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The City of Lowell

With the incorporation of several new mills in the early 1830s, Lowell's population exploded to 12,000 by 1832.  Soon, the town meeting form of government, with every resident invited to attend and vote on each item of business, became cumbersome and unresponsive to the needs of the general public.  After local officials lobbied the state legislature, Lowell was granted the third Massachusetts City Charter on April 1, 1836.  The bicameral government which was created provided for a mayor, a six member Common Council, and a twenty four member Board of Aldermen, which combined, was referred to as the City Council.  Policy decisions were confirmed by the populace in annual elections of officials.

     In 1844, the City Council voted to create a public library.  With a combined state and local appropriation of $3,500, the City School Library opened on February 11, 1845, in the western section of Town Hall.  An annual fee of fifty cents was charged for its use.  Other government services expanded at this time to meet the demands of a growing population.  Street paving at public expense began in 1844.  In 1845, the City developed the North and South Commons to provide open space within this increasingly congested city.  In response to epidemics of cholera and other diseases, a City water works was put in to operation in 1855.

     This era of expanding public service brought, for the first time, paid city employees who applied professional skills to the operation of government.  Elected officials at this time significantly influenced the order and operation of the City which for years had been the province of individuals or corporations.  By the 1840s, government offices occupied the entire Town Hall.  In 1872, increased demands for space forced the Library to relocate to the Masonic Temple on Merrimack Street.  By the end of the nineteenth century, City government had taken on an identity.

The City Hall Commission

By the 1870s, city leaders recognized the need for more office space and, more importantly, they envisioned a new City Hall that would represent local government's independence and influence.  In 1879, the City Council voted to purchase a lot from the Merrimack Manufacturing company as the site for a new City Hall.  In 1888, the Mayor and City Council appointed a six member commission to oversee the design and construction of the new building, as well as the construction of a City Library that would also serve as a memorial to those Lowell men who had died in the Civil War.  In the interest of honest government and in an attempt to solicit the best possible designs for these

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