Canal Place
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The following history is distilled from "The Rebirth of a Mill Yard: Lowell Manufacturing Company" written by Bradley L. Peters, a former Canal Place II resident, in 1989. The hand-drawn map and the building descriptions are taken directly from Peters' work. He notes that he relied heavily on the Lowell Cultural Resources Inventory published in 1979 for many of his details.


Other history resources on

A Century of Changes at the Lowell Company Mill Yard, is a short animation created for overlaying a series of maps

An Excerpt from Twirling Jennies, a local history, gives the story of an 1848 dance at the Lowell Manufacturing Company site.


The Lowell Manufacturing Company purchased the land on which the Canal Place complex stands early in 1828, and by 1829 had completed several buildings on the site. Canal Place I is actually two buildings: an 1882 engine house and a 1906 worsted mill. Maps and specifics can be found below.

The Lowell Manufacturing Company developed along different lines than most of Lowell's mills. While it originally made a course cotton cloth known as "Negro cloth," it also produced handwoven carpets. When Erastus Bigelow, at the behest of Lowell Manufacturing, developed a carpet power loom, the company turned increasingly to carpet manufacture. The outbreak of the Civil War and the resultant scarcity of cotton further fueled the shift to carpets. By 1872, Lowell Manufacturing employed 2,100 workers producing 4.2 million yards of carpeting from nearly 500 power looms.

In 1899, Lowell Manufacturing Company was bought out by the Bigelow Carpet Company, and Bigelow Carpet soon began extensive rebuilding of the mill-yard. The new buildings were all of brick construction and tended to be of Italianate design. Most of the buildings still standing were constructed between 1902 and 1911.

In 1914, the Connecticut-based Hartford Carpet Company merged with Bigelow Carpet and soon moved production entirely to it's home state. Carpet operations at the Lowell site ceased entirely in 1916 when the mill was officially closed and offered for sale.

During WWI, the site was leased by the U.S. Cartridge Company, a Lowell company, for military production. Following the war, U.S. Cartridge discontinued operations and, in 1920, the Bigelow-Lowell mill-yard buildings were sold off in parcels to a wide variety of small manufacturers and commercial firms. For the next several decades the buildings were underutilized and, in some cases, abandoned.

In the late 1970s Senator Paul Tsongas, a Lowell native, played a significant role in bringing together public and private interests to build the Market Mills project. Canal Place was the project of local developer Jon Graham. Canal Place I—the first building to be converted—was completed and occupied in late 1988.

  Map of Lowell Manufacturing Mill Yard  


The Bigelow-Lowell Buildings:

Buildings #1 & #2: Building #1 was built by Lowell Manufacturing Company in 1882 as the Brussels Weaving Mill. It is the oldest of the existing buildings in the mill complex. It is a three-story structure, 365 feet by 66 feet, of Italianate design, with a flat roof. The building originally stood on a high rock-faced granite basement which has since been partially covered by fill. The building was constructed on the site of a 16-unit row of company housing once occupied by mill operatives. Building #2 was constructed in 1902 by Bigelow Carpet Company. The largest of the surviving buildings constructed during the Bigelow period, it was over 60,000 square feet, four stories with a flat roof. It was used as a weaving mill to expand the capacity of the Brussels weaving mill. It was built on the site of the superintendent's house and an eight-unit company boarding house. The superintendent's house was built about 1832, and the company housing soon thereafter. By 1982, the efforts of the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission and Market Mills Associates resulted in a complete rehabilitation of Buildings #1 and #2. The first floor currently houses the Lowell Visitors Center and Headquarters for the National and State Parks, as well as galleries, shops, offices and a day care center. The top floors are occupied as housing; 82 units for families and 148 units for the elderly.

Building #9 was built by Lowell Manufacturing Company as an addition to the original 1829 cotton mill. The one-story Italianate design structure of 40 feet by 22 feet was constructed in 1882 as an engine house. This section was not razed with the 1829 cotton mill but was attached to the new worsted mill. At the time of the building of the worsted mill in 1906, a three-story, 48 foot by 27 foot addition was built to the engine house. The 1882 building now serves as a mailroom for Canal Place and is the oldest of the Canal Place buildings. The three-story addition is home to the Canal Place I lobby and offices.

Building #10 was constructed in 1906 as a massive, six-story worsted mill. This 219 foot by 123 foot building was the center of production for Bigelow Carpet Company. The first building on this site was the large 1829 cotton mill, a 4 1/2 story structure of Federalist design with a monitor roof. It was nearly twice the size of the Lowell mill buildings of that time. Two picker houses were later added and one was connected to the worsted combing house in 1878. Building #10 now houses 119 Canal Place condominium units with the entire six stories open in the middle to create an atrium; this atrium boasts a fountain and huge old exposed mill beams (Canal Place I).

Buildings #11, #13 & #14: Building #11 was built in 1911 as a picker and power house, and attached to the worsted mill. The first two stories housed four turbines for power for the mill and the top two stores were used for cotton picking. The 65 foot by 93 foot, four-story building had three raceways from the Lowell Canal beneath it to power the turbines. This site once housed a five-story Italianate wing added to the 1829 cotton mill, which was referred to as the "new mill. "Building #13 and #14 were built in 1899 by Lowell Manufacturing Company. Building #13 was a five-story coal storehouse with brick gables which once supported a roof. Building #14 was a three-story boiler house of irregular layout attached to Building #1 and #13. Building #13 and #14 were built on the site of a row of early company housing built in 1828-1829. There are two tall smoke stacks on this site. One attached to Building #14 and the other is located behind Building #13.

Buildings #16 and #16A were constructed by Bigelow Carpet Company in 1908 with #16 partially fronting on the Pawtucket Canal. The five-story structures are together 219 feet by 63 feet. Building #16 was built as a wool house and scouring building, while #16A was a wool washing house. The site of these buildings had been previously occupied by a storing, drying and sorting building of Greek Revival design and built sometime between 1846 and 1852. Building #16 and #16A house Canal Place condominiums with 95 units in Building #16 and 25 units in Building #16A (Canal Place III).

Building #17 was built in 1911 as a new dye house for Bigelow Carpet Company. It is three stores, 227 feet by 46 feet, on the Pawtucket Canal and was used to dye materials for Brussels carpets. The original building on this site is believed to have been a boiler house built after 1848 and then either demolished or extensively rebuilt in 1870 as the Brussels dye and dry house. This three-story building was of Italianate design. Building #17 has been converted into 26 Canal Place condominium units (Canal Place II), including 12 three-story townhouse-style units.

Building #18 was constructed in 1909 by Bigelow Carpet Company. The four-story building, 125 feet by 46 feet, fronts on the Pawtucket Canal. Its use by Bigelow is not certain, but a 1906 sketch of the Bigelow mill-yard shows Building #18 as a "spinning mill," indicating that this was its use just prior to demolition or its intended use after replacement in 1909. With its center-arch entry way and prominent date plaque, it served as the central pavilion for the Bigelow-Lowell buildings. The first building on this site was a repair shop built in 1848. It was 3 1/2 stories of Greek Revival design with a pitched roof and dormers. This site also housed part of the 1848 ingrain dye house. Building #18 now houses 31 Canal Place condo units (Canal Place II).

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