295-301 Westford Street

Neighborhood: Lower Highlands
Ethnicities
Jewish-Russian French-Canadian
Greek Armenian
Scottish Southeast Asian
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Photograph of 295-301 Westford Street

295-301 Westford Street

Cupples Square is an ideal location for any study of Lowell’s immigration and demographic changes. In Lowell’s Highlands neighborhood, the Square is a center of the Southeast Asian community. Changes over time at the mixed-use space at 295-301 Westford Street exemplify the neighborhood’s dynamic evolution.

 

Built around 1900, in 1920 cobbler Michael Feldman (Fieldman) operated a shoe repair shop at 301 Westford Street. Feldman, his wife Fannie and his eldest son Joseph were Russian-born Jews according to the 1920 US Census; Fannie was actually born in territorial Poland. Their household included five other children under sixteen, Sadie, Abraham, Dora, Minnie, and Hymen. Joseph, age 21, was listed as a shoe peddler and presumably worked in his father’s family shoe shop. Several shoe shops existed in the area, and there may have been connections between them. For example, Philip Snider operated a shoe repair business in the 1920s in Cupples Square and the Reslow family operated a shoe business at 311 Westford Street for over three decades. The long tradition of shoe stores in Cupples Square ended when Jerry’s Shu-Tap closed in 2008.

 

The shoe repair businesses, residents, businesses, and entrepreneurs who passed through Cupples Square exemplified the immigrant and working-class nature of the neighborhood. Early 1920s Cupples Square businesses included a violin teacher, confectioner, dressmaker, shoe repairer, grocer, barber, druggist, fishmonger, clothes cleaner, milliner, and tailor. Immigrant entrepreneurs included Joseph Perron, a French-speaking, French-Canadian barber and Louis Bucuvalas, a confectioner and coffee-shop operator. Lowell. Bucuvalas, (a common Greek surname) created a path for Greek businessman to locate businesses in the Square.

 

The center of Greek life was Market Street in the Acre neighborhood, next to downtown. Bucuvalas lived there with his wife Stavrula at 614 Market Street. Greeks, like the Irish before them, used a foothold in the Acre to open businesses across the city and eventually move from Lowell to adjacent towns. While the community grew, “Coffeehouses were a substitute home for the first wave of men[,] places for card-playing and talk.”

 

The end of the 1920s witnessed an influx of new immigrants into the Square. Bucuvalas worked as a confectioner there and fellow Greek businessman John Georges opened another confectionary story in the neighborhood. Antoine Anteblian, a clothes cleaner, moved into 301 Westford Street with his wife Aznife. Anteblian, according to his World War II draft registration, was an Armenian born in Aintab, Turkey. Kaspar Boyajian, a fellow Turkish Armenian, moved into Anteblian’s building around that time. During the 1920s Anteblian cleaned clothes at several locations on Westford Street and always lived next door to his business.

 

In 1930 James Johnston operated a bakery at 295 Westford Street. Born in about 1886 in Scotland Johnston’s native language was Scotch. His family came to the US around the time of his birth. His wife Violet’s parents were born in Scotland and also spoke Scotch. The Scottish arrived in numbers in Lowell after the Irish and were the second significant non-Yankee’s in the area. Their arrival probably preceded the U.S. Civil War as the first Scottish church, the First Presbyterian Church, opened in 1861. The largely Scottish parish purchased the Appleton Street Congregational Church in 1874. The Westminster Presbyterian Church, founded later in 1888, was also a Scottish parish.

 

James and James S. Johnston ran Johnston’s Bakery, “Home of Fine Baking, Specializing in Wedding and Birthday Cakes,” from the 1940s until the 1980s. James lived on the second floor of 301 Westford Street and James S. lived with his wife Ruth on Littleton Road in Chelmsford. The essential character of the Cupples Square neighborhood remained working class during that period. Stores in the Square in the late 1970s and early 1980s included Lerer’s Superette grocery, Cupples Square Diner, a fish market, Terminal Fruit, a beauty parlor, a barber shop, a men’s fashion store, and a plumbing and heating contractor. The neighborhood character changed dramatically in the late-1980s as waves of Southeast Asian immigrants moved in to Lowell and surrounding communities. The ethnic composition and transition in Cupples Square is further catalogued in the story of 311-317 Westford Street.

 

By 1990 there were many important Southeast Asian institutions in Cupples Square. The Khemara Restaurant opened at 295 Westford Street and remained a neighborhood fixture there for almost a decade, before moving across the street to a larger location at 308 Westford Street. The restaurant was sold in 2008 to another Southeast Asian restaurateur. The Hong Kong Market occupied 289 Westford Street in the late 1980s and continues a run of almost 30 years serving the grocery needs of the Southeast Asian community. Rachana Jewelry, owned at different times by Pheeang Ros, Conh Thach, and Chea Sok, opened in the early 1990s and continues today in Cupples Square as the longest running jewelry and/or fashion store in the neighborhood. Other fashion and jewelry stores in the neighborhood include Arun’s Fashions, Hong Kong Hi Fashions, Ankor Fashion, Mykim Jewelry Store, and Bayon Jewelry. In 2007 the Mongkot Pich Salon and Amara Fashion were at 295 and 301Westford Street respectively. Amara Fashion closed during the 2008-09 recession and a Southeast Asian video store now occupies the space.

 

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