submit to reddit GoNOMAD Travel
Tags: Destinations Museums Massachusetts

A trip on the Pawtucket Canal is part of the city tour. Jim Higgins photo - National Park Service. Click on photo to enlarge.
A trip  on the Pawtucket Canal is part of the city tour. Jim Higgins photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Lowell, Massachusetts: History and Culture in the City of Kerouac

While the 1995 documentary "High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell" was a critically acclaimed victory for HBO, it was a curse upon the fourth largest city in Massachusetts.

Lowell earned an ugly reputation in the early 1990s due to drug and gang issues, but since then a dramatic downtown revival has made the city a center of history and culture, from the historic mills and Jack Kerouac to art and the annual folk festival.

A Glance into History

Between roughly 1840 and 1870, Lowell’s textile mills made the city a veritable hot spot for young immigrants who traveled to America in search of work. The young generation of mostly Irish settlers struggled to make a living in what was then known as the town of East Chelmsford, living on mere pennies a day.

Alternative Tours

If lingering in a museum doesn’t tickle your fancy, The Lowell National Historical Park will guide you through the city by foot, trolley and boat, all in one two-hour sightseeing tour. It begins at the Lowell Visitors Center in the Market Mills and travels down to a preserved trolley stop, which takes you through the heart of the bustling city.

The trolley trip ends at the Pawtucket canal, where visitors hop aboard a boat and make their way to the Merrimack River. There’s a lesson in history, architecture, and waterpower around every corner for just $10 per adult and $8 per child. Shorter 90-minute and 75-minute canal tours are also available at a cost of $8 per adult and $6 per child.

The city offers free trolley tours. Jim Higgins photo - NPS.
The city offers free trolley tours. Jim Higgins photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

The city also offers free Trolley Tours through the landmarks of the unique neighborhoods surrounding the mills, but every tour has various days and hours at which they run depending on the time of year, so plan accordingly.

For instance, the 90-minute Pawtucket to the River canal tour is only available daily from July to September. Reservations are required for all tours booked through the Lowell National Historical Park, but there’s also opportunity to save some money with park packages and group rates.

Waxing Poetic

Though he wrote his most famous work on the road and is hailed by hip, lyrical poets around the world, Jack Kerouac is Lowell’s native son. Born in Centralville and raised in the Pawtucketville neighborhood, the houses and streets of Kerouac’s childhood were prominent in works such as Doctor Sax and Maggie Cassidy.

Moody Street became a place of legend for Kerouac enthusiasts, but the street was torn up, rebuilt, and rechristened University Avenue, leaving few traces of the poet besides a small recognition outside his first home at 9 Lupine Road in the Centralville neighborhood.

Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac

Lowell honored the memory of the King of Beat in 1988 with Kerouac Park on Bridge Street. Excerpts from some of Kerouac’s greatest works are featured on the granite structures, wedged between the serene, old-fashioned mills and busy, modern shops.

Just minutes away from Lowell High School, the park is considered the premiere location for students to play hackeysack and relax on the grass.

The park maintains a faithful audience once a year for the "Lowell Celebrates Kerouac" festival. Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, an organization that does just as its name suggests, along with local cafes, museums, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell hold poetry slams, documentary screenings, exhibitions and discussions based on the great poetic inspiration.

The crowds also flock to Edson Cemetery, where Kerouac was laid to rest after his death in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Kerouac was also a patron of The Worthen House at 141 Worthen Street in downtown Lowell. Allan Ginsburg, Jimmy Breslin, and Edgar Allan Poe, who reportedly wrote The Raven on the building’s second floor, shared this distinction.

Kerouac Park
Kerouac Park

Nowadays, The Worthen House is a popular tavern known for ex-patron’s memorabilia, open mic nights, and a rare pulley-based fan system. It creates an atmosphere of creative history unlike any other in the city. It’s also a great place to get a beer.

A Cultural Infusion

On the last full weekend in July each year, Lowell shuts down the streets of downtown to celebrate the city’s rich cultural diversity with guests from around the world. It’s a smorgasbord of ethnic food, music, dance, art and activities that keeps massive crowds buzzing through the area.

Immigrants have been populating the city in waves since the early 1800s -- first it was the Irish, followed by French-Canadian, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Cambodian, Latino, and Brazilian settlers.

The Lowell Folk Festival - Phil Lupsiewicz photo
The Lowell Folk Festival - Phil Lupsiewicz photo

All of these ethnic groups represented at the Lowell Folk Festival along with several others, showing their cultural pride at vending stands and through the streets.

Annual staples of the festival include six outdoor stages, local independent vendors, artists, and an entire street dedicated to children’s activities. Best of all, the entire event is free with the exception of food, drink, and souvenirs.

The Lowell Folk Festival boasts the title of the nation’s largest free folk festival, but it isn’t “folk” in the traditional sense. The entertainment ranges from jazz and country to mariachi and ska. The sights and sounds are uncommon and appealing, but there’s not too much to evoke the image of folk. More than anything, it’s a cultural education wrapped in warm July days and cool summer nights.

Art is also available in motion at the Merrimack Repertory Theater and Lowell Memorial Auditorium on East Merrimack Street, next-door neighbor venues that are home to off-Broadway productions, intimate concerts, comedy acts, and the Golden Gloves boxing tournament. At any given point of the year, the stages provide something for everyone to enjoy.

 

 

For More Information

Lowell National Historical Park

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!

Lowell Folk Festival

 

Kaitlyn Silva

 

 

Kaitlyn Silva is a journalism major at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an editorial assistant at GoNOMAD.

 

 

 

Read more GoNOMAD stories about Massachusetts

Watch travel videos about Massachusetts


Massachusetts, Museums

The Salem Witch Village, a store in Salem, Massachusetts . Photos by Zalina Alvi and Colleen Hale
Museums of Lowell, MA by Kaitlyn Silva For $6 per adult and $4 per child, the Boott Cotton Mills
Top Restaurants in Northampton, Massachusetts From TripAdvisor By a ACollege Student at Smith
The Pawtucket Canal in Lowell, Massachusetts Jim Higgins photo courtesy of the National
The entrance to Energy Park in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Photo by Devon Magoon. Click
Watch Travel Videos on GoNOMAD Massachusetts Downtown Boston and Quincy Market Watch
by Sea Cruising the Massachusetts Coast By Max Hartshorne, GoNOMAD Editor I spent my summers
by Tim Lehnert Read More about Massachusetts on GoNOMAD Boston With Kids: A Real Family
, Massachusetts: A Good Old-Fashioned Home Town By Devon Magoon Visitors to Western Massachusetts
The Vietnam Veterans War Memorial on Main Street in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Photo
Twin goats at Overlook Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts. Photos by Liisa Ecola Kidding
: Keeping It Local in Western Massachusetts By Joanna Eng Western Massachusetts used to be an area I
Massachusetts, the birthplace of America, is home to some of the most fascinating haunts
that does just as its name suggests, along with local cafes, museums, and the University of Massachusetts
, Massachusetts: Biking, Art and Open-Minded Culture By Lisa Linsley Most people associate Cape Cod

New Travel Articles
Follow GoNOMAD.com Travel's board Destination Guides on Pinterest.
 
 
 


Subscribe to GoNOMAD's monthly enewsletter for all of our new travel articlesGet our free monthly travel newsletter
and help support sustainable and responsible tourism.
No spam, no selling
your email, we promise!

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter!

Call Now: 855-784-1659csa-03 300x250-04

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...