Lowell People: Paul Kittredge

Nesmith Street and Kittredge Park

In 1831, brothers John and Thomas Nesmith purchased 150 acres in Tewksbury from Judge Edward Livermore for $25,000. The following year, the brothers hired Alexander Wadsworth, a landscape architect from Boston who was the cousin of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and also the designer of Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, to design a subdivision for a portion of their land.

Wadsworth’s plan, dated May 1832, and entitled “Plan of a part of an Estate in Belvidere Village belonging to Thomas and John Nesmith” created a subdivision of 120 building lots and half a dozen streets with a green space called Washington Square in the middle. A notable feature of this plan is the number of trees that Wadsworth drew on it. There are hundreds of them, all lining the streets with a double row of trees around Washington Square.

Two years later, on March 29, 1834, the Massachusetts legislature annexed 384 acres of Tewksbury to Lowell. This slice of land, extending from the Concord River to today’s Fairmount Street, included the Nesmith development, making it Lowell’s first planned residential subdivision. When John and Thomas built substantial homes of their own on either side of Andover Street, this became the most desirable neighborhood in the city.

On April 10, 1860, after the area had been fully developed, John and Thomas conveyed Washington Square to the city for $2100 and “in consideration of our desire to ornament the city in which we reside.” The conveyance included an express condition that:

“Said premises shall forever be kept open and unbuilt upon, as an open square or common, and that the same shall be kept by said city suitably fenced so that said premises may ever remain for the improvement and ornament of said city, for the comfort and benefit of those residing near the same, and for the health and resort of the citizens generally.”    

A young couple who lived nearby, Edward and Effie Kittredge, were not members of Lowell’s elite; they were just ordinary working people. He was a machinist who became an electrician when that was a novel occupation. She took care of their two young sons, Paul, who was born in 1890, and Guy, who was born in 1898. Tragically, Edward died at a young age, leaving Effie with two teenage sons. She worked as a dressmaker and Paul took a number of jobs, including a driver for a bottling company (according to the 1910 census), and then as a painter and a printer.

On September 30, 1914, Paul married Sarah Hemmersley at the Immaculate Conception Church. They were both 24 years old. Paul also became an officer in the Ninth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, a National Guard unit with a stellar record in the Civil War. He was mobilized in 1916 and served on the Mexican Border. When the United States entered World War One in 1917, the Massachusetts National Guard was federalized and reorganized. The Ninth became the 101st Infantry Regiment of the 26th Yankee Division, an organization made up entirely of National Guard units from New England.

The 101st Infantry Regiment was the first National Guard unit to land in France and the first to enter combat. It fought almost continuously from the fall of 1917 until the end of the war. The 101st was part of the 1.2 million man American army that launched the Argonne Offensive in late September, 1918. Lasting 47 days, the Argonne Offensive caused 120,000 American casualties, including more than 26,000 killed in action, making it the deadliest battle in American history. Among those killed was Paul Kittredge, who had just been promoted to captain. He was killed by German artillery fire on October 23, 1918.

Paul Kittredge was buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France. In the 1920s, the city of Lowell renamed the park Captain Paul Kittredge Square.

In the late 1980s, between serving in the U.S. Senate and running for President, Paul Tsongas, who lived just a few blocks away on Mansur Street, led a neighborhood effort to beautify and restore Kittredge Park to help perpetuate the wishes of Thomas and John Nesmith that this park would remain, in perpetuity, a place for the “health and resort” of the people of Lowell. 

3 Responses to Lowell People: Paul Kittredge

  1. Don Persons says:

    Excellent review. I live next to this Park. I will share the story with my son.

  2. David Daniel says:

    This is a great bit of history and fills in blanks for me. When my wife and I first moved to Lowell in the mid-1980s, we lived on the corners of Nesmith and Sherman Streets, in a condo in the old Lampson Estate. On my peregrinations around my new city, I would occasionally see Sen. Tsongas working the flower beds in Kittredge Park. He was always approachable with a quick word of hello. I admired his sense of stewardship– a quality that we need now in America more than ever.

  3. Brian says:

    I already miss those trees.

    A notable difference in how we used to plan and develop is that when a rich person, like the Nesmith brothers, owned a big swath of land they’d break up it into small buildable lots and sell them one by one.

    This lent to diverse sizes, quality, and styles of housing with unique landscaping. Local small scale developers had more opportunities for work and not everything was built all at once so the whole neighborhood didn’t fall apart at the same time a generation later.

    This was perhaps a messier way to build but it reduced the risk of ONE developer burdening us with ugly or cheaply built structures for generations. It spread the risk around while also democratizing home ownership and wealth generation.

    We see the opposite of this phenomena nowadays with the HCD and Jeanne D’arc parcels. These parcels were purposely made large so that only large scale developers, like Sal Lupoli, can afford to bid on them. Small parcels are aggregated, like where the White Eagle stood, making it impossible for small developers to get in on the action.

    The risk that Lowell ends up with a massive eyesore in the HCD is much much greater than would’ve been in the past. A couple of Sal’s renderings of the HCD are REALLY bad. https://www.lowellsun.com/2020/10/27/lowell-city-council-oks-sale-of-hamilton-canal-land-to-lupoli-companies/

    The backside of the Jeanne D’arc project on Market St will be an ugly parking lot. Gotta satisfy those costly parking mandates!

    The proof of better planning and development is all around us yet the city makes it impossible to replicate.