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CAMBODIAN NEIGHBORHOOD WALKING TOUR
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6. Site of First Buddhist Temple in Lowell,
       20 North Franklin Court
To Lowell's earliest Cambodian refugees, driven from their war-
ravaged country, the need for a Buddhist temple was second only 
to the need for food and shelter. In the early 1980's, a Cambodian 
community of approximately 150 people established its first temple 
in Lowell, on the third floor of a three story red wooden tenement. 
Although it did not resemble the spectacular Buddhist architecture 
of the Cambodian homeland, this temple served the spiritual and 
emotional needs of the city's growing immigrant community. Devout 
members of the temple decorated the interior with a colorful shrine 
to Buddha, including copper statues. (In Cambodia, Buddha statues 
are often made of gold). Monks, who came to Lowell from Thailand, 
presided over temple life. Here the community prayed for peace in 
Cambodia, celebrated sacred holidays, shared traditional food, and 
planned for its future. Today, the temple at 20 North Franklin Court 
no longer exists. Trairatanaran Temple, a new, larger, and more per-
manent temple has been established in nearby North Chelmsford. 
(See no. 12 on this map). Current plans for the now empty plot of land 
at 20 N. Franklin Court include the creation of a community garden.
 
7. Pailin Plaza, 716 Middlesex Street
Pailin Plaza, built in the early 1990's, is Lowell's original Cambodian 
mall. The owner of the neighboring Pailin Supermarket developed 
it. A Cambodian city, Pailin was rich in diamond and gold mines, 
before being destroyed in the recent war. Cambodians in Lowell 
associate the Plaza's name with a spirit of prosperity, gaiety, and 
leisure. Located in the Lower Highlands, the Plaza recalls Cambodian 
building styles, with its three gabled pagoda style roof of red metal 
tiles and parking lot kiosk also shaped like a pagoda. The shopping 
center includes a jewelry store, a clothing store, a video rental shop, 
a Cambodian general service office, dentist's office, and beauty 
salon. The walls of individual shops are lined with travel posters of 
Cambodia, and the shelves stocked with items from Asia. Vong 
Preap, a young Cambodian man who recently moved with his family 
to Texas, hand painted the Pailin Plaza shop signs. Pailin Plaza is 
evidence of the rapid growth of Cambodian owned businesses in 
Lowell. By 1991, they numbered well over one hundred.
 
8. Clemente Park, Middlesex Street
First called George Washington Park, and built in the late nine-
teenth century as green space for the rapidly expanding Highlands 
neighborhood, the park's name became, in the 1970's, Robert 
Clemente, a tribute to the Hispanic American baseball player. For 
Lowell's Cambodian community, especially those who settled in the 
Highlands, Clemente Park is a place for recreation, a place to con-
gregate and socialize, and an escape from the sometimes crowded 
living conditions of the urban environment. On a hot summer night 
the park has the bustle and energy of an open air market. Some 
Cambodian women prepare food at home, such as beefsteak,
papaya and mango salad, egg rolls, and teriyaki, and sell it at the 
park. Chess is extremely popular among the older Cambodians, 
and a few years ago, a stone chess table was installed in the park. 
Although Clemente Park is a community spot for all generations of 
Cambodians, it is particularly important for Cambodian teenagers, 
who use the park as a place to gather with their peers.
 
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