‘Venice of America’

Around 1996, there was a lot of activity flowing from an idea about transforming Lowell into “The Flowering City,” with a new effort to enhance the parks, forest, waterways, gardens. The thinking was that the community was ready to shift its attention from 20 years of bricks-and-mortar rehab and redevelopment to the natural resources, the “green things” that are part of the city. A lot happened as a result. George Duncan of Enterprise Bank even installed a beautiful sign on Gorham Street at the Back Central branch of Enterprise Bank with the logo of the Flowering City Project. A thousand flowers bloomed, so to speak, not all coming out of the Flowering City groundwork but all in the same spirit. The Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust, National Park Service, Mill City Grows, City government, individual residents, neighborhood groups, UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College—all over the city we’ve seen landscape improvements, new walkways along canals and the two rivers, community gardens, thousands of trees planted, and more. Twenty years ago, the Human Services Corporation of Lowell, with the late Peter Stamas as president, commissioned several artists to “picture” what the Flowering City might look like. Below is one image by my brother, Richard Marion, with gondolas tucked in along the walkway near what is now the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. The fancy boats may not really fit under the canal bridge there on Central Street, but they do remind us that Lowell was once referred to as the “Venice of America.” (Click on the photo to see a larger version)