Main Street in Lowell was named by Melvin Halsted when he planned the new town in 1852. His saw mill was operative nearby in 1848, and his brick kiln soon followed.
The "mill district" attracted some businessmen, and soon there was a hotel, a tavern, and a store on that busy street with a wide right-of-way. A few years went by until the county made a decision to build a new road (now Commercial Avenue) two blocks south of Main Street. Main Street dead-ended at Nichols Street and at Burnham Street, and the new road connected with the east and west farm land, so some of the mill district businesses chose to move south to what is now Commercial Avenue. A few chose to stay on Main Street, and the newer three story grist mill was built in 1853 near the bridge. Three church buildings were erected later along Main Street. A Baptist church was built in 1857 at the northeast corner of Main and Mill Streets. The 1857 church was demolished in 1905 and a Presbyterian church was built in 1907 on the same site. (It still stands, remodeled as a professional office.) A Methodist church was erected in 1870 at the corner of Main and Brunham Streets.
Two brick school buildings were built on Main Street -- a three-story brick school that was built in 1868 was replaced by the 1896 larger building that still stands.
There was a brush factory later in the "mill district," a corner store at Main and Clark (Wiley's?), and McNay's ice house and ice cream factory near the little candy store ran by the Lawrence and Worley families -- remember?
What is the difference between "Mill Street" and "The Mill District"? I am quite confused about the exact sites of those early mills. Perhaps you can help me with my confusion. -- a Lowell Trib reader for many years.
Mill Street is so-named because it was the site of Halsted's first grist mill. Halsted wrote: "I arrived home from the California Gold Rush in August 1852 and erected a flour mill and got it running by Jan. 1853." This mill sat near the site of the former Palo Theatre building on Mill Street at Jefferson Street. Some confusion may be caused because this early mill was operated by water power, by water that rushed down a wooden trough from the dam on Main Street near the present Cedar Creek bridge, near the site of the 1848 saw mill and Halsted's newer 1867 grist mill.
The Dubreuil-Keilman steam-powered mill was built in 1881 on the west side of the railroad across from the present depot, along the railroad siding, its tall smokestack visible from miles around. It was used until 1927 when it was demolished.
The Nichols Elevator, built about 1898 by Charles "Elmer" Nichols, was set-back from the northeast corner of Washington and Liberty Streets on the edge of a deep ravine, a railroad siding below. It was powered by huge electric motors. The old mill residence still stands on the corner as part of an office building, and the hay barn still stands on the property.
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