People are discussing what’s going to happen with transportation improvements on the Thorndike-Dutton streets corridor because of what they will mean for access to and from the Gallagher transit terminal, around South Common, over to Cambodia Town and Western Avenue Studios, through the Hamilton Canal District, and into the core of downtown. While we wait for the South Common upgrade, based on a completed design (2009) supervised by the City planning office, here’s a mid-1950s photograph of the South Common from the air that shows what a fine large expanse of public open space Lowellians had before a large section was designated for school construction. This view is before the Rogers School and before the Lord Overpass were built. Towards the bottom left you can see St Peter Church, now gone. In the top right of the photo a portion of the North Common off Fletcher Street in the Acre is visible. A large piece of this public park was given over to school property not that long ago. We must be diligent stewards of green space in an old city. These vast tracts of open land will not appear again in the dense street grid of the inner city. Click on the the photo to see the image larger.
Steve Conant, co-founder of the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust, yesterday posted a comment on a Facebook discussion thread that included the vintage photo of the South Common, remembering a short poem that had been given to him by community activist Mary Noon when Steve was trying to prevent City officials from decreasing the size of North Common to make space for a new school. Mary Noon herself had tried to prevent the construction of the Rogers School on the South Common, one time throwing her arms around a tree to stop a bulldozer from knocking down the large tree. She and others also tried to save St Peter Church from being demolished. Here’s the 17th-century rhyme that came out of protests to the enclosure movement in England, which led to the conversion of much land held in common to private property:
The law locks up both man and woman
Who steals the goose off the common
But lets the greater felon loose
Who steals the common from the goose.