Walking Lowell, a Walkable City

Like #Lowell, Christmas Edition

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All You Need is Love

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Confused

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Boarding House Park at night

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Kitteridge Park, Lowell

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Eastern Canal, Boott Mills

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Lowell’s Tsongas Industrial History Tours

While the canal tours have ended for the season, the school and group tours have started. On this sparkling Fall day, a group of 3rd graders from Abington learn about Lowell’s role in the Industrial Revolution.

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Walking Lowell, September 2016

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Rooftops in the Acre.

Walking Lowell, September 2016

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Lower Pawtucket Canal and Hamilton Canal district in the distance.

Lowell Farmers’ Market Opens, 8 July 2016

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Bike Rack, Boott Mill South

2016-Jul-08_FarmersMkt_0630Ouellette Bridge, Aiken Street

The Fourth of July offered some glorious weather and, with the sun high in the sky, some beautiful lighting of my favorite of Lowell’s bridges.

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Doors Open Lowell

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Peering in to Tremont Gatehouse.

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The 6th floor of Lowell Community Health Center. Next year, this will be a new department for LCHC, but for now it is a reminder of how the mill looked at one time.

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Power to turbines at Wannalancit Mills.

Balancing Act: Palmer Street

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Counting House, Jackson Street

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Tremont Gatehouse

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Gears, Boott Mills

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Boott Mill Gatehouse

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Lowell City Hall

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Walking Lowell: Homage to Women

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Lowell’s Public Art collection is astonishing; Homage to Women by sculptor Mico Kaufman is one of the most-recognized pieces.

Bigger Picture Assignment: Focus on a Reflection of the Subject

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Bigger Picture Assignment: Rule of Thirds

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Bigger Picture Assignment: Diagonals

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I was introduced to the Bigger Picture card deck by Adrien as he prepped for two workshops/courses he will give this spring. For me, it’s a good way to get me out of the rut of taking the same shots. As an amateur, I find myself relying on a shot I’ve executed fairly successfully when what I need to do is get out of my comfort zone and try something new. This shot is of the canals near the Boott Mills in Lowell. For some reason, a dingy has been wedged in the canal for most of the winter. My assignment was to work diagonal lines into the composition of the picture.

Snow Day!

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Aftermath – Up on the Roof

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Snow Day, February 2016

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Bigger picture assignment: Boarding House Park stage in the middle of a late winter snow storm.

Chain, Chain, Chain…

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National Park Center, Through the Glass

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 Bigger Picture assignment card: Take a photograph through glass. This is the Lowell National Park Visitor Center window – where you can find (and buy) some really cool artifacts.

Mills

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Frozen!

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Fog Hanging Over Massachusetts Mills

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Boott Mills, First snow

More like, first precipitation when it’s cold. Despite the predictions, we have a bit over an inch on the ground and walking around meant being pelleted by ice chips and cold rain. Better luck next time?

Cote’s Market, Salem Street

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In Adrien’s family, a traditional Christmas included Pork Pie – and there are at least 3 variations that I’ve heard about, all of which will not do anyone’s cholesterol readings any favors.  Not being much of a pie maker myself, we leave the creation of this holiday treat to Cote’s Market and on Christmas Eve day we line up with others whose family traditions are derived from French Canada to pick up at least one pie.

Bike Park, Mogan Center

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The grassroots citizens’ group, DIY Lowell, is in the planning stages of installing Lowell bike racks at two locations; the site for this photograph, the Mogan Center, being one of them. A bike rack would eliminate chaining bicycles to building structures such as the standpipe (just out of this shot and to the right) and provide cycling enthusiasts a means of keeping their rides safe. Visit DIY Lowell’s website here to read more about the project, get involved, or donate.

John Cox Bridge in Fog

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Winter Lights

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What to do with an abandoned smokestack?

Kerouac Park Reflections

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Walking/Standing: City of Lights Parade

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Yesterday’s City of Lights Parade was an awesome kick-off to the Holidays. Whether you walk, march, ride, or stand, senses engaged and holiday spirit abounds.

Cold Morning Walk

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With increasingly cold temperatures and winds blowing off the river, it is more and more enticing to just pull up the covers and stay underneath. But in doing so, I would miss out on an opportunity to figure out how to play with “winter light”. So, bundle up and get walking.

Merrimack Street Gets Ready

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With a bit more than a week until the City of Lights parade, the storefronts and windows on Merrimack Street get dressed for the holidays.

That was then, This is now

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July 2015

November 2015

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Lowell, is a city of water. Two rivers – the Merrimack and the Concord feed the extensive canal system, the system that powered the many mills that drove Lowell’s economy and made it a player in the Industrial Revolution and through these waterways runs a system of bridges.

The Ouellette Bridge is one of my favorite bridges to photograph. Depending upon the time of day, the light can make the bridge appear to glow as it does in the photograph from July. Following a suggestion from Adrien, I’ve tried to photograph this bridge every few weeks at different times of the day to capture the changes light and seasons bring.

Bridge Street and the Cox Bridge

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For me, living in Downtown means a commitment to walking or alternate transportation. So because our pharmacy is across the river, I opt for a brisk walk across the John Cox Bridge over getting my car out of the garage and negotiating the traffic nightmare that is Bridge Street. The number of people with the same idea – that it is easier to walk than to drive through this intersection – is pretty impressive.  Not only is walking over the bridge a less frustrating activity, the views of the Merrimack can be spectacular.  And on this late Fall day, it looks like some of the birds are getting ready for their own commute.

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Lowell Public Art at Boarding House Park: One

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Technically, this photograph is just part of “One”, a piece of Public Art found at Boarding House Park. Sculptor Robert Cumming was commissioned to create the piece in 1990.

Since the 1990s, Lowell has not had a piece of public art commissioned, although new outdoor pieces have been installed in various places, such as Enterprise Bank in Downtown Lowell.  That’s about to change. A new piece envisioned for Utopia Park, formerly Point Park in the Hamilton Canal District is being designed by sculptor Nancy Selvage.

Boarding House Park

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RiverWalk

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The remnants of Hurricane Patricia came to call in the Merrimack Valley last night and into the morning.

Hamilton Canal District

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Lowell High Clock
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The clock on Kirk Street was a gift of the classes of 1937, ’38, and ’39 and hadn’t kept time in quite a while. About a year ago after students from Lowell High raised the funds needed to put the clock back in working order, it was unveiled in all of its glory.

Boarding House Park

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Yesterday’s spectacular late-October weather inspired a walk later in the evening. The normally cool temperatures of Autumn had been pushed away for a day and the moon was out. What a wonderful gift Boarding House Park is to the City! Even after the Summer Concerts have ended, it is not unusual to see people using the park to relax and recharge; oftentimes some young people use the stage for an impromptu dance-off.

Paul Marion recently posted this collection of videos (link here) documenting the incredible collaborative effort needed to create the Lowell we enjoy today. Whenever I walk in this beautiful city, I am grateful for the vision and efforts of those who thought Lowell could be an urban cultural park.

Waiting For The Bus, Merrimack at John

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River Walk Run

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Yesterday, this area was filled with runners completing the Bay State Marathon and Half-Marathon. With the High School in the Downtown, student athletes are often running this stretch of the River Walk as well as other area streets. This afternoon, despite temperatures in the 40s, several runners were out and about along the River Walk.

Ouellette Bridge Changes Summer to Fall

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The Ouellette Bridge, or Aiken Street Bridge from the River Walk in Lowell. The first photograph was taken in July 2015, the second in October from a slightly closer vantage point.

City Hall

 IMG_0868Lowell City Hall and JFK Plaza.

Palmer Street

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Palmer Street, with its cobblestones and sidewalk seating, is a fun street for walking, eating, and people-watching. As summer warmth changes to autumn chill, very soon the sidewalk tables will hibernate. For today, though tables and chairs are stacked at the ready just in case we squeeze out another warm night for dining outdoors.

Boott Mills

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I’ve always wondered about the wooden walkways and bridges between sections of mill buildings. Were they intentionally built on the slant to accommodate rolling materials from place to place? Or is the casual look a result of trying to connect two buildings that weren’t necessarily built to be connected?

Lowell High School

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Lowell High School bridge from the old to the new building reflected in the canal.

Boarding House Park

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It is difficult to imagine this beautiful, dynamic space as a parking lot. Yet, that is what existed here prior to 1978 and the development of the National Park. Over the last week, there has been a definite uptick in visitors to the Boott Mills and the trolley; school tours have started and the Mill is a popular stop for tour buses.

Bikes, Freshman Academy

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Tucked away in the alley next to the Freshman Academy, students chain bicycles to a fence.  Time for bike racks? Hoping that No Parking/Tow Zone sign isn’t directed at the students.

River Walk

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With the beautiful, unseasonably warm temperatures this week, the River Walk has been quite busy.  As you walk on the stretch near the back of the Boott Mill, you might catch sight of the two turtles like to hang out on a rock in the middle of the Merrimack. Sometimes one has to wait patiently to get a glimpse, just as this young observer has discovered.

The Worker

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Even though the weather has been unseasonably warm, preparations for the upcoming winter have begun. The Worker has been drained and the fountain no longer flows.

Lowell Walks, Cambodiatown

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This Saturday’s Lowell Walks tour was a walk through Cambodiatown. Arguably the heart of this section of Lowell would be Clemente Park (formerly Washington Square Park) on Middlesex Street. Within the neighborhood, most people refer to the space as Pailin Park. Community members take responsibility for the park’s upkeep several times each year and have plans for continued improvements.

Every time I attend one of these walks I learn something new. I was unaware until today’s walk of the popularity of Boules (or Bocce) in this community. There are 2 Boules courts closest to the canal-side of the park and even on this damp and cold day, people were already playing at 10 am.  The players graciously engaged three intrepid volunteers from our tour group in a mini-game of Boules, explaining the rules and a few tips along the way.

Drive by the park on any fine afternoon or evening and Clemente Park hums with activity. In addition to Boules, volleyball is taken very seriously here. The park also has an area with playground equipment and a skate park, as well as a Healing Garden as a space for remembering those died or fled their homeland in the 1970s.

Bus Stop, French Street

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Where I grew up, in the cornfields of Ohio, most of us took a bus to school because we lived too far from school to walk. One or more of my siblings always waited with those of us from the neighborhood who were gathered at the bus stop waiting for our ride.

 It is not unusual for families to be waiting at pick-up or drop-off spots as elementary students need to be met at the bus stop by a family member or designated guardian. That is certainly true in Downtown Lowell.

And, as always, running for the bus in an effort to get to the stop at just the right moment, is kind of  universal experience.

Kerouac Park near Eastern Canal

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Two walkers try to get to destinations ahead of the next downpour on this rainy afternoon in Downtown Lowell. Kerouac Park, bordering the Eastern Canal, is tree-lined on all of its perimeters buffering the noise of traffic on nearby Bridge Street.

Boott Mills, Full Moon

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Last night, more than a few people were out watching the lunar eclipse unfold. More than a few times a jet or plane raced across the sky as the full moon morphed, first changing shape as the earth cast its shadow and then emerging as a rust red disk. There was a feeling of comaraderie with fellow sky-gazers, most of us just happy to be staring skyward and watching the show.

Mill No. 5 Farm Market

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Mill No. 5 is a happening place on a late Sunday morning! Today, the band at the Farm Market was the Brown Boot Boys. The Farm Market is open Sundays from 10-2.

Lowell Cemetery

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Who doesn’t love a good witch story? Clara Bonney is the highlight of any tour of the Lowell Cemetery.  There are upcoming cemetery tours on October 16 (1 pm) and Saturday, October 17 (10 am). Meet at the Knapp Ave. gate.

Kitteridge Park Gazebo

0922KitteridgeLocated at the corner of Nesmith and Andover Streets, I first noticed this little park from my car. Originally named Washington Square Park, it was renamed for Captain Paul Kitteridge, a Lowell native who died during World War I. Here’s a link to details on Captain Kitteridge from Lowell Doughboys.

Even with all of the bustle on nearby street, Kitteridge Park was a quiet space on this Monday morning. Catching the sun through the gazebo structure, the changeover to Autumn is just beginning to become noticeable.

The Trolley

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I love the trolley in Lowell! Won’t it be wonderful when the envisioned trolley system is finally a reality?

Riverwalk, Interrupted

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About a year ago, there was a rumor that this section of the Riverwalk was to be completed. What seems to be missing are the railings, but there are possibly other structural features needed to make this section of the walk safe for pedestrians. A 2014 article in the Lowell Sun outlines this a bit more.

As it is now, it is more of an attractive nuisance for fence jumpers who want to take a shortcut under the Bridge Street Bridge.

Dismissal Time, LHS

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Because I’ve always been teaching at school, I had not, until today, experienced a Lowell High dismissal. I had heard lots about but never actually witnessed the wave of humanity that is Lowell High at dismissal time.  The two pedestrian bridges connecting old and new buildings and the sidewalks, especially on French Street, are filled with students intent on making buses or connections at dismissal time. Buses line French and Paige Streets waiting for students to board, smaller vehicles also form a queue taking what seems like every available square on the perimeter of the High School campus.

Despite the feeling from some quarters that a new and improved Lowell High might not be feasible on this downtown spot, I for one, would hate to see the students leave. I hope that the final plan for bringing the high school facility into the 21st Century can be done in place. The students and staff of the High School are as much a part of the fabric of downtown Lowell as the tourists visiting the National Park. And almost as quickly as it began, within 15 minutes, everyone has dispersed.

The Missing Tooth, Merrimack Street

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This is the part of Merrimack Street, named the “Missing Tooth”. The outline of what used to be fairly glows on the wall of the adjacent building, and while the fence facing Merrimack Street does a decent job of hiding the parking lot located behind, lack of a building or something more purposeful does seem to impact the streetscape of this section of Merrimack. Jeff Speck targeted this lot for improvement in the Lowell Plan Report (Link here and then see Section 9.1, Page 85).

Lowell High

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During the summer month I hadn’t noticed the bicycle racks near Lucy Larcom Park. Now, with school back in session and students populating the LHS campus, the racks are surprisingly well-used and it’s easy to notice the parking spaces reserved for students with a 2-wheel ride. All was calm at this time just before the dismissal bell. The bicycles stand ready for their owner to jump on and pedal off to the next destination – hopefully using the bike lanes and not the sidewalk.

Kerouac Park

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There is something about this little park, off to the side of the Lowell’s Downtown bustle that reminds me of Carré St. Louis on Montréal’s Plateau.  The layout of the park benches and the garden borders are similar; sadly, though, this little park is bears some scars of misuse. Tonight, however, the Park serves as a staging area for Lowell Food and Wine’s Food Truck Madness. And from October 8-12, Kerouac fans will likely be drawn to this park for Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!

Lower Pawtucket Canal

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The backside of Prescott Street is reflected in the Eastern Canal near the Lower Pawtucket.  Along the walkway, the city dwellers on this side of the canal keep small gardens and set plants out near their entryways.  With walkways on both sides of the canal and a pedestrian bridge connecting the two sides, this is a pleasant place for not only walking, but for sitting and people-watching.

Lawrence Manufacturing

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This short path forms a connection between Riverwalk Way and the Lawrence Dam/Lawrence Wasteway. On one side are the Renaissance on the River buildings (formerly Lawrence Manufacturing) and on the other, Perkins Residences/Lofts.

What was surprising was the number of leaves already on the pathway. Is this a result of the dry summer we’ve experiences? Or is it a sign of the changeover to Fall?

Northern Canal Walkway

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The Northern Canal Walkway has been quite accessible this summer, but even so, whenever I see the gates open, I like to take advantage of this quiet walk. The Merrimack River is normally rock-strewn at this point; this summer the water levels seem particularly low. Because the walkway is not always open, it doesn’t seem to get the same volume of use as the nearby Riverwalk. A little solitude can be a good thing.

The walkway is open from May 15 through October 15, however access to it depends on water level and current

Appleton Mills, Jackson Street

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On this morning’s Lowell Walk, we learned about trolleys and trains in the City. Jackson Street, at one time a hub for manufacturing, had tracks running down the length of the street. During the renewal of this area, the tracks were removed and the industrial buildings were turned into a mixture of uses – residential, health care, commercial – that is continuing to evolve as the Hamilton Canal District is envisioned and built.

The remnants of the bridge connecting two manufacturing buildings across Jackson Street survived the rehabilitation of two mill buildings. Today the steel beams that framed the walkway add interest to this streetscape.

Boarding House Park, LNHP

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Boarding House Park chairs; come and sit a spell.

Lowell High School

There is almost no need to wear a watch when walking in Downtown Lowell. The Downtown neighborhood sports several beautiful clocks, and the beautifully clock at Lowell High’s Kirk Street entrance has recently been restored. And while the sign tracking the progress of fundraising for this restoration indicates a few more dollars could be put to use, the clock seems to be ready for beckoning students to class, and to be on time.

Having a bustle of a high school in the center of a city presents some challenges – ask anyone who has attempted to drive down French Street around 1:30 pm. But for the me, the high school is an essential piece of Downtown Lowell’s fabric; one that I hope will be there for a long time.

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Right Place, Right Time

I was a little late to starting my walk one day this week. Oh, it was understandable; the temperatures that day were in the mid-90s. After supper, we set off on the River Walk toward the ballpark. Apparently, we were not the only ones with the idea of walking later in the day, when the air would presumably be less oppressive.

Nearing the Renaissance on the River Condos I noticed a stunning reflection of the red-orange Ouellette Bridge in the Merrimack.  And then, I noticed the glow of the bridge. Right place. Right time. And a special shout-out to the bridge painter.

Ouellette Bridge, Aiken Street

Ouellette Bridge, Aiken Street

Walking Lowell – Summer 2015

A little more than a year ago, Adrien and I moved from our home of 20 years in an ex-urb to the City of Lowell, Massachusetts. Although we will always be “Blowellians”, we’ve deeply appreciated the City that surrounds us.

I enjoy walking.  When the environment is so full of history and interest, it is an easy decision to start to document some of the wonderful things that are part of this City.  Armed with my iPhone camera, I try to take at least one picture of something on my walk that interests me. I’m really not a photographer – that’s something I’ll leave to the visual artists in the City. I’m simply documenting what makes Lowell a “walkable city”.

From time to time, I’ll add photographs and video to this page. And if you enjoy walking, maybe you’ll find walking in Lowell enjoyable too.

2 thoughts on “Walking Lowell, a Walkable City

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