In 1996-97, there was a lot of activity in Lowell around a concept called “Lowell: The Flowering City.” At the Gorham Street/Back Central branch of Enterprise Bank you can see a tall sign with the logo from the project, a gesture meant to help shift the nickname of the city from The Spindle City (old) to The Flowering City (new)—or at least to introduce an alernate nickname. It seems that “The Mill City” has stuck longer than “The Spindle City,” however, there are too many nineteenth-century factory cities around to distinguish one of them with “mill city.” Which gets us back to the Flowering City. The concept “blossomed” from an innovative community planning forum that drew more than 150 people to Lowell High School one weekend in 1996. Here’s my post from last June:
In 1996, an illustrated article on the front page of the SUN followed by a community planning workshop involving more than 150 people at Lowell High School brought the concept of a greener Lowell to the front of the city’s brain. The gathering was called the Project Anthopolis Charrette—anthopolis is a neologism that means “flowering city.” The late Peter Stamas coined the term. The purpose of the project was to move Lowell beyond a bricks-and-mortar revitalization, which was well along the way to fulfillment, to a sustainable community development initiative rooted in the distinctive natural and cultural heritage resources of Lowell—those assets that could be cultivated in every sense by the community for all their value. A lavishly illustrated report and plan for achieving the Flowering City vision was produced in 1997 by the Human Services Corp. of Lowell. A few years later, George Duncan of Enterprise Bank raised the Flowering City logo in the Back Central neighborhood with a permanent sign over a new branch bank on Gorham Street.
Much has been accomplished in the past 15 years, some of it inspired by the vision of The Flowering City and more of it the result of hundreds and thousands of decisions made by people at their homes and businesses, by organizations and institutions, and by public agencies whose work affects the natural resources of the city.
Fifteen years later, please share with us what you’ve done, what you see, and how the city looks to you in pictures. We’re past the early spring blossom season, but flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, landscapes, the urban forest, street trees, and more will be at their peak in the next several months. Let’s celebrate and document the season in pictures and words. Lowell has moved beyond the factory town reputation while remaining faithful to its important heritage. The Flowering City vision was meant in part to put forward a new paradigm for the city in an attempt to encourage people to see beyond the flat red surfaces and right angles of the mill-scape and notice more colors, the organic lines, and vitality of the “green-ways and blue-ways” described in the 25-year plan for The Flowering City.