Lowell, Story of an Industrial City: Immigrant Communities

Map of Lowell showing immigrant communities
A map showing immigrant communities in Lowell.

National Park Service

The failure of mill owners in early Lowell to accommodate the Irish in company housing set a precedent that significantly influenced community life in the city. Immigrant groups resided away from the mills in their own neighborhoods, where old-world cultures came to terms with the demands of American urban-industrial life. By the turn of the century, Lowell was a microcosm of the broader society an uneasy blend of many ethnic groups living in distinct neighborhoods.

A 1912 map of Lowell shows five major immigrant communities scattered in clusters around the city. Little Canada, which bordered the Northern Canal, had become the primary neighborhood for French Canadians. Greeks concentrated in the Acre along Market Street, while Poles, Portuguese, and Russian Jews had their own enclave within each of these areas, ethnic institutions evolved that catered to the needs of the immigrant group. Ethnic churches were the foremost of these, with a French-Canadian Catholic Church and a Greek Orthodox Church, among others, serving their communities. Parochial schools passed on the native tongue and insured that the American-born generation did not stray too far from the ways of the homeland. Adults also had their cultural institutions: Greek coffee houses and French-Canadian social clubs contributed to the cosmopolitan air of pre-World War I Lowell.

From: Dublin, Thomas. 1992. Lowell: the story of an industrial city: a guide to Lowell National Historical Park and Lowell Heritage State Park, Lowell, Massachusetts. Washington, D.C.: Division of Publications, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Last updated: June 15, 2018