Lowell’s Past: Before University Crossing There Were Hospitals

With the demolition of the former St. Joseph’s Hospital on Pawtucket Street nearly completed as part of the UMass Lowell creation of University Crossing, it seemed appropriate to offer some information about the hospital and its origins.

Originally it was known as the Lowell Corporation Hospital – established on November 1, 1839 – to deal with the health care of the Lowell mill operatives who had a high incidence of disease, illness and accidents. So, the manufacturing corporations banded together “to establish and maintain a hospital for the convenience and comfort of persons employed by them when sick for medical care, surgical treatment and to contribute the funds necessary for that purpose.” Housed in the mansion of the late Kirk Boott, which was later owned by Luther Lawrence, Mayor of Lowell, the Lowell Corporation Hospital was the first industrial hospital in America, and for 27 years, the only hospital in Lowell.

By the late 1920s the hospital – in financial straits – was for sale. The Franco-American Oblates wanted a hospital to care for the Frano-American community. Lowell-born Cardinal O’Connell thought the $85,000 asking price was too high.  After much negotiations, on November 1, 1930, the deed to the Lowell Corporation Hospital was transferred to the Archdiocese of Boston and placed under the direction of the Oblates with the Grey Nuns of the Cross of Ottawa acting as management.  In consideration of one dollar, it was given as a general hospital for the city of Lowell with the stipulation that it continue its work unchanged.

St. Joseph’s Hospital and St. John’s Hospital – located in the lower-Belvidere/Barlett Street area along the Merrimack River – merged in 1992 to form Saints Memorial Medical Center, becoming at the time the Merrimack Valley’s largest health care provider. The later named Saints Medical Center – after years of off-and-on attempts – in 2012 merged with Lowell General Hospital located on Varnum Avenue on the north side of the Merrimack River. There is a rich history here with all Lowell’s hospitals and many tales to be remembered and told.

In 1990 there was an exhibit at the Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center of the 150th anniversary quilt created to tell the story of both the Lowell Corporation Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital. Here is a rendering of the quilt and then a link to the exhibit brochure:


Learn more about the two hospitals here: http://ecommunity.uml.edu/francolowellma/stjosephshospital.htm


2 Responses to Lowell’s Past: Before University Crossing There Were Hospitals

  1. Richard L Chaput says:

    I think that the original entrance to the Kirk Booth house on Merrimack Street still had Lowell Corporation Hospital or something similar engraved on it. I wonder if that was destoyed or saved since it had some historical value.