“Saving the Textile Ave Bridge” by Jim Peters

Lowell resident, historian, and sometimes contributor to this site Jim Peters, sent along this essay urging readers to get behind the effort to save the Textile Avenue Bridge (formerly known as the Moody Street Bridge and now known as the University Ave Bridge) from destruction:

I have been spending a great deal of time putting together a coalition to save the University Avenue Bridge (Textile Avenue Memorial Bridge). It is important to literature, as it was the basis for most of Jack Kerouac’s adventures in his book, “Dr. Sax.” It was also memorialized in 1947 for the sixteen members of the United States Army and Navy who died in WWII from Lowell Technological Institute. That is its greatest significance.

The bridge is magnificent. From the west side of the bridge, looking east, you can immediately see its aesthetic appeal. It is a beautiful bridge with many beautiful viewing areas. I particularly like to walk the bank of the river on the north side near the North Campus of the University.

I, and members of our group of concerned citizens, want to save the bridge as a pedestrian bridge. It is too old for automobiles, but it just had a one million dollar overhaul and is good for pedestrian use, we believe. We see it as the connecting bridge to the North Campus for the East Campus students and the LeLacheur Park. Most people think of the Aiken Street bridge when they think of the LeLacheur Park, but it is just a short distance from the East Campus, where the Fox Tower is located.

We are not asking for much. We are offering a new idea, use a bridge as property. We see the bridge with active pedestrian and bicycle traffic, with kiosks selling university paraphernalia, maybe a Top Donut satellite, and perhaps an ice cream or coffee shop. I envision that these businesses, to be located on the bridge itself, would pull in business both during the school year and from tourists in the summer. We took the time to spell out on the major highways that Jack Kerouac was born here. Some of our members want to point out that he played on this bridge, too.

We are in the midst of destroying things. The mill that was supposed to be the main view of Mill View condominiums on Middlesex Street was torn down because of severe structural defects, through no one’s fault. The Omni Mills on Lawrence Street are gone. Half of the mill on Andrews Street is gone. Condos took its place. Mills are cheaper to tear down and replace with condos than save. We are a city of mills, but only one area is truly protected and that is the area near the National Park. Bridges are not protected. It is said that the brickwork on the original bridge crossing at the falls was so strong that they used dynamite to get rid of the columns. Would it not have been great to have a bridge with brickwork columns? The bridge at University Avenue does not have that, but it is the oldest bridge of its design in the area, if not in the United States of America.

We are looking for people who want to save a bridge. If you can help, email me at jimpeters1954@yahoo.com. History is something that we all absorb around Lowell. It oozes out of every pore in the city. Let us save it.

4 Responses to “Saving the Textile Ave Bridge” by Jim Peters

  1. George DeLuca says:

    The following lists my recommendations to the “Save the Textile Memorial Bridge Committee” on which I serve as a member:

    “1. That UML consider the bridge real estate. Let’s face it they’re short on land as it is, and the bridge may bring expansion opportunities along the lines of UML Prof. Arno Minkkinen’s creative ideas, as well as passage between the North and East Campus’.

    2. The future trolley extension idea (down Fr. Morrisette Blvd across the bridge) still hasn’t been ruled out. This can be addressed in the feasibility study that hopefully UML will undertake with or without partners/stakeholders. The City and LHNP may still have something to gain by adaptive reuse.

    3. A consensus group should be formed to process the information during the study, and come up with a final recommendation once completed. UML, LHNP, New Bridge project reps, and our State & City reps can participate as well as Pawtucket Citizens Council and other neighborhood groups. That way we can hear and process the various opinions and visions regarding this important matter.

    4. When speaking with the new bridge project reps, we should plant a seed that an addendum to the contract that goes out to bid may be needed to perhaps credit the demo and add what’s needed to move the Memorial Bridge project forward.”

    With the new purchase of the old St. Joseph’s Hospital, the value to UML of the Textile Memorial Bridge increases. My sense is that the bridge can be bought cheap, perhaps for $1.

  2. Mike Wurm says:

    It’s a complete no-brainer to preserve Textile Memorial Bridge, even in the face of many reasonable people with shortsighted reasons for wanting it torn down. It is historic and a veterans memorial and will be a great amenity for walkers, bicyclists, and those who love the exciting views above the river, unimpeded by a stream of autos. We need the university and the city to work together with our group of bridge volunteers in the coalition to save it and make it work for all!

  3. Corey says:

    “those who love the exciting views above the river, unimpeded by a stream of autos.”

    As I said last time this came up, this new bridge will be upstream from the current bridge by a matter of feet. You won’t get exciting views of the river anymore, you’ll get views of the other bridge.

    Tear it down already and build something worthy of a veteran’s memorial in its place.