‘South Common’ by Martha Norkunas

In her book Monuments and Memory: History and Representation in Lowell, Massachusetts (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002), Martha Norkunas, Ph.D., writes about the South Common:

“In 1845 the mayor of Lowell, Elisha Huntington, recognized that the city needed open public spaces beyond those of the Lowell Cemetery. The city purchased ten acres of land from the Locks and Canals Corporation to establish the North Common and twenty acres to create the South Common. Located at either end of the city they were supposed to act as a respite from urban life. In fact they did serve as gathering places for the people of Lowell and as recreational areas. It was on the South Common that Fourth of July festivities were held, and on the sloping hills that city children went sledding in winter. Neighborhoods grew up around both Commons, and they became little more than open fields with some trees so that when Fort Hill Park was established in 1886, it was called Lowell’s first park. Despite public protests, in the latter half of the twentieth century schools were built on some of the land in each of the Commons, substantially shrinking the size of the Commons. Over time the city of Lowell established a series of small public parks in the neighborhoods.

. . .

“There are five monuments located on the South Common. One honors a young soldier who died in Vietnam [Joseph L. Vallee], both a plaque and a rock monument remember a long-time baseball coach [Francis ‘Fronko’ Purtell], a third lists those in power when the Common was renovated, and a fourth, located adjacent to a line of trees, remembers those who served in the Persian Gulf conflict. On adjacent streets, two other monuments recognize a local politician and Christianized Native Americans. The fifth and oldest of the South Common monuments, the Crotty Circle Monument, is at the intersection of a main thoroughfare and a smaller but also busy street. . . . It remembers George E. Crotty, a ‘courageous soldier’ from World War I and  a ‘faithful public servant’ to the city in the years after the war. . . .”

One Response to ‘South Common’ by Martha Norkunas

  1. Dean says:

    P.F.C .Joseph L. Vallee was rifleman in the U.S. Marine . In Viet nam he was assigned to F Co., 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines , 3rd Marine Division. He enlisted in the Marines on September 1, 1964. In a letter from the Department of Navy dated 12th of August, 1966. P.F.C. Vallee was killed in action on ” 26 July 1966 in the vicinity of Danang ( 3 kilometers WNW of Bien Ban village) , Republic of Vietnam” He died ” as a result of fragmentation wounds sustained while engaged in action against hostile forces.” He was a graduate of Lowell H.S. in 1964. D.C.