It was a good morning for a walk in the park, national historical park, that is, so Rosemary and I took Ringo the dog for a mighty hike down along the lower reach of the Western Canal at the bottom of Suffolk Street and then through the mill yard at the Lawrence Mfg. Co. complex or Renaissance on the River—and a return via the Canalway path edging the Northern Canal. At intervals on the Canalway are “wayside” plaques with nuggets of historical detail plus pictures.
If you walk here, don’t miss Peter Gorfain’s beautifully sculpted bronze pillar (Stele for the Merrimack) in front of Jeanne d’Arc Credit Union that celebrates the natural and social history of the area. You have to see it up close to appreciate the intricate design. Water was spilling over one of the dams on the Western as it steps down to the Merrimack. The Tsongas Center back lawn is an appealing area accented by wild grasses, industrial remnants, and earthen mounds that make you curious.
Residences @ Perkins Park (Web photo courtesy of Jennifer Myers)
The Lawrence mills (with that tremendous painted ad on one high wall facing east) are nearly fully redeveloped with the impressive work being done on the smaller structures fronting Perkins Street. The expansive public space made out of the old mill yard looks good for all its architectural detail. And speaking of the high broad wall with the ad on it—would that be a place to show outdoor movies? There’s a large lawn at the foot of the wall. Emerging from the mill complex, the colorful exterior of University Suites catches the eye. Blocks of red, orange, and grape glow hot and cool at the same time. The residence hall houses hundreds of UMass Lowell students on the vibrant East Campus. It feels like Lowell’s future here. We have the baseball park, recreation center, renovated mill properties, Beer Works, venerable Lowell Day Nursery, Wannalancit Business Center, a fascinating traditional Cambodian outdoor pottery kiln at the national park maintenance shop, and the rest. Little Canada is a memory, noted in a history marker just around the corner from the Little Canada monument on the Notini business property, but this area has regained the vitality it had when thousands of people lived in the French neighborhood. It feels dense, urban, robust—but with a fresh look.
University Suites on Aiken Street (UMass Lowell photo)