Merrimack Valley Magazine Feature! A Peek into Lowell’s Past

Welcome to LowellAn article by Lowell Historical Society Curator Ryan W. Owen appears in the May/June 2016 issue of Merrimack Valley Magazine, which hits Greater Lowell newsstands soon.

Lowell has lots to see, and do!  Some of Lowell’s best history-related points of attraction are featured in the article, A Peek into Lowell’s Past.

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The list includes the downtown area’s Boott Mills Cotton Museum, which also happens to house the Lowell Historical Society’s archive.  In addition, the article also features Shedd Park, Fort Hill, the Central Fire Station, and Lowell Cemetery.

Pick up the latest issue of Merrimack Valley Magazine today!

Sadly, there wasn’t enough room to include Shedd Park’s Pollywog Pond in the article, even though we’re sure it’s historic to many of our readers who grew up in the area.  Below is a photo taken in early March, of the pond, as it appears today.  Remember all that snow a few months ago?

Pollywog Pond


Hiking with a Dose of History: Chelmsford’s Thanksgiving Forest

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Panoramic photograph of Thanksgiving Forest, close to the site of the group of large boulders (Photo by Author, 4/17/16)

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The sign at the Janet Road entrance to Thanksgiving Forest (Photo by Author)

With spring finally here, if you are looking for family-friendly (and dog-friendly) hiking trails in the Merrimack Valley, don’t overlook Chelmsford’s Thanksgiving Forest (sometimes also known as the Thanksgiving Ground Forest).  Its 45 acres abut Carlisle’s Great Brook Farm State Park to its south and the Russell Mill Pond to its west.

The trail system is fairly simple to navigate at Thanksgiving Forest. There are two trails – the longer Bovey Trail, well-marked by blue trail markers, and the shorter Russell Trail – also well-marked, by purple trail markers.  If you see the red trail, this is the pathway that leads into Carlisle’s Great Brook Farm State Park.

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A view from Thanksgiving Forest’s Bovey Trail showing a beaver lodge in Russell Mill Pond (Photo by Author)

Thanksgiving Forest’s Bovey Trail will take you along the picturesque water views beside Russell Mill Pond where you may glimpse geese, ducks, and the occasional beaver lodge. The varied terrain on either trail is sure to provide plenty of visual interest.  While there are some dips and rises in the trails as you trek along, and some rather impressive root systems running alongside and across the trails closest to the trees, the trails themselves are relatively easy to traverse, or, in simpler terms, you won’t have to carry your kids (or dogs) because they’ve given up on hiking halfway along the trail.  Throughout the forest, you’re sure to see plenty of boulders, hilly terrain, and old farmers’ walls of stone along the way.  Some of the pathways through the forest are quite peaceful, serene and seemingly remote, while others abut the backyards of South Chelmsford homes and whisk you back toward civilization.

The forest offers some history too, for those who might like a story to go along with their hiking.  The sign at the Janet Road entrance of Thanksgiving Forest tells the story of how Thanksgiving Forest, with its current 45 acres, came to be.

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Very tall pine trees abound just about everywhere within Thanksgiving Forest (Photo by Author)

When the Chelmsford Farms Estates development was almost finished in the early 1960s, more and more people were coming into the Thanksgiving Ground Forest in South Chelmsford.  At the 1961 annual meeting, the town of Chelmsford accepted a small plot of land at the edge of Thanksgiving Forest on Gary Road for a parking lot from East Coast Builders.  The town, at the same time, accepted a gift of land from Edward and Mildred Russell that added eleven acres to the forest, extending it along Russell Mill Pond to the Carlisle line; another gift of 6 acres from Martin Bovey that extended the forest past the large rocks, which had been the edge of the forest; and one other gift of about 5 ares from East Coast Builders which extended the forest’s border even further south.

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A view of the group of large boulders in Thanksgiving Forest, where the annual fox hunt participants once met in the 19th century.

But the real story in the history of Thanksgiving Forest lies in its name.  The name of the forest harkens back to a 19th century Chelmsford town tradition where, on Thanksgiving Day, the men of the town would gather for their annual fox hunt at the group of large boulders within the park.  (See photo below, provided from the Chelmsford Public Library’s Flickr Photo Stream.)

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The hearth where fires are lit on the Annual Day Before Thanksgiving Walk.

The fox hunts are long gone these days, but, about ten years ago, a new tradition started in the Thanksgiving Forest – the Annual Day Before Thanksgiving Walk.  On the Wednesdays before Thanksgiving, during the early afternoon, those joining the walk meet at the forest’s entrance at the end of Janet Road and walk the trails within the forest to reach the same group of large boulders that once served as the meeting place for the fox hunt.  At those boulders, a fire is lit in the hearth formed by the rocks and a local boy scout troop provides hot chocolate and cookies.  It’s said that the walk has been attended by as many as 300 people in some recent years.

The town of Chelmsford has found new ways to keep Thanksgiving Forest relevant and inviting to current generations, while remembering its history and importance to earlier ones.  The photograph below, found on the Chelmsford Public Library’s Flickr Photostream shows a group of 19th century residents gathered for a Thanksgiving Day fox hunt.  These days, Thanksgiving Forest offers great hiking trails that are family-friendly and the annual Day Before Thanksgiving Walk to those looking to add to their own family’s Thanksgiving traditions.

Thanksgiving Forest Gathering

 


From the Curator’s Desk: Old Timepieces – The Pocketwatch

Happy 2016, readers!  At the Lowell Historical Society, we run across some interesting items in our collection of historical artifacts.  There was the box of cinders donated by our former treasurer, Charles C. Swan, after a 1926 fire that consumed Pollards Department Store, one of Lowell’s largest and best known.  Another cool find within our collection was the charred wooden stake that once formed part of the Central Bridge spanning the Merrimack River and separating Lowell’s Centralville neighborhood from its downtown section.

Recently, we came across this pocketwatch, dated 1900, with its old-timey reference tag still attached.  Among the oldest items in our collection, the watch remains in excellent condition, and exudes a sort of charm when its weight rests in your palm.  And, it comes with history too.  When Lowell’s Spanish-American war vets returned to the States in the last years of the 19th century, they brought with them their stories of war, and the artifacts they collected.  This watch returned with one of them, retrieved from the ground by an American solider after one of the war’s battles, carried by that solider for the rest of the war, and brought to the US across the sea as he returned by ship over a century ago.  Some years later, he donated it to our collection, where it remains today.

One of the watch’s most interesting characteristics is its detail.  From the name of the watch’s manufacturer on its face, Levy Hermanos (or ‘Levy Brothers’ when translated to English), to the Spanish coat of arms on its back, the watch is undoubtedly Spanish in origin, and one of our more unique artifacts in that its story starts far outside the borders of our city.

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The back of the pocket watch, LHS Collection (Photo by Author)

Donated so long ago to our collection, the watch, and its story, are still remembered for today’s generations, and preserved for future generations as well.  Like other items of this age, the tag has become almost as interesting as the artifact itself.  This pocketwatch is one of the items in the collection that we are researching right now.  Watch this blog for further updates as we research other items, and post our research here.

 

 

 


Among the Artifacts: Merrimack Mills Employee Badges from Long Ago

At the Lowell Historical Society, we get to see and study some really interesting artifacts, like the wooden stake from the Central Bridge fire of 1882 or the Hi Hat Guy from Lowell’s Hi-Hat Rollaway, or even the Box of Cinders from the Pollard’s Department Store fire of 1926.  A lot of these, we inherited from long ago.  But, sometimes, ‘new’ old artifacts make their way to the Society.

Right before the holidays, we received an email from Ray Leavitt, whose family had come across some employee badges from Lowell’s Merrimack Manufacturing Company, more commonly known as the Merrimack Mills.  Lowell’s Merrimack Mills were the first major textile mills to set up shop in what was then East Chelmsford, in 1823.  The company grew into one of the city’s largest employers and survived well over 100 years, employing first a generation of mill girls from the rural farmlands of surrounding New England towns and later generations of newly-arrived immigrants looking for a new life in the United States.  The Merrimack Mills played a huge role in the development of Lowell, and played considerable roles in the family histories  of many who trace their family’s stories through the Greater Lowell area.

Merrimack Mills advertisement from the Lowell City Directory, 1935

Merrimack Mills advertisement from the Lowell City Directory, 1935

Ray’s Merrimack Mills employee badges belonged to two of his great aunts and had been kept by their youngest brother until he had died in 1999.  Last week, he mailed them to us.  When you first examine the badges, their age becomes immediately apparent.  There’s no magnetic strip on their reverse, no RFID tag, no protective holograms.  In fact, they’re mostly metal and paper.  There’s just a little bit of plastic, a small, thin film covering the photos.  When Ray and I spoke last week, he estimated them to date from the 1950s.  Now that I’ve seen them, I’d agree.  The nature of the badges, their crisp black-and-white photographs, and even the fashion visible in the photographs all seem to suggest the 1950s.  This means they date from the end of the reign of the mighty Merrimack Mills, which were gone and demolished by the time JFK became president in 1960.

The personality of the women comes through the years, through their photographs.  The first badge, #688, belonged to Mary (Mamie) Leavitt.  The other, #686, belonged to her younger sister, Catherine, who was known as Katie to her family and friends.   Both show shy smiles.

Mary Leavitt's employee badge for the Merrimack Manufacturing Company

Mamie Leavitt’s employee badge for the Merrimack Manufacturing Company

The Leavitt sisters were first generation Americans, born to Irish immigrants Michael J. Leavitt and his wife Johanna (Sullivan), who were married at St. Patrick’s Church in Lowell on November 22, 1893.

The Leavitt sisters and their three brothers grew up in the shadow of St. Patrick’s Church at a house the family rented that once stood at 222 Suffolk Street.  Neither sister ever married.  Both worked for the Merrimack Manufacturing Company until it closed.  Mamie later found work as a matron at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  She died in 1983.  Katie died earlier, in 1967.  After the Merrimack Mills closed, she found work at the Lowell School Department as a matron.

By the time Mamie and Katie worked at the Merrimack Mills, the Leavitt family had left Suffolk Street and bought a home at 662 School Street in the city’s Highlands neighborhood.  Both sisters worked as velvet cutters at the Merrimack for years.  And the Merrimack Manufacturing Company was a big part of Leavitt family life.  Family members still recall how Mamie spoke with pride about her coveted position as a cutter there.  And family memories include their younger brother Bill Leavitt telling stories about how he would bring lunch to the Merrimack for his sisters as they worked.

Katie Leavitt's employee badge for the Merrimack Manufacturing Company

Katie Leavitt’s employee badge for the Merrimack Manufacturing Company

When the Merrimack Manufacturing Company closed in the late 1950s, its absence devastated the Leavitts as it did many Greater Lowell families.  Not only did the region lose a major employer and a source of jobs, but along with the mills left a way of life, and a key component of Lowell’s identity that had existed for longer than the city had itself.

 


Merrimack Valley Magazine Feature! Remembering Lowell’s Prince Spaghetti

We made the latest issue of Merrimack Valley Magazine, with an article featuring Lowell’s Prince Macaroni Company!  With all the talk around Sacred Heart lately: the changes to the old school and parish grounds, and the Neighborhood Endowed Scholarship at UMass Lowell, as well as the sale of the old Prince Macaroni pasta plant last June, who can’t help but think of Prince and recall its famous slogan?

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Or, its iconic 1969 TV spot?

Lowell’s Prince Pasta plant closed in 1997, almost 20 years ago, but its memory lives on.  Check out Merrimack Valley Magazine’s November/December issue, and remember when Lowell was Spaghettiville and Wednesday was Spaghetti Day.


Remembering Lowell’s Giant Store

Giant Store logo, ca. 1961

Giant Store logo, ca. 1961

Do you remember shopping at Lowell’s Giant Store?  For decades, the Giant Store promised ‘giant savings’ and helped form the core of Downtown Lowell’s department store heyday that included other iconic shops like the Bon Marché, Pollards, and Cherry & Webb.  The Giant Store sat on the edge of Downtown Lowell, at the corner of Dutton and Broadway, and offered the latest in just about everything, at discount prices.  The Giant Store’s five floors offered electronics, clothing, food, paint, sporting equipment, and more.  if you needed spray paint, wallpaper, curtains, rugs, transistor radios, or even moth killer, chances were you would find it on one of the Giant Store’s four upper floors.  And, in the basement-level garden shop, you could pick up fertilizer spreaders, bird baths, trellises, or grass seed at prices that seem quaint by today’s standards.

A Giant Store Ad from July 1943

A Giant Store Ad from July 1943

1952 houseThe Giant Store ran frequent ads in the local papers, but seldom made news itself – with the notable exception of a November 26, 1951 robbery where two men stole so much cash from the Giant Store that it could have bought and furnished a fairly comfortable home.  At the time of the robbery, in the early 1950s, an enterprising young couple could buy “a beautiful new home” on nearby Tewksbury Center’s Newton Avenue for just $10,900.  That five-room ranch would have boasted the latest in suburban accommodations:  hardwood floors, automatic heat, baseboard radiation, and even formica countertops.  And, if you added just $300 more, you could have upgraded to a six-room Cape Cod style house.  But, where could you get that kind of money?  In the early fifties, the average US family brought home some $3,900 annually.  That meant that that family would have had to spend nearly three years’ salary buying that home in Tewksbury.

If you did your research, though, you could find a faster way to gather enough money to buy that house.  It was not such a well-kept secret that the Giant Store regularly sent two stock-boys to the nearby Wamesit branch of the Union National Bank with the store’s cash receipts.  It was also no secret that those cash receipts would be even bigger after a weekend of post-Thanksgiving Day shopping.   So, if you were to pick the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend in 1951 to stage your hold-up, you would have gotten away with $20,000 in cash.  Today, that would be worth the equivalent of $183,000.  That would have bought a house, maybe even two, in 1951.

And, that’s precisely what happened, on November 26, 1951.  When news of the robbery hit local headlines, the Lowell Sun called it “one of the most fantastic and incredibly easy stick-ups in Lowell history”.  Local police raced in quickly and confidently in the minutes afterward, and even identified some clues.

The Giant Store, as it appeared in 1973.  (Courtesy:  Lowell Sun, Oct. 14, 1973, pg. E4)

The Giant Store, as it appeared in 1973. (Courtesy: Lowell Sun, Oct. 14, 1973, pg. E4)

Lowell police teamed up with Massachusetts state police and questioned the likely suspects – parolees and ‘known hoodlums’.  They also searched local rooming houses for bad apples who might have perpetrated the attack, or at least knew something about it.  Police even set up roadblocks in the hours after the robbery, which later was expanded to include a search of 13 states.Local investigators always felt it was a local job, though, organized by someone who knew the Giant Store and its operations.

The two stock-boys were both Lowell residents and students at Lowell High School.  At 2 PM, cars were parked bumper to bumper on a deserted Dutton Street.  The two gunmen emerged from between the cars and told the stock-boys to ‘hand over the money’.  One man approached from the front, brandishing a gun.  The other came from the rear.  They both eyed the canvas bags carried by the two stock-boys, each clearly stamped with Union National Bank’s name.  Once the stock-boys handed over the two unsealed canvas bags, full of fresh cash, the gunmen instructed them to “turn around and walk back the way you came.”  The stock-boys did just that, and walked about 100 feet, when they heard the getaway car race away.

From a 1936 city atlas, the location of the Giant Store is marked with a large black arrow.  The smaller black arrow marks the location of the Wamesit branch of the Union National Bank.

From a 1936 city atlas, the location of the Giant Store is marked with a large black arrow. The smaller black arrow marks the location of the Wamesit branch of the Union National Bank.

As the car sped off, the stock-boys ran back to the Giant Store, and shouted the alarm to a ‘girl office clerk,’ who called the police. Police got descriptions of the robbers:  the man in the front had held a small automatic pistol, and appeared to be between 45 and 50 years old.  The stock-boys remembered that he stood about 5 feet 10 inches tall and had gray hair and a medium build.  They also remembered that he was clean-shaven and spoke ‘good English’.  They never saw the guy behind them.

The scene of the Giant Store robbery, as it appeared at the time.  The entrance to the store, and location where the hold-up took place are marked.  (Photo Credit:  Lowell Sun, Nov. 27, 1951, Front Page)

The scene of the Giant Store robbery, as it appeared at the time. The entrance to the store, and location where the hold-up took place are marked. (Photo Credit: Lowell Sun, Nov. 27, 1951, Front Page)

More clues started to emerge in the first days after the robbery.  A car, belonging to a Dracut man, had been reported stolen from a parking space off Thorndike Street.  It was later found on Moody, abandoned.  Another man claimed he had been cut off by a maroon sedan, near the Giant Store, around the time of the robbery.

The case made the TV news.  On December 1, the holdup was featured on the “Public Prosecutor” show on WBZ-TV.  Police soon deduced that the robbers knew what they were doing, striking on a Monday when weekend cash receipts would be brought to the bank.  Police interviewed sales staff and executives to determine if there were disgruntled former employees, suspicious loiterers, or anyone they could focus their attention on.

1949 GIant Store

The Giant Store Logo, ca. 1949

Police looked into the robbery for weeks, and eventually exhausted all leads.  One clue, and then another withered and died. It turned out that the maroon sedan had nothing to do with the robbery.  And the fingerprints found in the stolen car led to nothing.  Police eventually resorted to hoping a phoned-in clue might lead to arrests.  But, those never came, and the case remained unsolved, and does to this day.  Later robberies were compared to the Giant Store heist in the years following, but eventually, the case faded from the headlines.

Drive down Lowell’s Dutton Street today and you can’t miss the building that was once the Giant Store.  It forms a five-story wall that lines one of the main roads leading out of Lowell’s downtown and into its Acre neighborhood.  Today, it houses the 305 Dutton Street Lofts.

November 16, 1951

November 16, 1951

The Giant Store was founded by Ben Swig and incorporated in 1933.  By 1934, though, the Giant Store building was already a local landmark.  The building known today as the Giant Store actually came into existence when it was built for the Saco-Lowell Shops, in the years following the first World War.  The Saco-Lowell shops added the Giant Store building to its complex around 1920 and called it the rather plainly named Building #15. The Saco-Lowell shops had been around, at the point, for about a century, dating back to 1824, when the Merrimack Manufacturing Company formed the company to make mill machinery to support Lowell’s growing mill industry.  By the late 1920’s, the Lowell Machine Shop was closed and its large collection of  buildings were being demolished, except for #15.

The Giant Store moved in around 1933, and lasted nearly forty years.  By 1972, though, the Giant Store found itself on the brink of bankruptcy.  The Lowell store was gone by the next year, when Joan Fabrics moved into its Dutton Street site.  The Lowell community welcomed the new Joan Fabrics facility which promised to employ over 100 people.  At the time of the sale, four other tenants were at the Dutton Street location including Big Jim’s Department Store, WLLH radio, and Offices Unlimited, Inc.  Around the same time, also in 1973, as the Giant Store worked through its bankruptcy proceedings, the King’s Department Store chain bought the Giant 1973 Giant Store Joan FabricsStore’s 425,000 square foot warehouse in Chelmsford at 9 Stuart Road.


From the Curator’s Desk: The Wooden Stake in our Collection

During these last few weeks, we’ve been busy at the Lowell Historical Society. As we near the end of our 2013-2014 year, we had our annual meeting last weekend at Lowell’s Pollard Memorial Library where our society’s Vice President Kim Zunino spoke about some of the fascinating finds she’s encountered in the attic of Lowell’s City Hall.  With our new year, we are also welcoming a new member, Kathleen Ralls, to our board.  And, last, but never least, we continue to work feverishly on integrating new collections and artifacts into our archive. Look for more on that soon!

Naturally, as we move into the future, we continue to study the past. And in processing, organizing, and better cataloging our collection, we find some pretty intriguing items.  Take this one, for instance:

This wooden pin was once part of the Central Bridge.

This wooden pin was once part of the Central Bridge.  (Photo Credit:  Tony Sampas, LHS Archivist)

At first glance, it looks like an old wooden stake, rounded, with some fire damage evident at its edges. The stake looks old, feels old, but still retains just a hint of a smoky, burnt wood sort of odor.

But, before you ask. . . No, it’s not one of the last surviving wooden stakes left over from the Victorian vampire epidemic rumored to have hit Lowell in the 1890s. It’s actually a wooden pin retrieved from the ruins of a fire that ravaged Lowell’s Central Bridge on August 5, 1882. Although largely forgotten today, the fire caused quite a stir in Lowell back in those days.

Much better known today as the Bridge Street Bridge, the span connecting Lowell’s Centralville section with its downtown mainly goes unnoticed these days, except for the occasional traffic jam which gets it into the news.  These days, when the cars begin to back up, you can drive your car along the river for a couple of extra minutes, and cross the Merrimack River at the Aiken Street Bridge, or at the Hunts Falls Bridge.

A section of an 1882 atlas showing the vicinity surrounding the Central Bridge, Lowell.

A section of an 1882 atlas showing the vicinity surrounding the Central Bridge, Lowell.

But, when the Central Bridge burnt down on that August night 130 years ago, folks who found themselves on its Dracut side had a real worry. How were they going to get to work?

In a time before vacation days, workers who walked the Central Bridge to earn their bread in Lowell’s mills watched in disbelief as flame consumed the bridge in 1882. The first of them noticed the fire in the quiet of a summer night, just a few hours before sunrise when the first flames were seen at the south end of the Central bridge, the section closest to downtown.

When he saw the flames, he ran and told the nearest policeman, who ran to the nearest fire alarm. The fire brigade came soon after, but their progress wasn’t fast enough to prevent the spread of the fire beneath the bridge. As they made their valiant efforts to put down the fire on top of the bridge, the flames spread nearly half its length underneath.

The men slung the fire hoses across the bridge, and also battled the flames from the nearby Boott mill.  Another hose carriage fought the flames from the Centralville side.  The fire kept advancing, though, and just an hour later, flames were engulfing the entire span of the bridge, and lighting up the night sky.

Central Bridge, 1882

Central Bridge, 1882  (Source:  NYPL Collection)

From the downtown end of the bridge, the firemen made one last push to save the structure, climbing into the burning bridge, and trying to put down the fire.  They fought until the end, until the bridge itself failed and fell into the river below, throwing five firemen into the dark waters with it.

– James Halstead, foreman, Hose 4
– Edward Meloy and William Meredith
– William Dana, Steamer 3
– James McCormack, Hose 6

A sixth man, Capt. Cunningham, who had been fighting the flames from the roof of the bridge, caught onto the cross bar of a telephone pole as he fell and clung to it until he was rescued.  All of the men survived, but several sustained injuries.

As the bridge failed, spectators on both sides of the bridge watched a gas pipe explode in a blinding flash as firemen called out to their brethren in the dark waters below. They feared for the men flailing about in the water.  They also feared that the Boott or the Massachusetts mills would be next. They shuddered as their watched the windows of the Boott mills smolder, and then ignite.

During the fire, and the days and weeks following, all speculated on what might have caused it. The going theory was that it had been caused by the sparks thrown off by some machinery used by the Boott mills. Some even came forward to say that they had seen the bridge catch fire a few days before, and that workmen from the mill had put it out.

In the end, though, it didn’t matter. The bridge was a total loss, leaving more than 8,000 Centralville residents cut off from Downtown Lowell and their livelihood.  Those with horses, the wealthier in Centralville, were able to go a few minutes out of their way and enter the city by the Pawtucket bridge, but most of the people who depended on the bridge walked to work.  And they were out of luck.

The only way left across the river appeared to be by boat, which harkened back to the days of Bradley’s Ferry, before the bridge was built.  In the days following the fire, the City Council discussed and approved plans to lay a footbridge across the ruined bridge’s span. It was quickly put into place, and Centralville residents were thankful – even if it didn’t have a cover, which drew a little bit of ire among Centralville residents.  By March of the following year, townspeople were known to remark that the builders of the old bridge knew what they were doing when they made it a covered bridge.

The relics of the old bridge quickly became popular. A January 1883 Lowell Sun article recounted how City Marshal McDonald was presented a ‘finely finished white oak club’ made from the timbers of the old bridge, which had been under water for 54 years.  The novelty of the ruined bridge wore off quickly, though.  Lowellians grew impatient with the builders as the months following the fire wore on. By September 1883 a Lowell Sun writer stated that ‘whoever drew up the contract between the bridge company and the city of Lowell for the bridge’s iron work ought to create a new one, and then tie a handkerchief around his eyes and jump into the river.” The writer went on to say that the delays had hurt Centralville residents and city traders, and that the contract offered the city no recourse in addressing the delays in the construction of the bridge with the builders of the bridge.

In the end, though, the bridge reopened.  It took almost a year, but a new iron bridge reopened in the old wooden bridge’s place.  That bridge stood for over half a century, before being washed away in the Flood of 1936, and replaced by the bridge that still stands today.

Wooden Pin Label, 1882

Wooden Pin Label, 1882 (Photo Credit:  Tony Sampas, LHS Archivist)

And that’s the story of the wooden pin in our collection, contributed and tagged so long ago.  (The tag itself is almost as interesting as the pin itself.)  The pin is just one of the items in the collection that we’re currently researching.

Watch here for future updates on other items we find in the collection.