Lowell is a nice little city keeping proud its industrial character: it is at about 50km to the north-west of Boston.
If you have in your hands 2 or 3 days to spend searching for the American history during the industrial revolution, this is the perfect destination.
Of course – as always here in the USA – people learn history enjoying themselves and interacting with it.
The tour at the area must start from the Lowell National Historical Park, il parco storico nazionale.
Visiting this place it means to catapult into the industrial revolution history.
The falls water (it is very abundant in Lowell) attracted the capitalists of the time who used it to produce power for the textile machineries.
So really many young girls and families immigrated to an area where work was abundant to produce fabrics and textiles.
The American industrial revolution began. The city grew rapidly and became the second center for size in Massachusetts.
The textile working techniques were observed in the United Kingdom and then were imported with important changes and optimizations. At the same time this increased the wage-earning working class and, more or less indirectly, also the work of the slaves in the Southern plantations who supplied the raw materials for the workings.
In Lowell developed a packed channels net (which are visible still now) supporting industries: on one side people admired the growth and the explosion of the city, on the other one people focused the look on workers’ physical and moral wellness aspects to avoid the alienation which was proper of the overseas industrial cities.
Until now the events and the history. But a tour at the historical park doesn’t mean only to learn history in Lowell but even get into the heart of the communities of the time.
The main protagonists of what was happening in Lowell were women.
They came from countryside where there weren’t outlets and the most part wasn’t married.
Lowell offered money, comfortable accommodations, economic independence and many extraordinary cultural activities for the time.
Entering the sheds still today you see the very noisy machineries which hour after hour boomed into the ears of who couldn’t go away a minute from its seat: it means to be aware of the hard and unhealthy working conditions these women were subjected to for 12-14 hours a day.
Visiting the exhibition of the immigrated girls it make us enter in an intimate way the life of many women.
We explore the places where they slept and lived, the curfews imposed to control the “moral” aspect of the girls (don’t forget the immigration from the very strict Catholic Ireland) and we learn that the frequency to the holy services was obligatory.
Right here women became an active part of the first strikes organized to ask for better working conditions.
Watching the videos of these museums, reading the explicative panels, learning the actuality of the immigration problems and multiethnic living together of centuries ago…to think about women living and working here to pay the studies of their brothers in the most important universities…daily life, struggles and conquests, defeats and desolations.
You run into all this in the history in Lowell: the questions, the comparisons between other women’s life in other places and other times are unavoidable.
Lowell is a place that leaves an impression and you’ll go out this historical park unlike you entered it and with an awareness that will make you think.
Still today people feel the astonishment people felt arriving to Lowell in the XIX century.
Today Lowell lives a rebirth thanks to the boundless industrial areas regaining new life.
Today the city is a sort of living museum talking to us about textile industry but it catapults us above all into subjects as intense as actual: immigration, female condition, industrial architecture, urbanism, technology of the period, history, politics, commerce, education…
But visiting the historical park is lightness and fun.
According to the time you have in your hands you can opt for tours more or less long to combine with the historical trolley, the boats among the channels and long walks on foot.
Besides the weaving you’ll discover the machineries used, the pensions where women used to live, the turbines fed by the falls which activated the looms, the complicated channels system and how floods’ risks were controlled. Then the hydroelectric power plants still working, the dams system which allowed to boats to go round falls, the dykes and the cultural center where concerts and events take place.
On the Merrimack River is possible to go on mini-cruises completely free to enjoy Lowell by water.
Look up the info, schedules and conditions of admittance in the official website of the park.
The trolley, too, this historical streetcar to move inside the park, is free as well the promenades. Another chance of fun for families.
A guided tour planned according to your interests is what’s needed to learn thoroughly the history in Lowell: by this way it can be lived personally.
It’s the ideal for everyone, above all for youngsters and teenagers.
Download from the website of the park the Lowell official guidebook, always updated, to plan your visit at the best.
Talk to the professional and kind rangers, discover who dug the channels and how they were realized, learn the changes of Lowell over the last 200 years. Be amazed in front of the creative and innovative solutions adopted to face the problems of land’s management, take part into the many free activities available for children and families without any reservation…all this and much more is the Lowell historical park.
You find the complete list of the National Historical parks of Massachusetts on the official website in Italian, with a lot of useful info to plan your journey to Massachusetts.