Museums of Lowell, Massachusetts
Museums of Lowell, Massachusetts: Jack Kerouac’s home town
by Kaitlyn Silva
Lowell is famous for textiles, but also for being the home of a famous author.
The Jack Kerouac Commemorative is located in Kerouac Park (7) on Bridge Street. Dedicated in 1988, the commemorative contains excerpts from Kerouac’s writings. The path, with its cross and series of circles, refers to Kerouac’s Roman Catholic and Buddhist beliefs and evokes his lifelong spiritual quest.
The city of Lowell serves as a backdrop for many of Kerouac’s books, in which he describes various businesses, churches, haunts, and residences of Lowell. Some of these still exist. One of them, St. Jean Baptiste Church, now Nuestra Senora del Carmen, Kerouac described as “the ponderous chartreuse cathedral of the slums.” Jack’s funeral was held there. One can also still see the Bienvenue Social Club and “Funeral Row,” a series of funeral homes including Amedee Archambault & Sons, the site of Kerouac’s wake.
Nearby, at the corner of Pawtucket and School Streets, is an elegant old house built in 1875 for the industrialist Frederic A. Ayer. In 1908, the building became the Franco-American Orphanage. Behind this building, the Oblate Fathers, a Canadian religious order, built a replica of the Grotto at Lourdes. Haunted by this grotto, Kerouac wrote in Doctor Sax, “Everything there was to remind of Death, and nothing in praise of life.”
In 1967, Jack married Stella Sampas and returned to Lowell. His mother had suffered a stroke, and his only sister had died suddenly. While in Lowell, he wrote another novel, Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education, 1935-1943. He frequented Nicky’s Bar (4) at 112 Gorham Street, now a restaurant, and spent many hours at Pollard Memorial Library (5) as he had years before with his sister Nin. Jack expressed thanks in Doctor Sax for the books that were always available at the library.
Every fall, the “Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!” Committee holds a three-day event in his honor. For more information, write: Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, P.O. Box 1111, Lowell, MA 01853. Lowell National Historical Park 67 Kirk St., Lowell, MA 01852 978-970-5000; TDD 978-970-5002; http://www.nps.gov/lowe
For $6 per adult and $4 per child, the Boott Cotton Mills Museum in downtown Lowell allows visitors experience the immigrants’ work and trials on location. The pulse-pounding noise of the fully functional weaving room is enough to make your heart reach out to the women who worked there for roughly 12 hours a day, but the museum is more than that.
Photography and video documentaries show children with dirty faces and hard-working young women surrounded by the city‘s original backdrop of cobblestone streets and brick buildings.
Through a prop-filled, interactive boarding house, the museum tells a story of the immigrant’s path and the human condition that many native citizens take for granted.
If you’ve got a flair for textiles, downtown Lowell is also home to the American Textile History Museum. Here you can catch a glimpse into the American textile business from its beginnings. Exhibits include a look back into American textile history as well as cultural textiles from other areas around the world.
The American Textile Museum also hosts special events and programs for the whole family, such as Free Fun Fridays and textile arts programs for children and for adults.
The New England Quilt Museum also offers a look into the evolution of the art. Here you can find quilting and clothing dating as far back as the 1800s. You can also attend quilting programs as well as lectures to immerse yourself in the history and art of quilting.
Opening times and Prices
Boott Cotton Mills Museum open daily 9:30 am – 5 pm
$6 adults, $3 children
American Textile History Museum open Wedesday to Sunday 10 am – 5 pm
free for children under 6, $6 for kids 6-16, $8 for 17 and older
New England Quilt Museum open Wedesday to Saturday 10 am to 4 pm, Sunday noon to 4 pm during November through April. May through October open Wednesday to Saturday 10 am to 4 pm.
$8 admission, free for kids 12 and under
Kaitlyn Silva writes from rural Massachusetts.
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