Bookstores in Lowell

The Lowell Review launch event inside lala books on March 7, 2022.

Saturday’s The Lowell Review launch event at lala books reminded me that a bookstore is a great gathering place and an integral part of the life of a community. We’re fortunate to have lala books and another newly opened bookstore in Mill No. 5 called Lowell Book Company.

We also have Serpentine Books, an antiquarian bookstore, in Mill No. 5 and the UMass Lowell bookstore at University Crossing.

Paul Marion and I put our heads together to identify to recall past bookstores in Lowell. There was the unfortunately short-lived Hypertext Bookstore Café and John and Merrimack streets (now home of Purple Carrot Bread Company); the Barnes & Noble/UMass Lowell bookstore in the Bon Marche building on Merrimack Street, and Lowell Bookworks in the refurbished central fire station at Palmer and Middle streets (now Fuse Bistro).

Perhaps Lowell’s best-known bookstore was Prince’s on Merrimack Street opposite John. Also, Harvey’s Bookland at Central Street and in Centralville before that. There was also a Waldenbooks on Merrimack Street opposite Central, near Woolworths.

We also have vague memories of a bookstore on Broadway near Wilder, close to the UMass Lowell south campus, and a used bookstore on Bridge Street opposite Lee, across from the shoeshine shop.

Curious about bookstores from earlier eras, I looked in several City of Lowell directories and found the following identified as bookstores and booksellers:

1874 City Directory

  • Frederick P. Coggeshall, 40 Merrimack Street
  • Albert Colby & Sons, 140 Central Street
  • H. Curry, 20 Middle Street
  • A. Glidden, 166 Central Street
  • Judson Judkins, 6 John Street
  • Marston & Prince, 90 Merrimack Street
  • Joshua Merrill & Son, 37 Merrimack Street
  • Edward Sheahan, 26 Gorham Street
  • Abel Whitney, 87 Merrimack Street

1900 City Directory

  • Balch Brothers Co., Barristers’ Hall
  • L. Cambridge, 314 Merrimack Street
  • P. Coggeshall, 19 B Street
  • Aime Gauthier, 520 Merrimack Street
  • Judson Judkins, 65 Merrimack Street
  • Thomas H. Lawler, 79 Merrimack Street & 15 John Street
  • Joshua Merrill & Son, 124 Central Street
  • George C. Prince & Son, 108 Merrimack Street
  • Tilton & Co., 9 Central Street

Ad from 1928 Lowell City Directory

1928 City Directory

  • Agnes G. McGaunn (old and rare books), 206 Appleton Street
  • George E. Merritt, 23 East Merrimack Street
  • Antoni Olszanski, 110 Lake View Ave.
  • G. Pollard Co., 144-152 Merrimack Street and 94-100 Middle Street
  • C. Prince & Son Inc., 108 Merrimack Street and 55-57 Middle Street

Ad from 1960 Lowell City Directory

1960 City Directory

  • Harvey’s Bookland, 6 Lilley Ave and 659 Merrimack Street
  • Agnes G. McGaunn, 212 Appleton Street
  • Merritt’s Book Store, 202 French Street
  • C. Prince & Son, Inc, 104-106 Merrimack Street and 55-63 Middle Street

4 Responses to Bookstores in Lowell

  1. Charles Gargiulo says:

    Actually, Harvey’s Bookland existed in Little Canada on Aiken Street in the early 60’s and after being thrown out by urban renewal moved on the edge of Little Canada right next door to the old Marie’s Oyster House and Pete’s Barber Shop across the street from the old Poitras Hobby Shop on Merrimack Street where the grounds next to Archambeault Towers stands now in the mid- sixties before he moved to his Central Street location. After being priced out of Central Street with the 80’s boom, he tried a short run again in a small store on West Sixth Street in Centralville in the early 90’s before health issues forced him to end his legendary run as Lowell’s greatest defender against censorship and protector of the first amendment and free press. This great man should never be forgotten and he should be honored as an important historic figure in Lowell history.

  2. David Daniel says:

    Fascinating dive into the arcana of bookselling in Lowell over the years. One thing I noted is how the street addresses of the shops would change from tally to tally. Does this represent a trend in those days, a fluidity in businesses that might be common across all retail enterprises? Was this peculiar to Lowell or more general? Just wondering. In any event, bookstores are an important part of a vital community and I’m glad that Lowell still has some.

  3. Peter Richards says:

    I believe the bookstore on Broadway (in an old mill building today Francis Gate Apartments) was called the College book mart. It was owned by a Lowell fire captain (and later deputy chief) by the name of Fred Fahey. My dad, a firefighter would take me there to get books every now and then. I think I may still have a couple of them.

  4. Louise says:

    What an impressive list of Lowell’s bookstores! Solid indication that the lovers of the printed word are part and parcel of the town’s life blood. The Lowell Review launching at lala books continues this precious legacy.