Redevelopment Rove Part 2

Hamilton Countinghouse

Hamilton Gate
Tracks for the huge swinging gates through which workers entered the Hamilton Mill

Hamilton- Lowell Community Health Center

Hamilton Manufacturing Company

Just as the Appleton Mill complex ends, the Hamilton Manufacturing Company complex begins. The Hamilton was the second manufacturing company founded in Lowell (1825), and went out of business in 1929. Like the Appleton, many of the buildings in the complex were demolished and rebuilt in late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The narrow brick building in front is the Hamilton Counting House, built in 1870 as the office and headquarters for the company (notice the more ornate brickwork). The building had to be built to fit between the canal and the railroad line that once ran right beside this building up and down Jackson Street. The six-story mill across the canal is Mill #6, built in 1881. Both of these buildings were used by the Courier-Citizen Printing Company (a local newspaper) from the 1920s to the 1970s.

These buildings are the new home of the Lowell Community Health Center, a multi-purpose health care facility designed to meet the health and wellness needs of Lowell's culturally diverse communities. The $42 Million project was funded in part through a capital campaign and the generous support of over 1400 individual donors, including nearly all of the Health Center's employees. The Health Center opened in February 2103, bringing 300 jobs and more access to affordable health care to downtown Lowell.

Walk a little ways out onto the bridge and look down into the canal to the right.

Hamilton Penstocks

Turbine Diagram
Diagram of a typical turbine setup. The penstock funnels water in to drop down into the turbine, which turns and spins the driveshaft to operate the gears and machinery in the mill.

Hamilton Penstocks

To power the mills, water rushed through the canals and into long, wide pipes, called penstocks, that delivered the water to the turbines underneath the mill buildings. The large steel gate suspended from the frame in front of you was used to control the flow of water into the penstock. It was raised or lowered depending on the amount of power needed from the turbines. Below the gate, you can see a series of slats with openings in between. This is the trash rack, meant to keep debris from entering the penstock and damaging the turbine.

These penstocks are still in use today. Though the waterpower is no longer necessary to run textile machines, the turbines still work and are connected to generators which produce electricity to be sold into the power grid. Here the water flows through this penstock, underneath the building in front of you, then drops through a set of turbines in a powerhouse on the other side. The turbines spin generators, and the waste water is funneled out into the Pawtucket Canal.

Return to Jackson Street, turn left and proceed along the sidewalk. The Edward Early, Jr. Parking Garage, built where the boardinghouses for Hamilton Manufacturing Company once stood, will be across the street on your right.

Metta Health Center

Arches Hamilton Storehouse

Power Station
View of the Electric Company Power House from the the top of the Early Garage

Hamilton Storehouse

The building to your left, built in 1865, was used as a storehouse for the Hamilton Manufacturing Company. Today, part of the building has been redeveloped into the Metta Health Center- a primary care and social service center created to serve Lowell's Southeast Asian population. The Center embraces a combination of Eastern and Western approaches to medicine and health care, and the staff are fluent in over 25 languages.

In the other part of the building, a $20 Million project to build 52 loft-style apartments is scheduled to begin in the Summer of 2013. As you walk along the length of the storehouse, notice the arched openings that allowed supplies and finished goods to be loaded and unloaded from the factory to the trains that ran along the tracks on the sidewalk where you're now walking.

Just after the parking garage on your right, you will see one site that has not yet been redeveloped. The small brick building and brick wall overgrown with vegetation is what remains of the 1907 Lowell Electric Company Power Transmission House. The site is still used by the local power company, and the more modern transformers can be seen at the corner of the street on the other side of the transmission house.

Proceed along Jackson Street to the end of the Hamilton Storehouse.

Dana Foundry

David Dana Brass Foundry

Across the street to your right is one of the oldest surviving buildings in downtown Lowell. David Dana opened his metal-working shop and brass foundry here in 1832, and it continued in operation until 1880. The building has seen a number of occupants since, most notably the Salvation Army from 1907 to 1921, and Major's Tavern from 1945 to 2012 (Major's is now located on Market Street, just across from the Visitor Center).

Continue walking to the brick pillar on your left marked "Loft 27."

Hamilton Complex End Buildings

Hamilton Wasteway

Hamilton Gatehouse and Mills #4 and #7

You are looking at the ends of the Hamilton Storehouse (next to the street). Mill building #4 (the second building in), and Mill building #7 (the last large building with the colorful banners). Mill #4 was formerly occupied by Adden Furniture and, more recently, the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association. It is now in the planning stages for redevelopment into residences.

The small somewhat unkempt building to the right is the Hamilton Wasteway Gatehouse. Built in 1872, the gatehouse contains mechanized gates to control the amount of water let out from the Hamilton Canal into the Pawtucket Canal (the Hamilton Canal flows between the Storehouse and Mill #4). The gatehouse also collects up ice and debris and prevents it from making its way into the Pawtucket Canal.

The last building is Mill #7, built in the early 20th-century and recently converted into Loft 27- an apartment building with 173 lofts. More on Loft 27 from across the canal at the "Industrial Canyon" stop, where you will have a better view of the building.

If you'd like, walk into the empty lot to get a closer look at the Hamilton Gatehouse and the Hamilton complex. Otherwise, continue down Jackson Street to the corner (Central Street). Take a look across the street to your right for a large multicolored brick building with two towers about a block away.

Railroad Depot

The Depot in the 1970s
The unrestored railroad depot in the 1970s (with its towers removed)

Boston & Maine Railroad Depot

The depot was built in 1876, and was replaced with another depot station a few blocks away in 1895. The building served as Lowell's main office for the New England Telephone & Telegraph Company from 1896-1909, then as a theater (the Rialto) until the 1950s. In the 1940s, the towers and many of the architectural details were removed. Following a short stint as the Rialto Bowling Lanes, and as a paint supply store, the depot sat empty and boarded-up through most of the 1980s.

In 1989, the building was conveyed to the National Park Service, which then coordinated its restoration. Over the following 15 years, grant money from many state, federal, and private sources helped restore the building to its appearance in the late 19th-century. In April 2008, the restoration was completed and the building acquired by Middlesex Community College. MCC is now in the process of converting the depot into a performing arts center, complete with classrooms, a music hall, and a dance studio.

Turn left and walk away from the Depot down Central Street. The commercial block of stores on your left, the Bradley Block, was built in 1912, and the Appleton Bank across the street was built in 1879. Stop in the middle of the bridge over the canal and look to your right.

Lower Locks

Middlesex Mills
View of the Middlesex Mills from the Concord River in the 1860s. The lock chamber is still in place next to the Inn & Conference Center.

Lower Locks in the 1970s
The unrestored Lower Locks Gatehouse in the 1970s

Lower Locks Area

This area is one of the key control points in Lowell's 5.6 mile power canal system. For more about the workings of the system, check out the Waterpower Walk, which concludes (or begins) here.

The large brick building with the 9-story tower in the distance to the right marks the previous site of the Middlesex Manufacturing Company, which was in operation from 1830-1918. The mill buildings were demolished in 1956 and the area used as a parking lot. In 1986, the current building was built as a 251-room Hilton Hotel. Later it became a Sheraton Inn, a Doubletree Hotel, and now, the Inn & Conference Center for UMass Lowell.

The wide brick building to the left is the main campus for the Lowell branch of Middlesex Community College. In 1986, the building was built as a training center for Wang Laboratories, which then had its international headquarters in Lowell. Wang sold the building to MCC in 1990. In the 19th century, this was the site of the Prescott Manufacturing Company, and in the 20th century, was home to a ballroom, a bowling alley, a radio station, and a Turkish bath. .

Continue across the bridge, and turn left down the steps to the walkway along the canal.

Hamilton Blue Dye House

Hamilton Blue Dye House

The building up the steps directly in front of you was built in 1883 to serve as a dye house for the Hamilton Manufacturing Company. In 1929, the dye house was sold off and converted for use as a garage. By the 1980s, the Lowell Sun was using the building to garage their delivery trucks.

In 2006, the garage was converted into 13 condominiums, all with replica wood windows, and some with roof deck patios.

Continue up the steps and along the walkway. Stop just before the walkway jogs to the right down the steps, across the canal from Loft 27.

Industrial Canyon

Megowen Educator Baking Company
Ad for Girl Scout Cookies baked in Hamilton Mill #7

Loft 27

Loft 27 Model
Interior of a typical Loft 27 unit (with 18 foot ceilings)

Industrial Canyon

You are looking upstream along the lower Pawtucket Canal. Throughout most of the 19th- and 20th-centuries, the canal from here to Swamp Locks was lined on either side by multi-story factory buildings, creating the effect of a narrow canyon. Many of the buildings still stand today, and a boat trip through the industrial canyon is one of the highlights of the canal tours offered in the Summer and Fall by the National Park Service.

Looking across the canal, you can see the ends of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company buildings that were also visible from the other side along Jackson Street. The building right next to the canal is Mill #7, built between 1911 and 1920. At 135' wide and 653' long, it was one of the largest mill buildings ever built in New England.

After the Hamilton went out of business, this building was used as a bakery and business office for the Megowen-Educator Food Company. The company made snack foods including Crax, Sea Pilots, Educator, and Beer Chaser crackers, and was one of the largest producers of Girl Scout Cookies. In 1975, Joan Fabrics moved in and used Mill #7 to weave automotive upholstery.

In 2006-2008, Winn Development, with the help of state and federal tax credits, transformed Mill #7 into Loft 27- an apartment building featuring 173 SoHo-style lofts. Winn has also committed to Green living by using eco-friendly cleaning products, streamlining recycling programs, and, most recently, installing 1260 solar panels on Loft 27's roof.

Continue along the walkway beside the parking garage. Stop at the end of the brick walkway, on the other end of the parking garage.

Garage Passageway

Parking Garage Passageway

This parking garage was built in 1979 on the site of a collection of mill buildings, tool factories, tenements, and storefronts that had been mostly abandoned by the 1970s.

Many of the mill buildings in Lowell were connected by walkways several stories up. If you look up, you will see one of the leftover building entrances that once led to a walkway connecting to a building that stood where the parking garage is now. Further up, a modern walkway serves a similar purpose, connecting the apartment building (now a part of Canal Place) to the garage.

Proceed along the passageway between the parking garage and the granite stone wall. Looking up to your left, you will see the top of the powerhouse and smokestack that you saw from the other side at the Lowell Canal Entrance stop. Stop in the circular enclosure with the flagpoles and the city seal on a pedestal.

Palmer Street Fire Station
The bell and hose-drying tower for the Palmer Street fire station

Father Johns
Carleton & Hovey Company- the former home of Father John's Medicine

Father Johns Label

Palmer Street Fire Station and Father John's

Straight ahead across the street and behind the first row of buildings, you will see a brick tower. The tower belongs to the 1889 Central Fire Station located on Palmer Street (just to your right). The fire station was state-of-the-art when it was built, with a steamer, a hosewagon, a chemical truck, a hook-and-ladder truck, and a fire alarm telegraph to receive alarm signals from throughout the city. The tower was used to house a steel firebell, as well as to dry the hoses after use. Today, the upper floors are in use as office space, and the Fuse Bistro restaurant opened on the first floor in 2011.

Look to your right down the street about a block to the building with the "Father John's" advertising sign painted on the side. In the 19th- and early 20th-centuries, Lowell's second most important industry (after textiles) was patent medicines. The Carleton & Hovey Company evolved from a local apothecary shop in the 1820s to one of the largest medicine firms in Lowell by 1890. Their success was due, in part, to sales of "Father John's Medicine," touted as a cure for influenza and most other ailments. Carleton & Hovey moved its headquarters and main laboratory here in 1920, and continued in operation until 1976 (Father John's medicine is now produced in Cody, Wyoming). The name of the company still appears on a plaque at the top of the building, and its most famous product is still spelled out in metal letters just above the second floor.

Today the street level is occupied by various storefronts, with 38 subsidized housing units for the elderly on the upper floors.

Head to your left just across the street to the front of the Market Mills Park and look across Market Street.

Ayer Labs
The Ayer Lofts

Cherry Pectoral Ad
Late 19th-century advertising card for Cherry Pectoral

Ayer Lofts Before Renovation
The Ayer building before the 1999 restoration

Ayer Laboratories

Ayer's was once a household name around the world for medicines and beauty aids. "Ayer's Cherry Pectoral" took care of coughs and colds, "Ayer's Hair Vigor" restored youthful beauty, "Ayer's Sarsaparilla" made the weak strong , and Ayer's Cathartic Liver Pills cured jaundice, indigestion, headaches, dizziness, and biliousness. The J.C. Ayer Company built this building in 1859 and had its manufacturing laboratories here until 1917. The laboratories were connected by passageways to the Ayer business offices, located in the building behind on Middle Street. The Market Street building later housed a Studebaker dealership, union meeting halls and offices, and boarding rooms, and became vacant in 1995.

In 1999, the building was redeveloped as the Ayer Lofts. The renovation project, including an environmental cleanup, cost $4 million and created loft-style artist work-and-live apartment spaces. The project was the first effort in Lowell to attract artists to live in the downtown area. All 23 units sold out prior to construction, and the Ayer Lofts, including a first-floor gallery (entry on Middle Street), opened in the spring of 2000.

Return to the Visitor Center by continuing one block further on Market Street. Continue your tour of Lowell's Waterways by picking up the Waterpower Walk at Mack Plaza at the corner of Shattuck and Market, just across from the Visitor Center.

Last updated: December 2, 2021

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