My blog has been changed to make it more appealing for those who have New England ancestors and want to see the area through photos. Things I’ll include are typical white New England churches, libraries showing their genealogical collection, historical societies, cemeteries, war memorials, in general, anything to do with history.

For four years I’ve blogged mostly about my personal genealogy in New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire), New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. I still will, can’t forget my own roots.

Please check out the labels on the right side for articles. The header tabs at the top are a work in progress.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Boott Cotton Mills of Lowell, Massachusetts -- Before and After

Was this mill where your ancestor worked in the mid 1850s? For over 100 years many mills in Lowell, Massachusetts operated with laborers from all over New England and Canada. If you want to look back in time, I've included some photos from the 1930s. 
The banner above is for the Lowell National Historical Park. What you are looking at is the popular Boott Cotton Mill Museum. It is one of two Park centers in the city, both have National Park Service (NPS) staff, gift shops, restrooms, and lots to see. The largest museum, with a huge display of old looms with quite a few operating to make dish towels to sell.

There are several ways to get to the Boott Cotton Mill in Lowell, Massachusetts. One is to walk from a multi-level parking lot across the street, for which you pay, or you could go to the Visitors Center about 5 blocks away, park for free and take the free trolley. I suggest the latter, especially if walking isn't your thing or if you have children.
 Above is the view, if you walk from garage. If you took the trolley, you would get off in front of the entrance.

Door leads to Museum. The sign above and below is about the steps, which is shown below.
In the Steps of Mill Workers
For almost a century, streams of Boott Mills
workers-men, women and children, immigrants
and  native-born Americans-climbed this stair
tower each morning to start another day in
the mill.

Park rangers are here to assist with questions, sell admission tickets or items from the gift store.
 Towels made inside the mill.

Below are three photos taken in the 1930s and are part of the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER) Collections. Those and others of Boott Cotton Mills are on the Library of Congress website at:
Distance photo, closeup is below.

I'm not sure of the exact year these were taken, but I do know the buildings were still standing when I lived in Lowell in the 60s. As a matter of fact, I walked through that middle door for about four months during the fall, when I had a part-time job to earn Christmas money. I loved that job.
The skywalks were removed, but the framework remains and flags are draped from them (see 2nd and 3rd photos).
Entry to the National Park Historic Museum is to your right.
When the looms are running, ear plugs are nearby. There are usually a few people watching the looms and making repairs. Cotton is woven to make towels, and several colors with different patterns are made, and sold in the gift shop (see example below).

Looking out at the canal below. Notice how thick the walls are.
Below you'll see the row of red fire buckets!
The second floor displays various of exhibits to explain the cotton manufacturing business.

The photo in the background is shown below.

When you want to return to your car via the trolley, check out the time table schedule and enjoy a ride through Lowell.

Another staircase that took me up to a different tower where I could view the courtyard. This was from a special tour.
Other views from the ground level and from a nearby parking lot roof.

The skywalks below may be seen above, in the center. Entrance to the museum is on your right.

The Eastern canal, and Boott Mill on the left. I took this photo last week, and on Friday, the canal was drained (as it is every year for several weeks).

You can walk around the huge complex.  The buildings are occupied by renters, condos, businesses, and NPS training rooms. The photos above show open windows, and a view of the Merrimack River. From here, you can walk along the side of the river and the distance of the mill on to another mill,  go under a bridge, and see some interesting things along the way.


Nancy said...

This was a great tour of the Mill, Barbara. Just enough to whet my appetite and hope that maybe some day I can visit. I remember seeing so many photos of children working at the mills. How overwhelming it must have been for them to work in such a very large complex. Great photos!

searchshack said...

Loved your blog about the Boott Mills! Especially that poster about the 66 hour week. Just returned from an RV genealogy trip east and wish I'd visited this site! I did write a blog in Dec 2015 about George K Paul, the husband of Ruth Webb Shackford who worked and lived at the Boott Corporation from 1847 to 1855. His three children Martha, Katherine and George probably grew up in the housing area. The blog can be found at the link below and now has a link to your wonderful description of this historic place. If his descendents find the blog, perhaps they can learn more about where their father worked & lived from your wonderful descriptions & photos.

Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

When I see these photos I realize how important natural lighting was to the mill workers. Your photos look beautiful with the light from the big windows. My grandfather worked in a mill for almost 50 years as a glazier. I guess that when all the machinery was going (not just one floor for demonstration) all the vibrations caused the windows to need constant maintenance. I also love your photos of the staircases. I'm in the Amoskeag millyard in Manchester all the time (my hairdresser, lawyer, the historic association, restaurants, etc) and those stairs are always roped off.

Barbara Poole said...

Nancy, Thank you for writing, and I'm glad you liked the photos and tour. Believe me, I had about 5 more added in, but thought it was too long, and took them out. Yes, sad working conditions, esp. for children.

Barbara Poole said...

I appreciate your comment, Searchshack and because of it, I can give a reader the suggestion of looking in city directories to see where they worked. I had thought maybe it would be listed on the censuses.
You might want to read my post about the Mill Girls at
Thanks for writing and sharing your post for me and others to read.

Barbara Poole said...

Thank you, Heather. Fortunately, I was able to go up/down the 2nd staircase, but at my age, it isn't really fun. I found the old photo of the weathervane for you, did you notice it?

Jane Bengtson Pappas said...

Hi Barbara THANK YOU This was wonderful. A few years back I had cousins. visiting from Texas .. They wanted to see the Boott Mill where thier grandparents worked .. We were late getting down town ..The man was so nice He kept the tour (only us) open quite late and asked my oldest cousin so many ???'s What A gift for them. They told everyone back home what A wonderful and friendly place "Lowell,Ma." Thanks again for jogging my memories!!! Love all your Bloga Hugs, Jane

Barbara Poole said...

Jane, thanks for writing and sharing your story. I bet the cousins were thrilled to be inside the Mill. I can't believe it has taken me 7 years of blogging to finally write about this treasure in Lowell.
You're right about the niceness of the Park rangers and staff, they are tops. I always say something when I see them on the streets, walking from Boott to/from the Visitors Center. In the summer, many are from other places, like Scotland and Chicago, so I try harder to make them feel at home. The volunteers are super as well, and there are so many who help out.
Jane, I'm glad your memory was jogged. One of these days, I'd like to hug you in person.