America’s self-image is founded in part on the nation’s rapid rise to industrial preeminence by World War I. While there is no single birthplace of industry, Lowell’s planned textile mill city, in scale, technological innovation, and development of an urban working class, marked the beginning of the industrial transformation of America. Visitors can see today the working components of this early manufacturing center—the dam and nearly six miles of canals that harnessed the energy of the Merrimack River; the mills where the cloth was produced; a boardinghouse representing the dozens of like buildings that housed the workers; the churches where they practiced their faiths; the ethnic neighborhoods. These are the roots of American industry and of American working people. ~Lowell National Historical Park
I first learned about the Lowell National Historical Park after being invited by Representative Niki Tsongas to a screening of a documentary in 2012. At the time, representatives, senators, and veterans were lobbying for law changes for military servicemembers who find themselves a victim of crime while serving. I had never been to Lowell, Massachusetts and was thankful for the opportunity to help make positive changes for our active duty and learn about the National Park. I didn’t have enough time to explore the National Park in the way that I wanted to so I vowed that I would return some day to learn more. I returned about three years later and realized that I needed to come back again because I underestimated the amount of time it takes to learn everything. I am that person. I like to completely dive into the topic and learn as much as I can on any given topic. The National Park Service does a great job of laying out the historical context of each and every park. They also encourage fitness as part of your exploration. We are always able to get in a good deal of walking when we visit our National Parks.
My husband and I were joined by another couple we met through a veteran’s program. We all had a great day walking around exploring the Park. Each of us had an appreciation for history so it was nice to share that experience with someone who values it the way we do. We started at the Visitor’s Center then walked through the Lucy Larcam Park to the Boots Cotton Mill Museum, the Women’s Boardinghouse, and the Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit. Then we jumped on the trolley and took a ride to the Railroad Exhibit. We got the opportunity to check out the canals but because we didn’t look at the map, we didn’t realize how expansive the canal system is. On my next trip to Lowell National Historical Park, I am going to visit all of the canals and take in more of the historical architecture that remains in Lowell, Massachusetts today. Both the town and the National Park are a stark reminder of the days of manufacturing being long over but at the same time the area takes you back in time to help you appreciate just how innovative the community was.