Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Boys School at St. Patrick's Lowell

You wonder sometimes if the fates are driving this blog. Walter and I spoke briefly of the Boys School and then this weekend we both found that we had each written hisitories. We merged the two documents and came up with the following. We really would appreciate hearing from you. Share your thoughts and memories. 

St. Patrick Boys School, Suffolk Street
On October 19, 1939, St. Patrick' Boys School on Suffolk street was sold by the Archdiocese of Boston to the Lowell Housing Authority.  The land was wanted in order to enlarge the scope of the North Common Village housing project, thus ended a nearly 60 year parochial institution.
Michael O’Brien had a plan.  The pastor of Saint Patrick Parish always had a plan.  He was from a family of planners.  Like his uncles before him, Fathers John and Timothy O’Brien, they were men of vision and took their role of shepherds of the flock seriously.   Father Michael, as his congregation called him, saw the fruits of his predecessors’ labors.  Father Timothy had recruited the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to open a school for girls in 1852.  Now there was not only a school and an academy, but a convent, chapel, and gardens as well.  That let the boys of the Acre to attend the public school (for those who did), or to roam the streets, or for others to somehow get themselves into the mills.  But that little worm began crawling inside Fr. Michael’s head and it wouldn’t stop until the time was right.
Brother Alexius sat at his desk in Baltimore, he couldn’t take much more.  The letters were coming one after another.  Not only was Fr. Michael O’Brien writing to the Xaverian Brother, but he was also receiving letters from others on Fr. Michael’s behalf.  They were all urging the Brother to open a school for boys in Lowell.  Brother Alexius finally gave in.   He agreed to send 4 Brothers to open a school to begin in September of 1882.
Class Photo, Date unknown, Property Archives of St Patrick Parish
The old St Mary’s church on Suffolk Street had been empty for years.  It had formerly been built as a Methodist church, but was purchased by Fr. James McDermott in 1847 and consecrated on March 17.  Following the death of its pastor, Fr. James McDermott in 1862, it remained vacant just ready to be part of Fr. Michael’s plan.  Yes, it would make a fine school house.  What used to be the basement of the church now had a proper reception hall, dining hall, kitchen (both of these “being models of neatness”), and water-closets.  The second floor had the students’ classrooms, two students sat at each desk sharing one ink bottle.  The third floor had the Brothers’ dormitory, study, and chapel.  The curriculum would be based on commercial studies; including bookkeeping (single and double entry) algebra and geometry.  The entire course of studies would take perhaps seven years.  The intent was to have grammar and high school students, excluding the primary grades.
Opening day began with the Mass of the Holy Ghost.  The principal, Brother Joseph, and his three companions stood ready as the boys lined up outside the school, all 348 of them!  He immediately telegraphed to Baltimore to send help.  This was a most auspicious beginning and all went as expected for a number of years.


  1. Great story! Reminds me of the story of Babe Ruth visiting Lowell January 30, 1924 to speak at the St. Patrick's School Alumni Banquet.

  2. Thanks, Eileen. The Babe is a great story. Why not write it up as a guest blogger?