Lowell National Park Supt Celeste Bernardo on Peter Aucella

This past Thursday evening Lowell National Historic Park Deputy Superintendent Peter J. Aucella received the Thomas G. Kelakos Community Spirit Award from the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lowell at Lenzi’s Mill House. While our earlier post concentrated on Peter’s remarks in accepting the award, Lowell National Park Superintendent Celeste Bernardo who introduced Aucella that evening graciously agreed to share her remarks from that evening which we post below:

Peter J. Aucella

I am here tonight to introduce our guest of honor: Peter Aucella. I have the priviledge of working with Peter at Lowell National Historical Park, where I’ve been the Superintendent for 1 year and 9 months. Now I share this with you so that you understand why I was rather surprised last week, when Peter asked me to introduce him. I mean, why would he ask me when he’s worked in Lowell for nearly 30 years this June. Surely there are multiple people in this room who have known him for that long. Surely there are people who know everything about him. And then it occurred me, why he was asking ME to introduce him!! But, I’ve done my homework and even a little research, so you’re not getting off that easy Peter…

I decided to contact some of those people who’ve known Peter through the years – Steve Joncas, Jim Cook, Paul Marion, Fred Faust, Sue Andrews etc. I asked each of them to spontaneously tell me 3 words they would use to describe Peter. And those “words” form the basis for my introduction:

Now some of you may not this, but Peter was not actually born in Lowell. I know, hard to imagine the city of Lowell without Peter Aucella, but there was a time! Before Peter came to Lowell, he had already held positions at :
• US Department of Housing and Urban Development
• The Massachusetts Bureau of Transportation, Planning and Development
• MA State Senate Committee on Labor
• As the Community Development Coordinator for two mayors of the City of Malden
• As the Director of Economic Development on the staff of former United States Senator Paul Tsongas and later the Manager of the Senator’s Massachusetts Office.

Peter had accomplished all of this before the age of 32 (did I mention he also had a Bachelors Degree in Political Science, a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Northeastern University and was completing a Law Degree from Suffolk?)

It’s no wonder that in 1984, the City of Lowell hired Peter as the Director of the Division of Planning and Development at a time when the Hilton Hotel and Wang Training Center were under construction and the City was building the Lower Locks and Ayotte Parking Garages.

In 1986, Peter became the Executive Director of the federal agency known as the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission. For the next 9 years, under his leadership, the Commission:
• Developed canal walkways
• The trolley system
• Cultural programs
• Public art
• supported historic building preservation through grants and loans
• and rehabilitated the Mogan Cultural Center and the Lowell Telecommunications Studios at the Market Mills.

Peter took the lead on securing $33 million in (shhhhh) Congressional earmarks for Lowell’s National Park and Commission during his tenure.

16 billboards littering the city? Peter led a 9 year campaign to have them all removed!

Need a big party to celebrate Lowell’s traditional arts and culture? – Peter was a founding organizer of the Lowell Folk Festival

A parking lot in front of the Boott Cotton Mills Museum?
Peter oversaw its transformation into Boardinghouse Park. And as if that wasn’t enough – he founded the Lowell Summer Music Series, supervising all aspects and this summer – the series celebrates its 25th anniversary!! In December, the National Park Service honored Peter with a Department of Interior Superior Service Award for his work on Boarding House Park and the Summer Music Series.

In 1995, the City Manager approached the National Park Service requesting Peter’s assistance in the construction of the Lowell Arena. But we weren’t giving him up that easily. Instead, the Park Service agreed to “loan” Peter to the City where he served as the Executive Director of the City’s Arena and Civic Stadium Commission. Here, Peter supervised over $75 million in design and construction projects including the
• Tsongas arena
• Lelacheur Park Baseball Stadium
• And the Merrimack Riverwalk

Upon returning to the Park Service (thank goodness for us) Peter has served as Director of Development, working with the City of Lowell and private developers on:
• $50 million worth of development canal walkways
• the expansion of the trolley system
• City master planning efforts in the Acre, JAM area, Downtown and the Hamilton Canal District
Peter implemented $2 million in improvements to save the historic Boston & Maine Railroad Depot (also known as Rialto building) Middlesex CC.

Peter is known as an advocate for preservation of the 5.2 million square feet of mills located within the National Park and Preservation District. 91% of the mills have been rehabilitated to date and that total will reach 94% with currently funded projects now underway.

Most recently, Peter has been a lead advocate for protection of the historic Pawtucket Dam.

Peter has continuously served on the Lowell Historic Board and the Lowell Development and Financial Corporation. He has also served on the Lowell Heritage Partnership, the Lowell Plan, the Center City Committee, the Lowell Childrens Museum and the Salvation Army Advisory Board.

A term you can use to describe Peter’s work with the National Park Service, the City of Lowell, the park’s many partners – and of course, his role as a
Family Man – for his wife Rosemary and daughter Adrianna, whom he is so devoted to, and of whom he speaks so lovingly …


Peter Aucella embodies the spirit of who we all want and need working tirelessly within our city…someone who cares deeply about the power of place, the vitality of culture, the spirit of collaboration. He is, as Paul Marion wrote, “the master mechanic of Lowell’s transformation”, working quietly behind the scenes…and we are all lucky to have him.