Downtown Lowell has undergone many changes over the years, having been the center of the first industrial city in the country. Downtown Lowell is home to many of the famous brick mills and factories. Red brick buildings still fill downtown Lowell, and make the area one of the most architecturally interesting cities in New England.
Downtown Lowell is where the city of Lowell was first established in 1836, but this area of Middlesex County was settled as far back as 1653. The land was first sectioned from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, with the sole purpose of creating an industrial area. Most of the textile mills were built along the Merrimack River in Downtown Lowell because of its enormous supply of waterpower.
Francis Cabot Lowell, after whom the city was named, learned about the textile industry while in England where he ran his own mercantile business. When his business suffered as a result of the War of 1812, Lowell returned to his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. Eventually, he built the Boston Manufacturing Company, and the company constructed the first water-powered mill to transform raw cotton to cotton cloth without having to transfer the unfinished cloth to another building.
The system of finishing the entire process in one building became known as the ‘Waltham System’, named after Waltham, Massachusetts, where his first mill was located. Later, when Lowell relocated his mills to the Merrimack River, it was renamed the ‘Lowell System.’ Gradually, the Downtown Lowell grew up around the factories, as lots were created for housing, businesses, churches, and other necessities.
During the 1900’s, however, the cotton mills grew obsolete, and the Depression caused tremendous unemployment and poverty. Urban renewal efforts were undertaken, which meant much of historic Downtown Lowell was demolished from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Over the last few years, Lowell has gone through a strong period of revitalization, and many of the historic buildings have been saved.
Downtown Lowell is now widely considered a tourist destination for history buffs, and over the last decade, many historic buildings have been restored. The Boott Cotton Mill complex is home to luxury apartments, office space and lofts. Trendy stores and coffee shops have opened downtown, and the area has become a hub for great restaurants, fun nightlife, and Lowell’s annual events.
Downtown Lowell Parks and Recreation:
- Derby Park
- Lucy Larcom Park
- Mack Plaza
- Kerouac Park
Downtown Lowell Historic Landmarks
- Lowell Silk Mills Building
- Lowell Memorial Auditorium