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|contained a clause that any building of twelve
feet or more was to be constructed of brick or stone.
The Welles Building was constructed in 1846 as a commercial and office building. The structure's most significant feature was the public hall located on the third floor. By the early 20th century, the need for public meeting spaces was being met elsewhere in the city. The high-ceilinged room served as a hall for a labor union for a time, but later a fourth floor was added inside its walls.
In 1979, the building was remodeled using a contemporary rather than historical approach. Plain aluminum windows rather than multiple pane wooden windows were used. The corner storefront was bricked up. The storefront to the right was remodeled in the mid-1980s using a more historical scheme.
The structure was plagued by fires which struck in 1850, 1853, and 1855. After the 1855 fire, the structure housed a lecture hall, offices, and a post office. A fourth fire in 1865 was severe enough to require extensive reconstruction. The resulting five-story building was later torn down to make way for the Hildreth Building.
The Hildreth Building was constructed in two stages. The right half was finished in 1882 and the left in 1884. An early tenant was S & H Knox and Company, a chain store similar to the Woolworth's which is located there today. The building was named for Fisher A. Hildreth, a newspaper publisher, high sheriff, and postmaster of Lowell. Built by architects Van Brunt and Howe, the building was Lowell's grandest 19th century structure.
By 1980, the first floor of the structure was modernized with plate glass, aluminum frame windows, and enameled metal paneling. Some of the original character of this prominent building was returned in a 1983 storefront reconstruction based on the Van Brunt and Howe design.
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