512 Central Street

Neighborhood: Back Central
Irish Turkish
Canadian-English Polish
Scotch-Irish Portuguese
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Photograph of 512 Central Street

512 Central Street

Built in 1910, this four-story red-brick building stands on the east side of Central Street and is now numbered 512 Central Street. Similar to many other buildings in the Back Central neighborhood, it went through several address changes in the latter part of the nineteenth century because of street renumbering—the address was changed from 242 Central Street to 266 and then again shortly after to 512, the current address.


This site represents a perfect example of the demographic and economic changes that have taken place in the Back Central neighborhood over time. Although it is hard to determine with great certainty if J. Kidder was the original owner of the property, public records do indicate that he was involved in the title change in 1851. Robert Ellingwood, born in Massachusetts around 1811, then became the owner. He was a tin worker at David Dana’s, a coppersmith and also a tin-plate worker, on Jackson Street, near the Hamilton Print Works. In the early 1850s Ellingwood lived with his wife Martha who came from Maine and his Massachusetts–born daughter Francis T.


In October 1855, the property was sold to William R. Cady, born in Massachusetts, earlier ancestry unknown. Cady owned a great deal of property in Lowell, some of which was on Central Street. He owned a soda apparatus business on Bowker Street in Boston in 1874 and was involved in the business of patent medicines, running an elixir-making company in Boston by the early 1880s. Cady lived on Central Street with his wife Angeline, daughter Clara, and sons William, George and Harry who together ran a grocery store in the commercial space on the ground floor at 259 Central Street (now 503 Central) , another family property.


In 1873, ownership was transferred to John J. Donovan, later a prominent figure in Lowell business and politics. Born in Yonkers, New York of Irish descent, Donovan came to Lowell at the age of three. Educated in the city’s public schools, upon graduation he took a job working for David Gove in his 223 Central Street grocery. Donovan took full control of the business when Gove retired in 1870. Around 1869, he also briefly ran Donovan & Co., a firm on Central Street largely in the business of powder, dualin and explosives. He manufactured paper in Dracut in 1877 and later set up the Atlantic Telegraph Company in 1884 and constructed all of the company’s lines East of Boston. In 1894 he was one of the organizers of the Fifield Tool Company, the largest engine lathe manufactory in the country.


Successful in the business world, Donovan also rose in politics as well, becoming Lowell’s first Irish Catholic mayor in 1883. According to one source, during his two years of service he gave the city “a conservative and economical administration.” In 1886 he ran for Congress and was the President of the Democratic State Convention.

In January 1902, the Moran family became the owners of 512 Central Street and later entrusted the property to Mary J. Johnson, Janet Battenlenny from nearby Lawrence, and Nellie S. Conley who came from Ireland in 1901. In May 1921, the three trustees transferred ownership of the property to John J. Preston, Frederic S. Harvey and Richard B. Walsh, trustees under the will of Eli W. Hoyt. Preston came from England in 1878 and was a mill helper in 1922; his wife Sarah A. with a mixed background of Scotland and Ireland came to the United States in 1894. Harvey, lawyer and assistant US attorney, established Harvey, Harvey & Walsh together with his father John J. Harvey and Walsh.


The 1921 City Directory indicates that the building was used as a business and a residence. Outlet Furniture Co., a second hand furniture dealer was in part of the building. Outlet’s owner Joseph H. Kelley was an Irish immigrant who lived on nearby East Merrimack Street with his wife Annie. There was also a tailor shop on the first floor owned by Turkish immigrant Antoine G Anteblian, who lived with his wife Aznife on Westford Street. Mrs. Fabiola Shea, widow of John T., also lived in the building in 1921.


In 1938 the building was sold to Massachusetts-born Arnold C. Picanso. He possibly had Portuguese ancestry. Although it is not certain if he was the “A.C. Picanso” who “cut hair in his barbershop” , he did own a liquor store on Summer Street and lived on South Street. It is also reasonable to suggest that he was an early Portuguese connection along the Central Street business district.


Tenant change in the building reflected the larger demographic changes in the entire neighborhood. In 1950, Bessie R. Goldman lived on the second floor; John J. Avila, a textile mill gill box operator, also lived on the second floor with his wife Rose V.; Edward M. Gawlik, a brewery worker for HB Co. lived on the third floor with his wife Phyllis; so did Joseph A. Kuprebich, a loom fixer, with his wife Jennie P.; Peter T. Dyszczyk who worked as a section hand at the Abbot Worsted Co. lived on the fourth floor with his wife Ida. In 1959, the Portuguese American Civic League purchased 512 Central and has owned it ever since. The club, founded in 1940, was established to “explore, encourage, create and develop every level of educational activity: moral, cultural, artistic, and sporting in order to promote the wholesome and adequate character of its members” . Presumably its presence reflected the continued increase of the Portuguese population in the Back Central neighborhood and the city. Somehow it is difficult to present the complete history of the club and the organizational dynamics within due to the lack of available public records. From the general immigration principals, however, it can be inferred that it was formed to facilitate the socialization among members and help them preserve their Portuguese identity. Also because of the dominated self-perception of being Portuguese, most of the members tend to socialize only with those from the same region.


1970s the tenant changes reflect the larger demographic shift in the city. The following is the list of tenants: Mrs. Mary Dawkszewicz, widow of Frank; Mrs. Rose Sd. Andrade; Antonio De Freitas and his wife Agrela; shoe worker Breton Gremaine; Mrs. Cecillia Netto and Mrs. Teresa Veloza. While it is not possible to be sure of the ethnicity of all the tenants, some of the names do suggest the connection with the Portuguese community as well as newer immigrant groups. The story for this building is not ready yet.


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There is no "Address History" for this building.