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THE NATURAL HISTORY OF LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS
|sewage. From the 1920's, when Lowell's population
peaked at 113,000, until the construction of the Duck Island Sewage plant
in the 1970's, Lowellians dumped 15 million gallons of raw sewage into
the Concord and Merrimack every day. No longer vital as sources of
food, the Merrimack and Concord Rivers had become waste streams.
Water color was no longer determined by Mother Nature, but by the color
of the cloth being dyed in the mill.
Population growth also consumed more and more land. The pastoral setting in which the early mills were constructed lasted only a short period of time. Builders cut down the millyard's ornamental trees to clear the way for additional boarding houses. Tenements that housed many of the immigrant workers were crowded along the banks of an expanding network of power canals.
Elected city leaders recognized this growing congestion as a problem. "I fear that we are being hemmed in by brick and mortar shutting out the pure air of heaven," warned Mayor Elisha Huntington in his 1845 Mayoral address. Under Huntington's leadership, the city actively sought and acquired land for parks. In 1845 the city paid $30,000 for 30 acres of land creating the North and South Commons. A Joint Standing Committee on the Commons was established. Its intent was to keep the land open forever. In fact the original deed for the North and South Commons specified that "no building shall ever be built" on the land.
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