Preservation Movement Then and Now: Two Centuries of Historic Preservation in Massachusetts

Subscribe RSS Icon | What is RSS
Date: May 10, 2010
Contact: Phil Lupsiewicz, 978-275-1705

Lowell National Historical Park will be opening the exhibit “The Preservation Movement: Then and Now,” presented in collaboration with Historic New England, beginning May 13th in the Boott Gallery. The exhibit, on display until September 26, 2010, focuses on two centuries, and two tales, of historic preservation in Massachusetts and New England. Both parts of the exhibit tell the rich and intriguing story of the growth of a historic preservation ethic in Massachusetts.
In Boston, the battle to prevent the demolition of the John Hancock House in 1863, though unsuccessful, spurred the local preservation movement. “It became a sort of battle cry for many subsequent preservation efforts -- people always say, 'Remember the Hancock House,'" said Historic New England Senior Curator Richard Nylander, co-curator of the exhibition. “The Preservation Movement: Then and Now” highlights other areas in New England preservation as well. There is a section on one of the first preservationists, William Sumner Appleton, founder of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England) describing how Appleton realized that many early buildings throughout New England were disappearing and was concerned that little would remain. The exhibition also explores how the movement changed from saving historic sites to downtown revitalization, environmental conservation, land and shoreline preservation, and saving not a single building, but whole neighborhoods.

In contrast to 19th century Boston, the exhibit also features a 20th century story that traces the establishment and growth of a historic preservation movement in Lowell, Massachusetts. This portion of the exhibit, curated by Lowell National Historical Park, will focus on three elements. The first is the loss, or the threat of loss, of historic structures and neighborhoods in the 1950s and 60s in central Lowell. “The loss of the Merrimack Mills boardinghouses, followed by the demolition of Little Canada and the Hale Howard neighborhoods spurred citizens to save important structures from Lowell’s industrial past” said David Blackburn, Lowell NHP’s Chief of Cultural Resources. The other exhibit elements of the Lowell story focus on the creation of the National Park and the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission and a variety of preservation success stories and failures. 

The exhibit opening will take place on May 13 at 5:00 pm with the kick-off celebration for Doors Open Lowell at a reception hosted by the Park, the City of Lowell, and Lowell Heritage Partnership. RSVP is required to 978-275-1700 or

During the rest of the exhibit run, it will be open 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm to the general public beginning on Friday, May 14 and every weekend in May. The exhibit opens seven days a week as of May 31 – September 5 and will be open weekends in September through the 26th. The exhibit is free and is located in the Boott Gallery on the first floor of the Boott Cotton Mills Museum at 115 John Street, Lowell. For more information about Historic New England visit For more information about Lowell National Historical Park visit

Last updated: February 26, 2015

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

67 Kirk Street
Lowell , MA 01852


978 970-5000

Contact Us

Stay Connected