After several weeks of severe cold, temperatures turned milder and a 40 degree day was predicted. And so it was; the sun came up and bathed our ninety-one passengers in enough light so that we all knew the coming of spring was inevitable. We started loading our coaches about an hour before departure and by 7:45 we were headed to Lowell, Massachusetts for a visit to the Lowell National Historic Park, a U.S. National Park Services property.
The water-powered cotton mills in Lowell catapulted our nation and early female workers and immigrant families into an uncertain new industrial era. Nearly two hundred years later, the changes that began here still reverberate in our shifting global economy. With the assistance of our local guides, Steve and Victor, we explored Lowell by motor coach, and learned that this city is a living monument to the dynamic human story of the Industrial Revolution.
We toured the Boott Cotton Mills and saw entire floors devoted to machinery that dates back to the time when this factory employed thousands. We saw samples of textiles produced here and heard the story of production as told by Park Ranger guides. We also took in a film at the Visitor’s Center theater about the development of Lowell’s factories and mills before settling in for lunch at Cobblestones Restaurant at 91 Dutton Street.
Cobblestones Restaurant occupies Lowell’s majestic “Yorick Building”, which was built in 1859 during the Industrial Revolution as a men’s dormitory. In later years, the structure served as a men’s club. Today, Cobblestones is designated as a National Historic Landmark and is completely refurbished with stunning gaslight fixtures, elegant draperies, and light-filled private and public dining rooms. The restaurant features traditional tavern fare, classic cocktails, a separate pub with over 70 American craft beers, local seafood delivered daily, and hand-cut Midwestern steaks.
Our group of 91 people occupied the main dining room on the first floor where we enjoyed a buffet dinner of pasta, salads, and sandwiches that are listed below. Conversation was lively and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves. We particularly liked the competent, well-mannered staff, and they seemed to enjoy our group.
After dinner, everybody had two hours of free time for independent exploration. There wasn’t much shopping, but there dozens of pubs, some good bakeries and home-made candy shops, the Quilt Museum, the National Trolley Museum, the James McNeil Whistler birthplace, and the Boarding House Experience. The town itself was interesting and filled with landmark buildings. The place was well worth a visit.
The factory bells dominated daily life in Lowell. They woke the workers at 4:30 a.m., called them into the mill at 4:50, rang them out for breakfast and back in, out and in for dinner, out again at 7 p.m. at the day's close. The whole city, it seemed, moved together and did the mills' bidding.