Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Civil War Walking Tour of Lowell

This year’s book group inspired me to bring the study of the Civil War home to my students. As a teacher at Lowell High School, I’m quite used to lots of history in this city. The students are very used to it as well. Throughout grammar school and into their junior year in high school, Lowell students are subject to informative trips to the mills and in-class presentations by outstanding park rangers. Every bit of Lowell history that is offered to our students is of the highest quality and executed by extremely qualified and knowledgeable individuals at school and in the community.

The Civil War touched so much of this country and that is well understood; but specifically, what about Lowell? My search for an answer to this question was inspired by Professor Robert Forrant, as well as one of the books that we read this year, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust.

In front of Lowell High School and City Hall is a magnificent monument located on a triangle in the middle of a busy intersection. Each day I drive past it and I try to gather some information from afar as I look through my moving car window. Not long ago, I realized that it was a Civil War monument from my glances. With a little bit of digging, I discovered that it was a monument and grave site of two men whose names were Ladd and Whitney. These two men were from Lowell, and were two of the first four men killed in the Civil War.

With this information, I went right to the Lowell High librarian who provided me with additional Civil War information. I learned that the City of Lowell’s library (Memorial Library) was named in honor of those from Lowell who were killed in the war. In the Library, there was a great deal art work and decoration honoring the those who serve in the war including three enormous murals pained by Paul Philippoteaux of Gettysburg’s cyclorama fame.

Armed with this information, I uncovered an additional treasure. On Jackson Street in Lowell there is the Lowell Gallery which is a framing store. The proprietor, Guy Lefebvre is a significant student of Lowell Civil War history and has created a fantastic small museum in his store. His museum emphasizes the Lowell’s native son Benjamin Butler an the Ladd and Whitney Monument.

Without hesitation, I put together a walking tour of these sites for my students. Allotting two periods for each class, we walked to the Ladd-Whitney Monument, the Pollard Library and ended up at the Gallery on Jackson St. My reward for putting the entire thing together was hearing multiple students say, “I didn’t know that this was here.”

For this year, my work is done.

(Photographs courtesy of John Wren.)

1 comment:

  1. How exciting Dan that you and your students got to take advantage of Lowell's Civil War history! We are planning a Civil War Lowell walking tour for our upcoming summer institute as well.