15 Jun Second is Best
Hey everybody! It’s me again, Daniela, and I am back for my SECOND summer with the Lowell National Historical Park! I could not be happier about that! This year has started off on such a positive and upbeat note and let me tell you why:
I have been so lucky in working with such an incredibly fun staff that made training a really great experience for the second time and reminded me of the wonderful dedication and love these people have not just for the National Park Service but for the community.
I was born and raised in the town of Lowell and have been witness to part of the unbelievable transformation this city has gone through. From industrial epicenter of the early to mid 19th century to cultural melting pot as product of immigration, to economically depressed post industrial slum and now a revitalized, colorful, thriving, inviting, and beautiful city.
Lowell was the first successfully planned industrial city in the United States; a living ideal set up by a group of ambitious merchants called the Boston Associates who sought to create a city of labor supported by an adherence to morals. Yankee women from surrounding towns heard of the “Lowell experiment” and left their farms for independence and the financial stability offered by the textile industry. They lived in boarding houses (like the one at our Mill Girls Exhibit) where they were watched after by a house keeper who kept the girls in line in both conduct and work. For the first years, Lowell was a booming success, but all capitalist ventures come with competition and the mill owners soon encountered a need to slash wages and increase production in order to keep up in the market as more mills began to spring up in the surroundings towns and technologies started rendering old equipment inefficient. This need to compete resulted in strikes and the eventual employment of another group of people. Immigrants. First the Irish, then French Canadian, Greeks, Poles, Portuguese, etc… These people were seeking an opportunity exactly like the first mill girl, however,they were willing to work longer hours and for less making them the perfect candidates for employment.Most immigrants often made more money than they ever could have imagined, but the conditions were tough. The mills were dusty, hot, packed places. The work was hard and dangerous at times, but the incentive to come, work, and better their situation was too good to pass up. However, wages continued to drop, mill companies began to shut down or relocate to the south, immigrants eventually settled in and found other employment or found living outside of Lowell, the boarding house system originally employed had utterly collapsed and become low income or tenement housing. All in all Lowell was in decline, by the 1930s Lowell’s economy had practically come to a halt. It was not until the 1960s that citizens gathered together to rehabilitate the dilapidated city, crucially considering the need for historical preservation, restoration, and overall consciousness. The Lowell National Park itself was inaugurated in 1978 as a way of inspiring people to recognize the richness of Lowell’s culture and history and cultivate a sense of stewardship both for the city and the Park. Now Lowell is a leading example of a revitalized city embraces that continues to grow while embracing all facets of its complex and fascinating story.
This is a super brief summary of the Lowell story, but it gives you a glimpse into our history and the immense transformation that we have gone through (for a more in depth look at Lowell and its ties to industry and immigration as well as its revitalization come visit our Boott Cotton Mill Museum – our Trolley can take you there).
I am now twenty one years old. I have seen Lowell increasingly embrace its own heritage and sense of self. Never hiding the struggle but bringing to light the work, dedication, and ultimately love involved in bringing Lowell back. I’ve seen and learned about a city finding salvation in its community and being re-envisioned as a haven of history, culture, and diversity.
So now I invite you to come and experience Lowell, past and present at the National Historical Park! Here is a promotional video I worked on last summer and I would like nothing else than to see you here at the Lowell National Historical Park:
Saludos and more to come,