Tonight at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, the Lowell National Historical Park and the Lowell Heritage Partnership presented the 2014 Cultural Heritage and Historic Preservation Awards. Lowell National Park Superintendent Celeste Bernardo served as the master of ceremonies. She explained that the theme of the National Park in 2014 is “sharing America’s special places” and said that “it takes special people to preserve special places.” The Lowell National Park has pursued several strategies to make it easier for people to feel connected to the park. A digital media team is now fully active; the “Meet us on the Merrimack” evening boat rides on the river will return this summer; and the Summer Music Series events will be used to market the National Park. The Park is also focusing on “cultural sensitivity” which means that the park hopes to initiate community conversations on issues like immigration and labor policy while making the Park a welcoming host for ethnic and historic organizations to hold their programs at Park venues. The Lowell National Park has also taken an active role in the struggle to preserve the Pawtucket Dam while assisting in the development of the remaining vacant mill space in the city. By September of 2014, 94% of the 5.1 million square feet of mill space in Lowell will be developed which represents an expenditure of $650 million on mill rehabilitation projects.
Assisted by Paul Marion, President of the Lowell Heritage Partnership, Superintendent Bernado next presented this year’s awards. Receiving the Student Excellence in Historical Preservation were the Greater Lowell Technical High School students in the “Trade Skills Program.” These students have engaged in preservation work such as painting, utilities and repair projects with the park through a partnership that also includes CTI.
The award for Excellence in Cultural Heritage was presented to Phousita Huy, the Artistic Director of the nationally recognized Angkor Dance Troupe. Confessing that this was the first time she had spoken in such a public setting, Ms. Huy movingly stated that the award was a symbol of the success of all who have worked to preserve and promote Cambodian culture. She thanked the National Park Service for all the assistance it has provided and expressed her wish that the Angkor Dance Troupe continues to grow bigger and stronger.
Awards for Historic Preservation were given to Charter Environmental for its development of the Residences at Perkins Park in the former Lawrence Manufacturing textile mills; and to Boott Mill Developers LLC, a partnership of Winn Development and Rees-Larkin Development which renovated 180,000 square feet in Boott Mills West, the final stage of the redevelopment of the historic Boott Cotton Mills complex.
The final presentation of the evening was of the National Park Service’s Northeast Region’s George & Helen Hartzog volunteer group award which was presented to the Seashore Trolley Museum’s Lowell-area volunteers who operated Trolley 966 at the Lowell National Park and who staff the Streetcar Museum in the Mack Building.
Finally, tonight’s event served as the kick-off for DOORS OPEN LOWELL 2014 which has a full schedule of events for the coming weekend.