Local History Question - August 2023
The reference department answers questions from people who live mainly in New England, but at times, all over the world. Each month, we’ll highlight a question that was answered by the reference staff.
Today’s question is “What was the location of the post office for the city in 1849?”
Like many local history questions, there is no easy answer. Initially, there was no actual address for the post office listed in the city directories from around that time, nor any markings on Lowell City maps. It did mention that it was located at the corner of Middle and Central streets. The 1849 Directory says “Middle, opens on Central, at the Post Office and runs westerly to Shattuck.”
The reference staff were able to utilize the Cultural Inventory that was done in the 1980s for 29 Central Street and since it was actively home to various newspapers, it was likely not the home to the post office at that time.
In the book Contributions of the Old Residents’ Historical Association of Lowell, vol. 4, there is written speech called “Reminiscences of an ex-Postmaster” by Alfred Gilman. In it, we found a line that stated that the post office was located in the Durant & Rogers’ store on the corner of Central and Middle Streets.
As a last resort, the staff went to the Leventhal Map collection at Boston Public Library and found a map – https://collections.leventhalmap.org/search/commonwealth:js9577479 – which shows the exact location of the post office in 1841. Since we have confirmation that the post office moved into the Durant & Rogers store on Central, we can assume that it moved from the location in this map, up to the corner within Durant & Rogers at Middle and Central. The Leventhal has another map from 1850 that shows the updated location – https://collections.leventhalmap.org/search/commonwealth:wd3761962. The location in modern times is where the TD Bank is located on Central.
Other notes from past librarians about post offices in Lowell have confirmed that in 1841, the sixth post office was located on Middle Street between the Talbot Block (now the Talbot Building) and Durant & Rogers Jewelry Store. In 1844, it was within the Durant & Rogers Jewelry Store building.