by Howard Clemens
When bringing a student group to tour Boston, you may also want to consider adding a short excursion to Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell was founded as a manufacturing town in the Merrimack Valley and is considered the “cradle of the American Industrial Revolution.” Also the birthplace of author Jack Kerouac, Lowell is rich with history and stories of the beginning of the United States.
Historical Sites of Interest to Student Groups
Lowell is home to the Lowell National Historical Park, a 141-acre park. Though it is not the first urban national park, it is the largest in the country. The park includes a Visitor Center, and many restored and un-restored sites from the 19th century. The Visitor Center provides a free self-guided student tour of the history of Lowell, including exhibits such as the patent model of a loom by local inventor S. Thomas. The visitor center also includes a 20 minute video entitled “Lowell: The Industrial Revolution.”
Right Outside of Boston, Mass. Lowell Provides Insight into the Industrial Revolution
The Boott Mills sit along the Merrimack River, on the Eastern Canal, and are the oldest and most fully restored manufacturing sites in the district. The Boott Mill provides a walk-through museum with living re-creations of the textile manufacturing process in the 19th century. Adjacent to the Boot Mills is the Tsongas Industrial History Center, a hands-on center where weaving, creating canals, testing water wheels and working on an assembly line are some of the interactive activities for students.
A walkway along the river leads to several additional un-restored mill sites, providing views of restored and un-restored canal raceways once used by the mills. Additionally, the park includes the Patrick J Mogan Cultural Center, which focuses on the lives of Lowell’s many generations of immigrants.
The park includes a 5.6 mile power canal system. Boat and trolley tours along the Pawtucket Canal are offered late Spring through fall. Reproductions of 1901 electric trolley cars operate Spring through Fall. Other exhibits include canal boat tours exploring some of the city’s gatehouses and locks and the River Transformed/Suffolk Mill Turbine Exhibit, which shows how water power, namely the Francis Turbine, was once used to run Lowell’s textile factories.
Lowell is also home to Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Vandenberg Esplanade, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell Radiation Laboratory which houses a small nuclear reactor. Lowell is the birthplace of Jack Kerouac and Academy Award-winning actress Bette Davis. Jack Kerouac’s gravesite is in Lowell’s Edson Cemetery. Another literary historical site of interest to student tour groups is The Worthen House, where Edgar Allan Poe allegedly wrote “The Raven,” a story known to all American students.
Women’s History in Lowell, MA
The term “Lowell Mill Girls” is used to describe the city’s 19th century female textile workers, who comprised about 75 percent of the city’s textile workforce. In 1845, the women organized a group called the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association and demanded a ten-hour workday. The petition they sent to the Massachusetts General Court led to the first government investigations into labor conditions in the United States.
Lowell is also the birthplace of Mary Hallaran, former director of the United States Women’s Army Corps. When asked by a superior what someone of her short stature could do for the military, she famously replied, “You don’t have to be six feet tall to have a brain that works.”
Touring Lowell with Student Trips
The Western Avenue studios provide an artistic picture of Lowell’s culture for student groups. A converted mill on Western Avenue which houses over 160 working artists and musicians, the studios are open to the public on the 1st Saturday of each month from 12-5 p.m.
With Lowell’s textile history, it is particularly suited as home to the New England Quilt Museum. The Quilt Museum includes 150 quilts which showcase the history of American textiles in quilts and quilt tops. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and has special hours on Sundays from May through December. The museum also offers discount tickets to students.
Lowell, MA. is the Perfect Add on to a Boston Student Trip
The city uses old freight lines to run streetcars from the center of the city to many of the city’s historical destinations. It also runs a public transit bus system throughout the city and is connected to Boston through commuter rail making it easy for educational groups visiting Boston to add Lowell, Massachusetts to their itinerary. Your educational travel consultant can help you make the best arrangements for your student group.