7 Adams Street: Shifting Streets

The building at "7 Adams Street" has changed its address to "67 Fletcher Street". No, it hasn't moved, but Adams Street has. The following is the story of the general area. The exact order of some of the changes below may not be right, and some changes were combined but the changes definitely happened.

Of course it wasn't simple. There were several changes in the neighborhood before we got to the grassy triangle, including some a couple blocks away that had an effect.


 

 

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When the Ryan Block was built, Adams Street ran directly into Fletcher Street in Liberty Square, really a triangle with seven streets coming into it at all angles . Liberty Square is the red triangle at the right, in map from 1914. The Ryan Block is the orange, v-shaped building. It had addresses on three streets: Adams, Fletcher, and Worthen. "X" marks "7 Adams Street."

It's not surprise that traffic was terrible in this square after cars became common. The solution in the late twentieth century was to convert the square into a conventional four-way intersection.

Changing the triangle to a simple intersection required blocking Adams street from meeting Fletcher. The former "7 Adams Street" was no longer on Adams Street but only on Fletcher Street. That problem was solved by changing the address to "67 Fletcher Street."

You can see how that happened by looking at three major changes on the following maps.

map of liberty square 1914 showing the Ryan Block location

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First, the street adjacent to the Ryan Block, Worthen, was changed when the Kitson Manufacturing Company on Dutton expanded its facility to the rear, covering Worthen Street. (It's now the American Textile History Museum.) At the same time, Hayden Street was blocked off since it had nothing to do any more. That got rid of one of the seven streets coming into the square.

 

map showing changed street configuration

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The Lowell Connector (a spur from I-495 and Route 3 almost into the center of Lowell) was completed in the early 1960s. It had an exit onto Thorndike Street going north, towards downtown. Thorndike and Dutton became a major route into and out of the center of the city. The intersection of the two became a problem, causing delays and accidents. The solution was eliminating the intersection as such and connecting the two streets by a gradual curve. The red area shows the plan.

 

map showing changed street configuration

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Creating that curve meant not only changing the path to Dutton but also creating new access to Fletcher.

That required blocking the Western Avenue intersection and bending the western end of Dutton to intersect Fletcher at a right angle (away from the big intersection).

The now unused part of Western street was returned to nature. The unused part of Dutton on the other side of Fletcher was turned into a small park -- very small, but at least it's  green.

 

map showing changed street configuration

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The final steps in simplifying Liberty Square were:

  1. Remove the Adams Street intersection from the square by diverting it to Suffolk.
  2. Fill the land that used to be Adams with grassy plots on both sides of Suffolk.
  3. Close Cushing Street so there are only two cross streets intersecting.

We see now that the "X" marking "7 Adams Street" is nowhere near it. The only reasonable thing to do was to renumber it on Fletcher.

Changing Adams and Cushing made the intersection of Fletcher and Rock-Suffolk into a conventional four-way intersection, controllable by a light. It's a much more peaceful drive today.

Interestingly, some of the (perhaps unintended) results of easing traffic delays in this neighborhood were the return of some grassy spaces in a rather busy part of the city. It would be nice if more traffic control didn't always mean more concrete.

map showing final, current street configuration