On our way home we went through Lowell. Large parts of the town are now a National Park.
Why? Because Lowell was the start of the industrial age in America. The town used water from the Merrimack River to power mills, turning cotton into fabric. Until this happened, all manufacturing was, by law, done in England and America was simply a supplier of raw materials. You can visit many of the buildings in town as part of the park. Or, you can take a boat tour of some of the canals and locks. Or, you can buy fabric that is being made on the old equipment.
Miles of canals go through the town
A main water control gate. Mills were charged for the water power they used. The main control gates were used to keep the water levels in the canals at a fixed level.
Canal beside a mill complex
Still running from an overhead lineshaft. Today it is electrically powered however. In another room there are hundreds of these looms in operation - today!
In this model you can get an idea of the scale of operations. And this is only one mill out of many. From the 30's to the 50's most mills shut down and moved to the south to be closer to the cotton fields. Lowell had the highest unemployment in the country.
A small control gate for a single factory
Starting to lower the water level in a lock. A small door in the main door is lifted to allow more water to pass. As you can see the lock gates are not exactly water tight.
Getting ready to go through a lock. You can see the old water level and the open door to allow the water to equalize.
Passing under a bridge. Minutes before the water was about 3 feet below the bridge.
Another main water control gate and locks
If you are ever in the area, stop and visit this National Park. Walk around town and visit several of the buildings, ride the boat tours and ride the trolley system around the town/park.