Tag Archives: Lowell National Historical Park

Lowell Conference on Industrial History


RM-ART-182From 1980 through 1993, community partners in Lowell, including the National Park Service and University, hosted 12 gatherings of scholars in the name of the Lowell Conference on Industrial History. At least three volumes of conference proceedings were published. The regular meeting of teachers, students, historians, architects, preservation advocates, sociologists, art historians, economists, elected and government officials, and others made Lowell a hub of research and dialogue on the process and consequences of industrialization in the nation and world.


Community Assets

The machinery of justice grinds on in the dispute between the National Park Service and Enel Green Power North America over the future condition of the scenic and significant Pawtucket Dam at the falls on the Merrimack River in northern Lowell. The custodians of our country’s heritage treasures are trying to prevent proposed actions by the hydro-power company that many people are convinced would jeopardize the structure’s integrity and cultural value. On top of the historic-preservation concerns are the concerns of property owners in the Pawtucketville neighborhood who are worried about the implications for increased flooding if a new water-control system is introduced at the dam. This is a big argument being sorted out in a civilized way. The US Dept. of Justice this week, on behalf of the Dept of the Interior, initiated action in federal court to request a review of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s earlier approval of a bladder-dam system that would replace the long-standing flashboard system at the dam. This dispute has been going on for years now. The Pawtucket Dam is the key structure in Lowell’s development as a model factory city in the 1800s. This is the energy source for what was revolutionary industrial activity. It can be understood as a hinge of history, a place representing a monumental economic and social change in America, the change from a largely agrarian to a predominantly industrial way of life. In public programs, the National Park Service in Lowell refers to this as “Farm to Factory” when the rangers talk about what happened in this city and why Lowell rates being on the same list as the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty, and Gettysburg battlefield. Lowell’s history is a huge indigenous resource, like the architecture, rivers, and the state forest, assets that cannot be moved South or off-shore, closed-down, or otherwise extracted from the community.

Kiwanis Club to Honor Peter Aucella

Don’t forget the upcoming recognition of Peter Aucella’s contributions to the city when the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lowell will present him with the Thomas G. Kelakos Community Spirit Award at 6.30 pm on Thursday, March 20, 2014, at The Mill House at Lenzi’s, 810 Merrrimack Ave.,  in Dracut. Tickets are $65 and may be purchased online at LowellKiwanis.org or by calling Bob Howard at 978-459-4836. RSVP by March 14.

Peter is being honored for his many years of work with Lowell National Historical Park and before that the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission and City Planning Dept., as well as for his generous efforts on behalf of charities and nonprofit organizations in the city.

Lowell Conference on Industrial History

Bob Weible was the staff historian during the formative years of Lowell National Historical Park. Today, he is State Historian of New York and Chief Curator of the New York State Museum. During his Lowell years he was also unofficial Commissioner of a men’s-and-women’s softball league composed of teams from various public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses in Lowell. He was a nifty shortstop and spray hitter with a sky-high on-base percentage. He was also boss-man of the Lowell Conference on Industrial History who made an astute decision to publish the proceedings of the scholarly meetings. Three volumes of essays were released, helping to make Lowell a hub of new research on industrialization. The Conference was co-sponsored by Lowell National Historical Park, UMass Lowell (University of Lowell), and the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission with support from the Lowell Museum and Museum of American Textile History. Following is an excerpt from Bob’s introduction to the second volume of essays.—PM

Robert “Bob” Weible these days in New York.


“…To those of us working in Lowell, the Lowell Conference on Industrial History seemed an ideal means for helping bridge the gap between professional historians and the public. The conference not only exposes university-based scholars to the very public work being done in Lowell, but given the fact that scholarly interpretations of industrial history are continually changing, the Lowell Conference also keeps people in Lowell current with the latest professional research in the field. In effect the Lowell Conference makes its participants all partners in the same Lowell project.

“The Lowell Conference is an annual event which examines a different topic in industrial history each year. The first conference met in 1980 to address ‘The Social Impacts of Industrialization,’ with such speakers as  Oscar Handlin, Stephen Thernstrom, and Thomas Dublin discussing a wide range of topics, from the effects of changing technology on the work experience to the consequences of industrialization for women. In 1981, David Montgomery, John T. Dunlop, and Robert B. Reich were included among conference participants concerned with ‘The Relationship  of Government and Industry in the United States.’ Proceedings from those first two conferences were published in 1981. The present volume includes the main body of works from the next two meetings of the Lowell Conference, meeting which focused on ‘The Arts and Industrialization’ in 1982 and ‘The Industrial City’ in 1983. [Speakers included Gov. Michael Dukakis, U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas, Congressman James Shannon, Cecilia Tichi, Patricia Hills, Leo Marx, Virginia Yans-McLaughin, Sam Bass Warner Jr., John R. Stilgoe, Richard M. Candee, Heather Huyck, and Laurence F. Gross.] . . . .”

—Robert Weible, from the Introduction to Essays from the Lowell Conference on Industrial History, 1982 and 1983 (Museum of American Textile History, 1985).


‘Texas Jack and the Peerless Morlacchi’

Texas Jaack

Twenty years ago, Peter S. Alexis and Henry Kucharzyk organized a museum exhibition at the Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center (40 French St., near Boarding House Park) about two of the more fascinating people who lived in Lowell. Read about them in the exhibit brochure here, which is available on the website of the UMass Lowell Center for Lowell History. Alexis and Kucharzyk were two among many people in the community who created short-run exhibits about aspects of Lowell history at the Mogan Center, which includes a permanent National Park Service museum exhibit about the social lives of the Lowell’s people called “Mill Girls and Immigrants.”


Kiwanis Community Spirit Award: Peter Aucella of National Park Service


One of the master mechanics of the Lowell revitalization, a visionary in his own right when we talk about the extensive Canalway development and the Lowell Summer Music Series—and a real humanitarian when it comes to helping city causes—will receive the 2014 Thomas G. Kelakos Community Spirit Award of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lowell. Peter Aucella embraced Lowell from the day he started working in the city. He has stayed with the revival project for decades. Peter recently received a top honor from the National Park Service for his outstanding career achievements.

Whether ringing a bell for the Salvation Army on Merrimack Street or narrating his acclaimed Then-and-Now PowerPoint presentation about downtown renovation for a visiting delegation from Europe, Peter exudes determination and optimism that inspire people. He is a professional through and through who has helped insure that the federal funds invested in Lowell have provided maximum yield. While the summer evening concerts at Boarding House Park feature big music stars, there’s another piece of this program—thousands of children attend free performances on summer days when most of us aren’t looking. That’s a lot of kid-joy at Boarding House Park.

The community will gather on Thursday, March 20, 6.30 pm, at Lenzi’s Mill House in Dracut to recognize Peter for what he has done to make Lowell a better place. Here are details about tickets and sponsorships.

For more information, call Bob Howard at 978-459-4836.  See more about the Kiwanis at www.LowellKiwanis.org



Create a Poster for Lowell Nat’l Hist. Park

In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration used the job-creating vehicle of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to employ artists in a marketing campaign called “See America,” which promoted the beauties and treasures of the national parks of America.

This year, the Creative Action Network, made up of designers and artists around the country, joined with the National Parks Conservation Assoc., a private booster organization for the parks, to revive the “See America” campaign. Any artist in the nation can participate. Here’s how:

“If you’re an artist, produce a poster of your own and upload it to the Creative Action Network site—you’ll receive 40 percent of the sales generated by the posters and related products. Can’t draw a  square to save your life? Purchase items on CAN’s website to support artists and show off your love of the parks . . . .”

Many of the national parks already have posters up for sale. THERE IS NO POSTER FOR LOWELL NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK, PEOPLE. And there can be more than one poster per park.

devil's tower



‘Mill Power’: A Book Excerpt

Readers of this blog know that I’ve been writing a book about the origin and impact of Lowell National Historical Park. Titled Mill Power, the book is expected to be available this coming summer. Following are a few paragraphs about the roots of the park, discussed in much greater detail in the 300-page book that covers the period 1966 to 2012.—PM


From Alternative School to Urban Cultural Park

     In the same way that the Boston business entrepreneurs scaled up their prototype factory in Waltham to the massive industrial plant of Lowell, Mogan and company took the seed of an idea for an alternative school that stressed experiential learning in the local environment and hot-housed it into a standing hybrid tree whose young crown was a national park. In 1970, Mogan was describing “a model school in the Model Cities area which would go beyond the traditional notion of a school”—one that would be informed by every aspect of city life, this particular city’s life because of Lowell’s important heritage. The concept of the Center for Human Development and planning trail for an experimental school are described in detail ahead.

When Secretary of the Interior Hickel announced in September 1970 that the Park Service would look into creating 14 new park units emphasizing recreation in the vicinity of large cities, the Model Cities education planners were surprised and excited. Their notion of environmental or place-based education seemed like a good fit for a federal agency that is the custodian of the country’s most treasured heritage sites. The local people knew that Lowell was in every respected history textbook no matter how brief the mention. The city was synonymous with the American Industrial Revolution. Nearby in Massachusetts, Salem Maritime National Historic Site (1938) and Minute Man National Historical Park (1959) in Concord and Lexington were on the list. To Mogan and his planners, Lowell did not seem out of their historical league.

To carry on the Model Cities Education Component when the federal funds stopped flowing, Mogan and his collaborators in 1971 formed the Human Services Corporation (HSC), a nonprofit corporation. HSC was organized “to ensure the continuation of programs and the preservation of a philosophy born of a faith in the citizens of Lowell, respect for those who made its history, and hope for a future which, phoenix-like, would arise from the ashes of the past to rekindle a once-great city and bring it to a new birth and prosperity built upon its most valuable resource, its people.” The mission was to “strive to build concrete economic and social programs that seem to offer a sense of hope and determination in all of the residents.” They wanted the people of Lowell to benefit in their daily material condition as well as in their psyches. The original incorporators were Rev. Bernard A. Belley, Joseph T. Dillon, Angelike Georgalos, John F. Kirwin, Sister Lillian L. LaMoureux, Patrick J. Mogan, and Peter S. Stamas.

HSC became the primary vehicle for developing plans for what was being called an urban cultural park. From 1972 to 1974, with $100,000 from the New England Regional Commission, HSC advanced the park idea. The funds were filtered through the new Center City Committee, whose members included key downtown stakeholders. Urban planner Gordon Marker managed the park initiative. Working with consultant Robert Graulich of ACTION in Washington, D.C., Marker drafted the legislation calling for a park that was sent to Congressman Morse and filed as a bill in April 1972. . . .

—Paul Marion (c) 2014 by Lowell National Historical Park

Peter Aucella Recognized for Outstanding Service

Peter Aucella, Assistant Superintendent at Lowell National Historical Park recently received the Department of the Interior’s Superior Service Award for his 24 years of vision, planning, and efforts associated with the Lowell Summer Music Series and the development of Boarding House Park. Each year, the series draws some 30,000 people to concerts by major stars such as Joan Baez and Ziggy Marley, as well as to a daytime series for young people that is offered free. Peter is the former executive director of the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission, U. S. Dept of the Interior, the federal agency that transformed a low-grade parking lot at John and French streets into an award-winning performance park with its signature pavilion stage.The summer of 2014 will mark the 25th anniversary of the outdoor music shows at Boarding House Park.

Mr. Aucella received the award from the National Park Service Northeast Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach at an awards ceremony in Boston on December 11, 2013.

Peter Aucella Award