172 Lakeview Avenue
  Focus: Emil Banas

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   Emil Banas in business
   Emil Banas vitals

Emil Banas was born in 1887 in Kozlowek, Galicia, which was part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire then and is southwest Poland now. He followed his brother Izydor to the U.S. about 1906 (Izydor arrived in 1903), coming through Ellis Island along with many immigrants of the time. Emil settled in Lowell, going a bit further east than his brother, who settled in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.

Map showing the location of Kozlowek in Southern Poland, just north of Slovakia

Line drawing of a photographer under the hood of an old style camera

Emil learned the trade of photographer (probably from a Norwegian) and started his own business by 1909 at 90 Bridge Street, a building with dozens of business. It was an old boarding house converted a few years previously to businesses and three upper floors of apartments.

Modern picture of the Sirk Block on Bridge Street after renovation

Along the way, Emil met and married Anna Magierowicz, who also came from Poland and who was working as a dressmaker. Anna had immigrated in 1903 with, or shortly after, a brother named Andrew (Andrezej), who became a baker for many years in Lowell. Emil and Anna had two children.

City Business Directory ad for Banas Studio

Together, Emil and Anna provided a unique photographic service at the time. Emil took and enlarged pictures and Anna used her dressmaker expertise to transfer them to pillows. It would be very interesting if we could find one of those pillows and compare the ubiquitous product in U.S. malls, modern photographic transfers onto T-shirts, to her "...Water Color Pillow Tops, Silk, Satin, and Sateen...."

In 1911, Emil invested in a three-story boarding house on Lakeview Avenue, just north of downtown, across the Merrimack River, in a neighborhood called Centralville. It was a Polish section of town, directly across from a Polish grocer, Adam Korzeniewski, at 165 Lakeview Avenue, also one of the locations in this project. Also across the street was Dom Polski, the Polish National Home Association, and down one block was St. Kazmierz Polish Catholic Church. In 1917, Emil transferred his photography business there and also started a variety store, later concentrating on dry goods (probably under Anna's direction). Over the years, they also added shoes. The family lived in a building behind the store and the upper floors were still apparently rented out.

Lakeview Avenue was an important street at the time. It was the major road next to the river on that side, had many shops, and had a trolley line. This is a 1931 picture of Lakeview Avenue looking west toward Emil's three-story building with a mansard roof. You can see the most of the Banas name on the second floor side of the store, "anas". With a magnifying glass you can see "Naklad Fotograficzny," roughly "photographic impressions" or "artistic photography" at the bottom right. It looks as if it was repeated in English at top left. The sign above the display window says "Kitchen Wares" (in English).

Picture of Lakeview Avenue in 1931 showing Banas building

Newspaper clipping of picture of Janina Banas



Unfortunately, success in business doesn't guarantee good health. Anna died in July 1933 and their younger daughter, Janina, died six months later at age 19. The older daughter, Emilia, started medical school at Tufts but only got as far as her third year, when.she, too, grew sick. Her obituary gives a hint of the problem: "She spent most of the last five years in the sanitarium" before coming come to die in December 1942, at age 30. Emil spent the next fifteen years alone until his retirement. He probably had a clue that he wasn't going to live much longer and he married a widow living one of his buildings behind the store, Leokadja Galej Piekarski, perhaps to leave his estate to a fellow countryman.

After Emil retired, the store was turned into a "Emile's Food Market", run by Emile Garboski. It was then occupied by the Lowell Window Shade Company for many years, lasting through Leokadja's death and the store's subsequent sale to another landlord. When this picture was taken in 2000, it was occupied by La Reinita, a Spanish-American grocery.

Picture of 172 Lakeview Avenue in 2000, with La Reinita Market awning sign

In 2003, the buildings behind the store were demolished and the store now stands gutted and stripped of its siding, awaiting completion of its latest renovation.

Picture of 172 Lakeview Avenue during renovation in 2003