As I’ve been working on a project to scan photographs in the holdings of the Osborne Library here in the museum, I chanced upon the image below and thought, “Oh, that looks familiar!” It’s a view of what was a Saco-Lowell Machine Shop building (the light-colored building in the center left of the photo) and the junction of several of the city’s canals—the Merrimack just to the left of the Saco-Lowell building, the Pawtucket in the foreground, and the Hamilton on the right. The photo was taken on April 8, 1942, nearly 70 years ago to this day.
The reason it looks so familiar? It’s a view quite possibly taken from the roof of the current museum building, and the landscape hasn’t changed all that much, as can be seen from a recent photo of the same area, taken from much the same angle. The Saco-Lowell building now has a fancier edge to its roof but otherwise the area looks much the same—the brick building to the immediate right and slightly behind the Saco-Lowell building is still there, and the large area in front is still a (newly paved) parking lot. (The Appleton Mills coal pile is gone however!) The railroad tracks remain, although no trains pass through this area now. Part of the Appleton Mills—the brick buildings to the right of that covered walkway—have been rehabilitated and the buildings in the center are undergoing rehabilitation, all part of the multi-million dollar Hamilton Canal District project here in Lowell to transform this area into a mixture of residential and retail use, designed to provide a gateway from the Gallagher Transportation Terminal into downtown Lowell.
By Jane Ward, Assistant Librarian