The mission of LowellIrish is to collect and preserve the history and cultural materials, which document the presence of the Irish community in Lowell. As the first immigrant group in a city that continues to celebrate its immigrant past, LowellIrish will serve as an advocate to support a better understanding of the historical, political, religious, and social function the Irish played in the formation of the city.
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
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.