese shop. It's possible we'll have an outdoor market here soon as well.

This is the old Sun building, easily the tallest pre World-War II building in town. Jokingly referred to by some as the SUNSCRAPER. Those are a giant red and blue neon SUN signs.

The Lawrence Mills. You can see how some buildings are built directly over canals, and how empty this yard looks ever since the core of it burnt down 20 years ago. Lowell lost its oldest existant mill in that fire. There are still some massive boarded-up buildings on this site that are being converted to ... more housing.

The Western Canal, which runs past the Lawrence Mills and the Tsongas Arena. There clearly used to be some structures here, I'm not sure if they belonged to the Merrimack or the Tremont mills. This site is very close to the Riverwalk, and has landscaped overlooks. It's probably the most "returned to nature" site in the city and it is fairly relaxing to just come here on a nice day and watch the little waterfalls and the willow trees.

Further up the canal, we end up at near the Wannalancit Mills. This side of the canal was the site of the Tremont Mills, which are pretty much erased, being replaced with a few parking lots. Tremont is a major street in Boston. The original name of the Wannalancit Mills was the Suffolk Mills - which is the county Boston is in (Wannalancit was an Indian Chief by the way). Bostonians unquestionably had their hands in the funding and administering of our city. In the first half of the 19th century, that 25 mile trip must've seemed pretty far, although I've heard the very early Lowell-Boston railway made it in 30 minutes?

When Lowell held the World Curling Championships at the Tsongas Arena, this thing was out in front.

These five pictures show that this parking lot for the Wannalancit Mills is in what looks like a basement for the old Tremont Mills. The first picture is the outside, the next four are on the inside. I like the ivy. I couldn't get a very good picture, but the fifth picture shows tunnels running under the lot. Are these the remnants of waterwheel raceways?

This burnt-out building is on the Tremont site. Clearly someone has broken down the fence and gone inside. I'm not sure why this would be a good idea, since, as you can see in the second picture, there are huge holes in the ground here that I'm assuming fall into a canal below. Unbelievably, in 2008 it was announced that this structure will be rehabbed into the first floor of a five story green-glassed office tower for Jean D'arc Credit Union.

Honestly not sure what's going on here. In front of the Tremont Mills.

These are the Wannalancit mills. Until the 1980s, this was a textile plant still - and used weaving machines that were from the 1920s or so. Workers from Columbia were brought in, since they still knew how to operate the machines, and would stand the awful conditions. The National Park has the Suffolk Turbine Exhibit here, which is a pretty cool little tour. This mill complex was built during the Civil War, while cotton trade with the South (obviously) stopped. The original complex it replaced was virtually erased, save the gabled counting house building that is on the right in the last picture. Note the "SUFFOLK." sign on the top of the building inside the courtyard. Actually, trust me that is what it says, this resolution is too low.

The Lawrence Mills smokestacks.

The Northern Canal in front of the Wannalancit Mills - The largest and last built (around 1850) canal in town.

And someone cleaning it! The complexities of the ownership of the canals is a well-known issue in the city. For example, the Suffolk Turbine Exhibit didn't fully run for a long time because of a leak in the canal walls may have damaged some equipment. I believe the description was that Boott Hydroelectric owned water was leeching through National Park owned walls, through city owned land, and into the walls of a private building...

Part 3 - Merrimack Flood * Part 5 - Lowell Cemetery

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Corey Sciuto (e-mail)