Lowell’s Pawtucket Dam Named One of the Most Endangered Historic Sites in Massachusetts

 News Release from Preservation Massachusetts, Old City Hall, 45 School Street, Boston, MA 02108, 617-723-3383, www.preservationmass.org

Contact: Jim Igoe or Erin Kelly, 617-723-3383


Landmark 19th Century Dam Facing Irreversible Damage in Proposed Hydroelectric Project

“The Pawtucket Dam in Lowell has been named one of Massachusetts’ “Most Endangered Historic Resources”. Since 1993, this list is compiled annually by Preservation Massachusetts, the state’s historic preservation advocacy organization, as part of an advocacy and education program.“The Pawtucket Dam is an integral part of the Lowell Canal System, and contributes much to the interpretation of the waterpower resources that make up the Lowell National Historical Park. The dam is made up of two sections, built in 1847 and 1876 and constructed of squared granite. Atop the granite sits a row of wooden flashboards, held in place with iron pins. The flashboards serve as flood relief system; should the water level rise, the pins bend and allow the boards to give way and hold back water. The flashboard system was part of an earlier dam on this site, and subsequent dam work has always retained this historic feature. The dam is a focal point of the National Park and has many overlapping historic designations, including being a National Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

“The owners of the dam are currently proposing a project that would have severe adverse effects on the appearance and historic fabric of the dam. The proposal would remove the wooden flashboards in favor of a “crest gate” system. The granite dam would be covered by over 2,000 cubic yards of concrete that would provide a base for large metal gates and large air-filled bladders to control the dam systems. Five, 5-foot concrete piers would separate each section of the bladder system. The project would render the bottom of the dam totally dry during much of the year, as overflow as it exists now is seen as a waste of hydro-energy. Though energy production could be improved by up to 10%, it comes at an extremely high cost to the historic character and integrity of the dam and the Lowell Canals.

“Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about listing the Pawtucket Dam. “When most of us think of Lowell, we think of major preservation success and all they have accomplished. This listing proves that historic resources in every community face extreme threats, even cities as preservation minded as Lowell. We hope that this listing will add additional weight and support to the many citizens and groups who are banding together to keep this dam from facing irreversible alteration.”

“The hydroelectric project has met with major concern from Lowell citizens, neighbors and elected officials. Citizen groups, preservation agencies, the National Park, Lowell’s City Council and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas have all voiced opposition to the installation of the crest-gate system and the effect the project will have on this character defining feature of Lowell’s heritage.

“It is hoped that the designation as an endangered resource will create even more broad-based awareness and support for retaining the historic features of the dam and resonate with Federal commissions and agencies that are reviewing this project and its effects on Lowell.

“Also listed on the 2010 Most Endangered Historic Resources list was the East Parish Meeting House in Haverhill.

“The other endangered resources for 2010 are: the Speedway Building (Boston/Brighton), Notre Dame Church, (Southbridge), the Abiel Williams House (Dudley), Newbury Lower Green (Newbury), Odd Fellows Home (Worcester), Oakham West School (Oakham), and 25-27 Elliot Street (Springfield).

“Please visit www.preservationmass.org or call 617-723-3383 for more information on this year’s endangered list.



“About the ‘Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources’ List

“2010 marks the 17

th anniversary of the Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources program. This list has become an effective tool for preservationists to focus statewide attention on the condition of individual historic properties and their importance to communities. Of the more than 130 historic sites designated as endangered since the list’s inception in 1993, less than a twenty have been lost.

“This year’s list was culled from nominations submitted by preservation-minded groups and individuals throughout the state. Submissions are judged by several criteria, including their historic significance, the extent of the threat and the community’s commitment to preserving the resource.

“Founded in 1985, Preservation Massachusetts is the statewide non-profit organization that actively promotes the preservation of historic buildings and landscapes as a positive force for economic development and the retention of community character.”



September 21, 2010

2 Responses to Lowell’s Pawtucket Dam Named One of the Most Endangered Historic Sites in Massachusetts

  1. Joan H says:

    We can only hope that adding this article to the documentation against Enel will help the cause of keeping the dam as is.

  2. Deb Forgione says:


    Thank you for posting the news release. This news release follows their official opposition comment to FERC . They made the September 10th comment deadline date. I believe this shows how important this dam is to Lowell and the State of Massachusetts.

    Thank you