A group of historically minded individuals from Andover who had previously participated in one of my tours of Lowell Cemetery, asked me to give a walking tour of “Civil War Lowell.” We met this past Saturday at the National Park Visitor Center on Market Street and spent 90 minutes walking through downtown. Here are my notes for the tour:
The Worker Statue – Across from National Park Visitor Center on Market Street. Dedicated to the immigrants who worked on canals and in mills. Some claim the statue depicts Hugh Cummiskey who led the first Irish laborers to Lowell from Charlestown.
CTI Building (former CTI location on Dutton Street) – In 1844, this was the site of an exhibition of “chemical painting” which was an early name for photography. When Lowell High students came on a field trip to view the exhibit, the proprietor of this nationwide traveling exhibit would not admit the children of Peter Lewis, a popular African-American barber, because of their skin color. The next day’s newspaper contained an editorial, condemning the proprietor’s actions, writing “The children of Mr. Lewis have as much right to visit a public exhibition as those of the richest of our citizens . . .”
Boston and Lowell Railroad – Symbolized by the large locomotive along Dutton Street. The Boston and Lowell opened in 1830, making it one of the first railroads in America. It’s creators were the mill owners who wanted a better means of transportation for their goods and raw material between Lowell and Boston. The first locomotives were imported from England, but soon the Lowell Machine Shop which specialized in making textile machinery, was constructing locomotives for use across the United States. The railroad put the Middlesex Canal out of business.
Huntington Hall – (corner of Merrimack and Dutton) This was the main public gathering place in Lowell through the Civil War. Located at the corner of Merrimack and Dutton Streets, the building had a train station on its first floor. A single brick wall on the Merrimack Street side mimics the building’s architecture. On April 16, 1861, the city of Lowell held a formal send-off for the Sixth Regiment at Huntington Hall and this is where Ladd and Whitney’s bodies lay in state in May 1861 after they were returned to Lowell. Burned in 1904. Replaced by YMCA (which moved to Thorndike Street in 1970s).
Ladd and Whitney Monument -Luther Ladd and Addison Whitney were two young mill workers who left Lowell as members of the Sixth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. On April 19, 1861, Ladd, Whitney and two of their Sixth Regiment comrades (Sumner Needham of Lawrence and Charles Taylor from parts unknown) were killed by an angry mob of Southern sympathizers in Baltimore, making them the first soldiers to be killed in the war. The monument was to be dedicated on April 19, 1865 but that was postponed to June 17, 1865 due to the assassination of President Lincoln.
Pollard Memorial Library – Originally called Memorial Hall, the Lowell library was dedicated in 1894. The influence of the Civil War on society in the last decade of the Nineteenth Century is evident from the stained glass windows and the carved figures above the main entrance. Inside, enormous murals of famous battles painted by artist Paul Philipoteau.
Old City Hall – (Enterprise Bank Building) This building served as the city’s center of government until the present City Hall opened in 1894. Old City Hall was the site of a famous lecture on December 3, 1834 by George Thompson, an English abolitionist. William Lloyd Garrison who was present wrote about the large bricks that were hurled through the second floor window from the streets below by anti-abolitionist protesters. Forever after, Thompson referred to the city as Low-Hell.
St. Anne’s Church – Rev Theodore Edson was the first president of the Lowell anti-slavery society
Lucy Larcom Park – Site of boarding houses for mill workers such as Sarah Bagley and Lucy Larcom. When Senator Charles Sumner was attacked in the Senate chamber by South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks on May 22, 1856, Brooks received new canes from people across the south to replace the one he had broken over Sumner’s head. Legend has it that a group of mill girls from Lowell sent something else to Brooks: “We therefore send you 30 pieces of silver, a good new rope and cloth of our own manufacture for a winding sheet – follow your predecessor Judas”
Congressman Abraham Lincoln Visits Lowell – in 1848, Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln travelled through New England campaigning for Zachary Taylor, the Whig candidate for president. Lincoln is thought to have spent some time at the Mill Agent’s House on Kirk Street, the current home of the National Park Headquarters.
Mill Agent House – The same National Park Headquarters building was the home of Linus Childs who was the agent of the Boott Mills. When the Compromise of 1850 strengthened Fugitive Slave laws, bounty hunters from the south came to Lowell to seize Nathaniel Booth, an escaped slave who had established a barber shop in Lowell. Booth fled to Canada and Childs raised sufficient funds from Lowell’s citizens to purchase Booth’s freedom from his purported owner.
Boarding House Park – The entrance to Boarding House Park closest to the Mogan Center displays a silhouette of Francis Cabot Lowell, the man for whom the city is named. This is the only likeness of Lowell known to exist.
Boott Cotton Mills – On the eve of the Civil War, Lowell was the second largest city in Massachusetts and the country’s leader in textile production. In 1858, Lowell had 52 textile mills that employed nearly 15,000 workers who produced 2.4 million years of cloth from 805,000 pounds of cotton EACH WEEK. The economic ties between the textile mill owners and the north and the cotton producers in the south led pro-abolition Congressman Charles Francis Adams to label them “the Lords of the Loom and the Lords of the Lash.”