Pawtucket Dam on the Merrimack River, Lowell Massachusetts (Corey Sciuto, May 2006)
In her article “Planning for the future to save pieces of history” – Globe correspondent Taryn Plumb features Lowell’s Pawtucket Dam on the Merrimack River. This historic dam was recently designated by Preservation Massachusetts as “endangered.”
The Pawtucket Dam, meanwhile, faces what many say is a disruption of its long-cultivated historical integrity as part of a contentious proposal to replace and update its industrial-era, replica flashboard flood system.
“It would completely change the aesthetic,’’ said Courtney Whelan, Preservation Massachusetts program manager. “It could irrevocably change an area that has worked so hard to make its history prominent.’’
Neighborhood activists and historic advocates have been closely following the so-called “bladder dam” proposal of Enel North America – the renewable energy company that owns the dam’s hydroelectric power operation – to change its 19th-century flood-relief process.
One particularly outspoken voice against Enel’s claim that the dam’s flashboard system is not historic is that of Lowell National Historic Park Acting Superintendent Peter Aucella.
Although the individual boards themselves aren’t antique or historic, “the system is part of the interpretive story,’’ said the park’s acting superintendent, Peter Aucella. “The flashboards are part of a process used for 150 years or so.’’
Replacing them with 21st-century technology would hurt the entire area, he and others contend, including a gatehouse and gatekeeper’s house, both dating to 1847, and an 1887 blacksmith shop.
Increasing efficiency “does not justify destroying a national historic landmark,’’ said Aucella.
The fate of this National Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark will continue to play out at the federal, state and local levels. The pressures and precedents are enormous. Locals are concerned but very active.
Read the full article here at boston.com.