‘Mill Power’: A Book Excerpt

Readers of this blog know that I’ve been writing a book about the origin and impact of Lowell National Historical Park. Titled Mill Power, the book is expected to be available this coming summer. Following are a few paragraphs about the roots of the park, discussed in much greater detail in the 300-page book that covers the period 1966 to 2012.—PM


From Alternative School to Urban Cultural Park

     In the same way that the Boston business entrepreneurs scaled up their prototype factory in Waltham to the massive industrial plant of Lowell, Mogan and company took the seed of an idea for an alternative school that stressed experiential learning in the local environment and hot-housed it into a standing hybrid tree whose young crown was a national park. In 1970, Mogan was describing “a model school in the Model Cities area which would go beyond the traditional notion of a school”—one that would be informed by every aspect of city life, this particular city’s life because of Lowell’s important heritage. The concept of the Center for Human Development and planning trail for an experimental school are described in detail ahead.

When Secretary of the Interior Hickel announced in September 1970 that the Park Service would look into creating 14 new park units emphasizing recreation in the vicinity of large cities, the Model Cities education planners were surprised and excited. Their notion of environmental or place-based education seemed like a good fit for a federal agency that is the custodian of the country’s most treasured heritage sites. The local people knew that Lowell was in every respected history textbook no matter how brief the mention. The city was synonymous with the American Industrial Revolution. Nearby in Massachusetts, Salem Maritime National Historic Site (1938) and Minute Man National Historical Park (1959) in Concord and Lexington were on the list. To Mogan and his planners, Lowell did not seem out of their historical league.

To carry on the Model Cities Education Component when the federal funds stopped flowing, Mogan and his collaborators in 1971 formed the Human Services Corporation (HSC), a nonprofit corporation. HSC was organized “to ensure the continuation of programs and the preservation of a philosophy born of a faith in the citizens of Lowell, respect for those who made its history, and hope for a future which, phoenix-like, would arise from the ashes of the past to rekindle a once-great city and bring it to a new birth and prosperity built upon its most valuable resource, its people.” The mission was to “strive to build concrete economic and social programs that seem to offer a sense of hope and determination in all of the residents.” They wanted the people of Lowell to benefit in their daily material condition as well as in their psyches. The original incorporators were Rev. Bernard A. Belley, Joseph T. Dillon, Angelike Georgalos, John F. Kirwin, Sister Lillian L. LaMoureux, Patrick J. Mogan, and Peter S. Stamas.

HSC became the primary vehicle for developing plans for what was being called an urban cultural park. From 1972 to 1974, with $100,000 from the New England Regional Commission, HSC advanced the park idea. The funds were filtered through the new Center City Committee, whose members included key downtown stakeholders. Urban planner Gordon Marker managed the park initiative. Working with consultant Robert Graulich of ACTION in Washington, D.C., Marker drafted the legislation calling for a park that was sent to Congressman Morse and filed as a bill in April 1972. . . .

—Paul Marion (c) 2014 by Lowell National Historical Park

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