Historical Timeline

1822
First Irish laborers begin digging Lowell's canals.
1831
St. Patrick's Church built of wood; then rebuilt of stone in 1853.
1836
April 1, City of Lowell incorporated. The City seal reads “Art Is the Handmaid of Human Good.”
1840s
‘Famine’ Immigration from Ireland commences. • Irish workers begin working in the city’s textile mills. • 1841 Louis Bergeron family becomes the first recorded French-Canadian family to settle in Lowell. • 1843 Hugh Cummiskey, Irish immigrant, elected to the Common Council. 1
1850
Lowell is home to 40 textile mills, 10,000 looms, and 10,000 millworkers, producing 50,000 miles of cloth a year: largest industrial complex in the U.S., second-largest MA city. Population reaches 37,000; 27 percent are foreign born, mostly from Ireland.
1860
From then until 1900, approximately 600,000 French Canadians migrated to New England, many lured to the region by mill recruiting agents.
1868
St. Joseph's Church is founded to serve the growing French-Canadian community.
1874-1875
Samuel P. Marin is the first French-Canadian to reach public office when he is elected to the City Council. French-Canadian immigrant Joseph L. Chalifoux opens his first clothing store. His family later opened the Chalifoux Block, then Lowell's largest department store. Samuel P. Marin built the first tenement block in what will become ‘Little Canada’.
1880s
Lowell population climbs to 60,000; 39 percent are foreign born, largely from Ireland and French-speaking Canada. Arrival of Greek, Polish, Syrian, and Lebanese immigrants. John J. Donovan elected the city’s first Irish Mayor.
1890s
Russian Jews begin arriving in Lowell in significant numbers. Portuguese immigrants start arriving and by 1916 number over 3,000. Israel Brotherhood Society (5¢ Club) is organized to provide medical care and death benefits for its members. They built a Jewish cemetery in Pelham, NH when denied a permit for one in Lowell. First Greek Orthodox service is held at Associate Hall. Washington-Acropolis Society started (Greek). Portuguese Benefit Society is founded. L'Union Franco-Americaine started. 19
1900-1905
Lowell population 95,000; 43 percent foreign born, largely from Ireland and French-speaking Canada with slight increases from Poland, Russia, Italy, Greece, Lithuania, and Armenia. Anshe Sfard Synagogue ("Russian Shul") organized by Russian Jews. Ohabe Shalom Shul ("Litrac Shul") organized by Lithuanian Jews at 63 Howard Street. By the early 1900s the Hale-Howard neighborhood had kosher markets, Hebrew schools, four synagogues, and two newspapers. Holy Trinity Polish Roman Catholic Church founded. St. Louis de France parish founded in Centralville. 142 Armenians in Lowell.
1906-1910
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church built. St. Anthony's Church opens to serve the Portuguese community. Polish immigrants form the “Dom Polski” (Polish National Home Association) social club. Approximately 2,000 Poles live in Lowell, largely in Centralville. Lowell population is 106,000; 40 percent have at least one foreign born parent; immigrant numbers are growing fastest from Greece, Russia, and Turkey.
1911-1913
First Lithuanian church is opened on May 31. French-Canadian businessmen and professionals found the Lafayette Club.
1918-1919
5,000 Polish immigrants are in Lowell. International Institute is established by the YWCA in an effort to provide formal workforce development support for newly arriving immigrants. In its first year, with a small staff, 800 individuals were assisted. Within the first year, the Institute moved from the YWCA office on John Street to 25 Palmer Street. Throughout the Institute’s existence, its mission remained to be a friend to a stranger in this country. Syrian-Lebanese community opens St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church.
1920s
1920s
1925
The International Institute held its first Homelands Exhibit and Festival to celebrate the diversity of Lowell’s ethnic communities, May 13 and 14.
1928
The International Institute celebrated 10 years in Lowell. Expenses for running the Institute for a month totaled $650.
1935
The International Institute became an independent non-profit organization with the purpose to promote the interests and understanding of the foreign-born peoples of Greater Lowell.
1939
‘Slum clearance’ policies resulted in the demolition of numerous properties in the ‘Greek Triangle’ Acre. International Institute: individuals served, 1374; individuals assisted with citizenship applications, 972; visits made by staff at homes, hospitals and agencies, 669; total attendance at Institute gatherings, classes and clubs, 25,000.
1945-1946
Dr. Paul C. Panagiotakos, first Greek elected to the Lowell School Committee. The International Institute moved form 25 Palmer Street to 222 Worthen Street.
1950-1954
Population 97,249; 20 percent were foreign born. George C. Eliades, first Greek Mayor. John Janas, first Polish Mayor.
1960-1961
The International Institute moved from 222 Worthen Street to 79 High Street. In 1964 the Institute added a function hall and library at 79 High Street, which was built originally as a private home. Demolition of the city’s Little Canada and several other ‘immigrant neighborhoods’ begins.
1965
With passage of the Immigration and Naturalization immigration increased.
1970
Lowell population 94,280; approximately 10 percent foreign born.
1975-1978
First Southeast Asian refugees settle in city, building toward the second-largest Cambodian American population in U.S. by 1990. Lowell National Historical Park formed.
1980
Federal Refugee Act passed, establishing a regular process of refugee admissions and resettlement into the United States. Population 92,418; 9 percent foreign born.
1984-1986
Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association founded. First Buddhist temple founded. Hellenic Cultural Center opens.
1997-2001
The First Southeast Asian Water Festival held. Rithy Oung elected to Lowell City Council, becoming the first southeast Asian elected official in the U.S. Population 105,167; 22 percent foreign born. Newly arriving families are coming from Brazil, West Africa, India, and Iraq. In 2001, the International Institute of Lowell merged with its Boston and New Hampshire counterparts to become part of the International Institute of New England network. Most programs and services from the Lowell office remain local in nature. First African Festival celebrated in Lowell.
2010-2014
Population 106,519; 25 percent foreign born. Newly arriving families are coming from numerous countries including Bhutan, Burma, Congo, and Iraq. • November 4, Rady Mom elected MA state representative for the 18th Middlesex District, becoming the first Cambodian-American elected to the state Legislature. • The International Institute of Lowell continues to provide vital services to newly arrived refugees and immigrants in the Lowell Area. Thus far in 2014, the Institute has resettled 320 refugees, of which 275 stayed in Lowell. The largest group resettled was from Iraq, with families also arriving from Somalia, the Congo, Burma, Bhutan and Afghanistan. • Institute works with approximately 1,000 individuals annually, most with status as a refugee or asylee. Among the organization’s 15 staff, five came to the U.S. as refugees. Services are offered in eight distinct languages.
1822
1831
1836
1840s
1850
1860
1868
1874-1875
1880s
1890s