12-14 Carlton Street

Neighborhood: Lower Highlands
Ethnicities
Irish French-Canadian
English-Scottish Southeast Asian
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Photograph of 12-14 Carlton

12-14 Carlton Street

The first building on the site was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century. Land records indicate that Silas Fevin sold the property to Charles B. Mellen in the 1860s. The property remained in the Mellen’s possession when Ann Mellen, Charles’ wife, was deeded the property in 1892. Mr. Mellen was a Yankee born in New Hampshire while Mrs. Mellen was born in Ireland in 1838 to an English father and a Scottish mother. Their Massachusetts-born daughters worked as a boxmaker and a dressmaker and briefly controlled the property before it passed to John and Ellen Callahan in 1907.

The building, since replaced, was a multi-family tenement. In 1920, numerous families squeezed together there. John and Ellen Callahan lived at 12 Carlton Street, on the first floor and Mrs. Annie E. Russell, widow of Michael, lived on the second floor. Next door at 14 the building’s owner Edouard St. Cyr lived with his wife Rosana. Records indicate that the building always housed blue-collar workers and their families. St. Cyr became the building’s owner while working as a bobbin maker. Charles Craig, who worked for the railroad at the B & M Car Shops, lived on the third floor at 12 Carlton with his wife Marie.

St. Cyr’s tenants at 14 Carlton Street demonstrate the Lower Highlands neighborhood’s character. Employed in real estate, Michael Coffey lived at number 14 with his wife Augusta. Amedee Bibeault lived with his wife Blanche upstairs at 5 Rear at 14 Carlton and worked as a laborer. Machinist Oscar McFarland lived with his wife Mary at 6 Rear. Catherine Laderonte worked as a dressmaker and lived at 5 Rear. Joseph Laderonte, listed as rooming with Catherine, worked at the Gillespie-Eden Incorporated manufacturing company.

Gillespie-Eden Corporation, incorporated on May 13, 1919, manufactured electric washing machines. The company remained in Lowell a scant 3 years before on April,, 1922 managers shocked their175 employees by announcing the factory’s closure and a consolidation of all operations in a larger plant in Paterson, New Jersey. A local manager said, “We regret very much to leave Lowell, it is necessary from the standpoint of economic conditions…inasmuch as about all of our raw material comes from [the middle west] it can readily be seen that it is only good business on the part of the company to get nearer to the home of our raw material than to be paying freight charges both ways. Our stay here has been very pleasant and, I repeat, it was with a feeling of regret that we decided to pick up stages and move.” Gillespie-Eden was an early example of large manufacturers leaving Lowell for cheaper manufacturing sites in the southern and mid-western United States, a process that intensified throughout the 1920s.

Living at 12 Carlton in 1920, the Callahans were a prototypical Lowell Irish family. Born in Ireland in 1852 John Callahan arrived in the US in 1860 and found work as a machinist in the Lowell area. His wife, Ellen was born in Massachusetts in 1856 to Irish-born parents. In 1930 Ellen Callahan still lived on the first floor of 12 Carlton Street and Mrs. Margaret Russell, likely Annie Russell’s daughter, lived on the second floor. Margaret Russell passed away on December 17, 1929. At 14 Carlton Street, painter Thomas O’Hagan lived with his wife Evelyn on the third floor. In the rear of the tenement block auto mechanic Hubert LaFleur lived on the first floor with his with Flora. He was a communicant of Notre Dame de Lourdes Church. Francis Arsenault, a bobbin maker, lived with his wife Louise on the second floor and William Brunelle, a shoe worker, lived on the third floor.

The essential character of the building remained working class through 1950. By then at 12 Carlton Street John Griffin lived on the first floor and A. Wilfred Carrigan lived on the second floor with his wife Josephine. Carrigan worked as a molder at the Lowell Iron Foundry. At 14 Carlton Street, taxi driver Arthur Fortin lived with his wife Helen on the first floor. Mrs. Alvina Camp lived on the second floor and Mrs. Irene Arsenault lived on the third floor and worked at Ames Worsted Company.

The tenants in 1950 reflect the continued French-Canadian presence in the Lower Highlands neighborhood. While Lowell researcher Stephen Matchak contends that French-Canadians lived almost exclusively in Little Canada, this Ethnicity and Enterprise grant identified 21 Branch Street as a French-Canadian parochial school from the mid-1940s until around 1970 (See Ethnicity and Enterprise: 21 Branch Street). French-Canadian families also dominated 12 and 14 Carlton Street. The Arsenault and Fortin families’ surnames are traditionally French-Canadian. Mrs. Alvina Camp was born in Massachusetts to French-Canadian immigrants and Wilfred Carrigan’s parents were French-Canadian immigrants. His wife Josephine, born in Canada and immigrated in 1913, spoke French as her native language.

In the rear of 14 Carlton Street, John and Josephine Regan lived on the first floor. John worked at Merrimack Manufacturing Company. Mrs. Helen Brydon lived on the second floor and Harold and Louise Southworth lived on the third floor. Harold was a helper at the R. Z. Cox Coal Company. The occupations demonstrate the general working class nature of the area about 12 and 14 Carlton Street. There were no owner-occupied houses on Carlton Street in 1950 and neighbors’ occupations included a machinist, a twister, and a stitcher at Lark Dress Company. On Marshall Street, the road where Carlton Street ends in a T-junction, about one quarter of the residences were owner-occupied. Three laborers, one at Lowell Rendering Company, a tinsmith who owned his home, a worker in the cloth room at the Ames Worstead Company, and an operator at the Walter L. Parker Bobbin and Spool Company lived on Marshall Street at that time.

By 1970, the building had fallen into near-total abandonment. Of the two apartments at 12 Carlton Street, only the first floor was occupied by Mrs. Theresa Wallace. All six apartments at 14 Carlton Street, three in the front and three in the rear, were vacant. The entire Lower Highlands neighborhood suffered greatly at that time. On adjoining Marshall Street, 3 of 20 residential units were vacant. Occupations on Marshall Street included two retired heads of household, a decorator at Louis Saab, an employee at Fort Devins, and two laborers, one at Sanette Manufacturing. On bordering Middlesex Street, the situation was worse. About 18 out of 39 residential units were vacant and at least 4 storefronts stood empty in the section of Middlesex Street about the Carlton Street intersection.

In 1987, the building was knocked down and new industrial or commercial space was created. In the early 1990s both addresses on Carlton Street became car repair shops for the first time. While the business owners have changed over the last two decades, the buildings have remained car repair shops since then. During the time of this study from 2007-2009 personal observations, visits, and the lettering in the photograph above indicate that 12 and 14 Carlton Street car repair businesses are owned by Southeast Asian entrepreneurs.

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