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Lowell Heritage State Park

Millworker exhibit, Lowell, MA / SeacoastNH.coomHISTORIC TOURS
Lowell, MA


Lowell is the nation's only urban state park. Built on the backs of immigrant labor, the great brick mills still dominate the city. Lowel'''s network of museums, unlike most, tell the tales of working class Americans. Restored and working machinery, exhibits and live presentations remind many of us how our families first experienced "the American dream",

 


Lowell Heritage State Park
500 Pawtucket Blvd
Lowell, MA
(978) 369-6312
Visit the official web site

For those millions of Americans descended from immigrant factory workers, Lowell can be a moving experience. Many New England towns are still dominated by red brick factories, but it all started here. Lowell was the dream city, designed in the 1820s to be the perfect high-tech experiment. Women from local farms were the original skilled weavers in what became the largest textile mills in the world.

Deborah SKinner, MillworkerBut the experiment went awry. Owners pushed for faster machines, then more machines per worker. Women textile workers were replaced by unskilled immigrant laborers who worked for tiny wages over long hours six days a week. The Irish were first, then Rusians, Prussians, Italians, French Candaians, Greeks, Poles, Turkish and Bulgarian refugees and more. Children 14 and younger worked in the loud and dangerous mills, side by side with their parents, and lived in crowded tenaments rented to workers by factory owners. It was a pattern repeated throughout New England.

Today Lowell is a state park in the middle of a city. We visited recently during the excitement of the annual ethnic folk festival. Arriving at the visitors center we watched the long-surviving orientation slide show -- still impressive. Visitors can take an electric trolley to a number of downtown museums. Step inside the boarding houses where thousands of mill girls, then immigrants, got their start. One complete section of the mill is still standing, transformed into a museum. The looms still hum amid well-designed displays.

GOseacoastUpstairs in the museum haunting wax figures, including a man in thick glasses and a red sweater, show how the mills have been adapted to moden companies. Outside ethnic dancers pose along the canal that once powered the massive mills. Nearby visitors lounged before a massive steel stage as musicians from a dozen nations played. Policeman on horses monitored the crowds of guests.

Working to re-invent itself, Lowell has become a memorial to the people who struggled through the harsh life the city once fostered. It is an amazing rebirth in a fascinatingly diverse new city with a very American past and a million stories to tell. -- JDR.

ALSO IN LOWELL a Passaconaway Memorial

Lowell Heritage Visitor Center

Lowell Heritage State Park

Textile mill exhibit


All photos (c) SeacoastNH.com/ J. Dennis Robinson
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