Lawrence: An Industrial City

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Sketch of Plans for Lawrence Dam and Canals, 1845.

A location along the Merrimack River was selected to carve out a new industrial city in the 1840s. The City of Lawrence sprang up at an astonishingly rapid pace. It was a city meant to do one thing: produce.

A group of wealthy merchants turned industrialists known as the "Boston Associates" developed the city of Lowell as one of the first planned industrial cities. Their investment in Lowell kicked off the American Industrial Revolution. They soon sought to replicate the success they found in Lowell. The Merrimack River and its natural falls proved invaluable as a source of power and cut through plenty of undeveloped land both up and downstream from Lowell.

Just twenty miles downriver from the burgeoning textile center of Lowell were the rural towns of Methuen and Andover and the meeting of the Merrimack, Shawsheen, and Spicket Rivers. The Boston Associates chartered a holding company in 1845 called the Essex Company to purchase roughly 7 square miles of family-owned farmland in Andover and Methuen. Next, the Essex Company planned the construction of a dam to provide the water power necessary for the mills they envisioned lining the river. The Great Stone Dam as it became known created the foundation for the future growth of the city of Lawrence.