If you’ve spent any time in Downtown Lowell, you’ve surely passed Page’s Clock in Kearney Square on Merrimack Street. The clock, refurbished in the 1990′s, has been a Downtown Lowell landmark since the D.L. Page Company moved its operations into the nearby building at 16-18 Merrimack Street in May 1913.
As its advertisements claimed, the D.L. Page Company had been “makers of fine candies since Lincoln’s Time.” By the time the late 1930′s had rolled around, Dudley L. Page had run his business for nearly 75 years.
“Uncle Dudley”, as he was affectionately known throughout Lowell, always proudly recalled that his first day in business was March 17, 1866, which happened to be St. Patrick’s Day. Uncle Dudley founded his first candy shop on the corner of Lowell’s Middle and Central Streets, in the basement of a building that then housed Richardson’s Clothing Store. He had returned from service in the Civil War just one year before.
In its years before the move into its Merrimack Street location, the D.L. Page Company housed its operations in various Downtown Lowell locations: the basement of the Hildreth Block, a store opposite St. Anne’s Church on Merrimack Street, on the street floor of the Fellows Block, and in the old Masonic Building, also on Merrimack Street. Uncle Dudley also opened branch locations at 9 West Street in Boston, as well as in Lynn and North Chelmsford.
Born in New London, NH in the mid-1840′s, Uncle Dudley moved to Billerica when he was six. At an annual meeting of the Lowell Historical Society in 1934, he delivered a paper on his childhood in Billerica recalling his boyhood ambition, which was not to be a baker and maker of fine candies, but to be a locomotive engineer. In the decade before the Civil War, Uncle Dudley recalled a life where stagecoaches were the preferred manner of travel to reach the outskirts of town and where he followed the actions of Wendell Phillips, the ‘crusading abolitionist’. He also recalled timeless childhood antics like skipping school in favor of visiting the swimming hole and hobbies that don’t seem so timeless, like catching eels in the Shawsheen River and pitching quoits.
Barely a decade later, Uncle Dudley went on to join the Union army, and even stood inspection before President Lincoln. Soon after returning from his Civil War service, Uncle Dudley opened his store, and went on to specialize in candies of all kinds. Over the years, he added a restaurant and a luncheonette to his shop. In the late 1870′s, he even completed a Doctor of Medicine degree at Philadelphia’s Jefferson College.
Even as he neared his 100th birthday in the 1930′s, Uncle Dudley continued to actively bake, make candy, and oversee all of the daily activities of his shop. And, with each year, Uncle Dudley celebrated the St. Patrick’s Day anniversary of his store with special offerings, including stick candy.
Well into his nineties, Uncle Dudley was often seen pushing slush from his store’s sidewalk, and was used by downtown officials to encourage his fellow merchants to do the same. He figured prominently into the city’s social scene too. In August 1934, local papers ignited with the gossip that only scandal brings when Uncle Dudley secretly wedded Miss Ella Calderwood. Miss Calderwood had been a bookkeeper for his firm for several years, but had retired some 15 years before. In her retirement, she worked as a piano instructor, and had acquired a reputation among local musicians. Miss Calderwood had also served as a housekeeper for Uncle Dudley for some time. Their marriage in August 1934 satisfied the rumors about their romantic involvement. When they married, she was 85; he was 89.
After more than 75 years in business, Dudley L. Page died on November 20, 1942, at his home at 427 Andover Street in Lowell’s Belvidere section. He was 98. At the time, he was one of the last two remaining Civil War veterans living in Lowell and had served as an honorary marshal in the city’s Memorial Day parades for years. He had retained active management of his store up until his very last years, and kept an active interest in the store up until his death. The store held on for a short period afterward, but in December 1947, the location was sold, and eventually became Brigham’s.
Uncle Dudley’s clock remains on Merrimack Street outside his store’s former building. The clock fell into disrepair for a while in the late 20th century, but since its refurbishing in the 1990′s, it has once again rejoined the Downtown Lowell landscape as a link to the area’s vibrant past and to one of Downtown Lowell’s most influential long-time merchants.
- Remembering Downtown Lowell’s Bon Marché through the Years, 1878-1976 (forgottennewengland.com)
- The Memorial Hall and Public Library of Lowell, Massachusetts, 1893 (forgottennewengland.com)