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|The last quarter of the 19th century was a period
of great progress in the United States; a time when vast wealth was accumulated
and often flaunted. It was also a period when the various architectural
styles that we commonly refer to as Victorian reached their heights.
Before the advent of the automobile, one's own home was the focal point
of most family activity. Our Victorian forebearers often enjoyed showing
off financial successes in their houses.
The two most common extravagances of Lowell's Victorians in decorating their homes were ornamental "gingerbread" and fancy glass. Kaleidoscopes of fancy glass can be found from the Belvidere mansions to the workmen's housing in the Acre neighborhood.
Lowell was a prosperous and expanding city at this time. Many houses built in the new subdivisions between 1880 and 1920, featured these ornamental glass windows. Some are readily visible from the street, but many of the finest examples are in locations where the rainbow of colors can be enjoyed only from inside the house. However, the careful observer will discover that many Lowell homes have ornamental window borders, side panels, or transoms that may include beveled, stained, jeweled, etched, and sand-blasted glass.
The exhibit STREET TREATS AND HIDDEN TREASURES: LOWELL'S RESIDENTIAL FANCY GLASS shows some examples of Lowell's wealth of stained glass. The visitor may have passed these same houses many times, without truly seeing them before.
This exhibit primarily shows you "street treats" that you may drive by and enjoy at your leisure. It also offers a peek inside some of Lowell's homes. The city has an extremely large concentration of fancy glass because so many of its fine building stock was erected at the time when residential decorative art glass was extremely popular. Lowell's major role and financial success in the early decades of the Industrial Revolution is reflected in this art form. With the decline in Lowell's fortunes and the eventual relocation South of most of the textile mills, it was not financially possible for people to "modernize" their homes. This period of decline is what actually helped preserve so many of these windows in Lowell. When stained glass went out of fashion, people who lived in more affluent communities
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