311-317 Westford Street

311-317 Westford Street

Lowell Neighborhood: Lower Highlands

The earliest maps of Lowell’s Cupples Square neighborhood show six identical buildings on Westford Street between Loring and Coral Streets. The current 311, 313, 315 and 317 Westford Street were numbered 85 and 87 in 1879. The residential area included a Methodist Church on Loring Street and an Episcopal Church on nearby Walker Street. Few businesses existed except for a foundry six blocks away at the railroad. By 1892, two simple two-story residential buildings numbered 313 and 317 Westford Street emerge.

In 1910, 311 Westford Street housed Massachusetts-born James F Morrison, his wife, Alice F (McShea), brother-in-law Alfred T. McShea, and widowed father, Hugh Morrison, who was born in Ireland. James was the proprietor of a Gorham Street extract company, making flavoring syrups and extracts. Morrison’s father-in-law, trolley driver William H. McShea, a second-generation Irishman married to a second-generation Irishwoman, Mary McQuade, moved in with them. They all lived here through 1917 when the elder McShea died.

A second family at 31 Westford in 1910 was the Ryans: second-generation Irishman John J., a bartender; his wife Mary A. (Foye), also second-generation Irish; and their three children.

From 1910 to 1913, French-Canadian shoemaker Solomon Gregoire lived with his wife, Delima, and several of their ten children, at 317 Westford Street. During this time, five of their ten children lived with them; some worked at his shop and another shoe shop, two worked in bakeries, and one was a manager at the St. James Hotel.

In 1917, Louis Buchsbaum, born in Austria, lived for one year on the second floor of 317 Westford Street with his wife Henrietta. Louis had arrived in New York City in 1902 and by 1910 he was running a window washing company in Manhattan with a friend, Hyman Selzer. They moved the company to Massachusetts, setting up branches in Cambridge and Lowell in 1912. Murdoch A. MacIver, likely from Scotland, and two other Murdochs, probably his daughters, Gladys E., and Katherine L, lived on the first floor. The two women ran a millinery shop there. A third woman living there, Mrs. Edna Worcester, was a dressmaker, so the three offered a range of custom clothing.

In 1920, five families lived in the multi-unit building. Railroad machinist John H. Libby, a second generation Canadian-English, lived with his wife Elizabeth F. on the first floor at 311 Westford Street. Unusually for a married woman at the time, Elizabeth worked as a saleswoman at a department store, perhaps because the couple was childless. Grant Gamble, born in English speaking Canada, worked for Lamson Company Cash Carrier and lived with his wife Effie on the second floor. Another Lamson worker, Yankee J. Leon Olivet and wife Margaret also lived there. Another machinist and Yankee, Edwin J. Hill, lived with his wife Estelle, two children and a grandchild in 315 Westford Street while the Yankee widow Mrs. Annie Copeland lived at 317 Westford Street.

In 1920, across and up and down Westford Street on the same block were several commercial businesses including an A & P grocery store, a shoe repair shop, a laundry, a confectionary, a creamery, a battery shop, a dressmaker, a music teacher and a druggist. Several machinists also lived in the area. The occupations indicate the neighborhood’s middle-class/skilled working class character.

The 1924 Lowell Atlas shows the two buildings with addresses 311 and 317. The building at 311 had its owner identified as Ryan, probably William Ryan a Canadian-English immigrant, who lived there at least in 1922. The building at 317 was owned by a person named Hoyen, probably Francis M. Hoyen, an Assyrian immigrant who lived there at least 1920-1922 and who ran a barber shop at 71 Charles with his brother George.

In 1926 the Abbott Bros. grocery store opened at 313 Westford Street and established the mixed-use space still operating today. Proprietor Goodwin Abbott, Russian-born and Yiddish-speaking, lived at 315 Westford Street with his wife Ethel. His brother Samuel also lived in the neighborhood and had two American-born boys. Small grocery stores were in perilous times then, being marginalized by chain stores. A & P had been two buildings away since 1917. The Abbots had started in 1925 by taking over the A & P at 319½ when it moved only two buildings down to a larger space at 323. The Vermont Tea And Butter Company was at 318 and Cloverdale Creamery was at 349. The John T Connor Grocery Company was two buildings away; it had a dozen stores just in Lowell and in 1925 merged with two other eastern Massachusetts chains to form First National Stores, still in existence today. By 1930 the Abbots had gone out of business and the store at 313 was owned by Yankee Charles W. Hamm, who had earlier clerked for Connor. Hamm himself gave up and left town by 1932, turning the grocery store over to Russian-born Joseph Kaplan, who also had a fruit store at 321 Westford Street, a produce store on Gorham Street, and a coal business on Moody Street. Kaplan lived on Gibson Street and ran the store until he retired in 1935.

In 1930, 315 and 317 Westford Street were residential. Joseph E. Archambeault, his wife Rosa, and their five children lived at 315 Westford Street. Rosa was French-Canadian immigrant. Joseph, who worked for a furniture company, was born in New Hampshire of French-Canadian parents. Henry E Cohen, a Russian immigrant lived at the same address for a few years. He and his brother created the Merrimack Paper Tube Company, providing a livelihood for many others of their family.

This year, Yankee Daniel P. Brown lived at 317 Westford Street with his wife Ninaetta and three children. He worked as a watchman at a local shoe shop in 1930 after working for the railroads, probably the streetcar system in Lowell, as a hostler and then a locomotive engineer. Ninaetta was born in Maine of Canadian-English parents. Daniel P.’s son by a previous marriage, Daniel E., also worked in a shoe factory in 1930 and by 1956 probably traded on an old friendship with Henry Cohen to get a job at the Merrimack Paper Tube Company. Daniel E. and his mother Ninaetta were still living at 317 in 1956.

In 1930 Henry Reslow was the proprietor of a shoe repair business at 311 Westford Street and lived at 83 Corbett Street. He had had a shop at 242 Central since the early ‘20s and started the one at 311 Westford when Carl was old enough to learn to be on his own. Carl took over in 1932 and Henry ran his own shop on Central Street with the help of another son, Albert. Henry Reslow’s parents were born in Sweden and he was born in Michigan. His wife Ellen was born in Sweden; their first child, Elsie, was born in Rhode Island, and the other four—Carl, Edith, Albert and Gertrude—were born in Massachusetts. Next store to the Reslows lived second-generation Swede Edwin Peters. Other residents in the neighborhood were born in Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, England, Lithuania and Portugal or had parents born in one of these countries.

The Reslows continued to operate their two shoe repair businesses for many years. Carl’s shop at 311 Westford Street continued for over three decades, going into the 60s. Henry Reslow stayed with his shop until he semi-retired by 1956, at which time he went to work for Carl, as did Albert, making three Reslows at 311 Westford Street in 1956 through 1964.

Scandinavians were a part of the Lowell story long before the Reslow family’s arrival. Around the turn of the twentieth century an area of Lowell situated near the corner of Fay Street and Lundberg Street became known as ‘Swede Village.’ The area was about forty percent Swedish and forty percent Irish. In 1911 a strong social network existed within the Scandinavian community and its 1,500 members held a “merrymaking festival,” the exact details of which are not yet clear. The Reslows stayed in this area until the 1950s.

When Joseph Kaplan retired in 1938, he closed his grocery store at 313 Westford Street and his fruit stores elsewhere. Second-generation Greek Arthur Caragianis, who had clerked at Kaplan’s fruit store three buildings down in 1932, converted 313 Westford Street into a fruit store, a usage that would be successful for fifty years. In 1945, it was owned by Jacob Gardner, who lived a short distance away at 238 Wilder Street with sons David Gardner, a clerk, and Irving Gardner, a lawyer. Gardner was succeeded in 1956 by second generation Greek George Malapanis of neighboring Dracut, Massachusetts. He ran the store as the Terminal Fruit Company until the 1970s.

In 1970 Jerry’s Shu-Tap succeeded the Carl Reslow’s shoe repair store at 311 Westford Street, continuing as a shoe repair store that still operates in the Cupples Square neighborhood, now at 319 Westford Street. Proprietor Gerard Saucier and his wife Elizabeth are French-Canadians. Dino Borras became the new operator of Terminal Fruit at 313, alongside Jerry’s’ Shu-Tap. He lived in Lowell’s Acre neighborhood. Arthur Ramalho and his wife Rita lived at 317 Westford Street. He worked for the Middlesex County Training School.

Beginning in the late 1970s Cupples Square neighborhood witnessed a major and ongoing demographic shift. The 311-17 Westford Street block is located near the center of an area bounded by Coral, Loring, and Leroy Streets. Residents’ surnames demonstrate the dramatic demographic shifts that occurred there. In 1975 the grid held a mix of peoples and backgrounds. Based on surnames, because census data does not exist for the modern period, the block was dominated by Irish (Gallagher, Lannan, MacKinnon, McGadden, McMeniman, Lambert, Connelly, McWilliams) and French-Canadian (Jacques, Cote, Legere, Lafontaine, Cornier, Lafleur, Ducharme) families.

New families moved in or out of the neighborhood from 1975 to 1985, with one exception: Boeuf and Ann Le moved into 48 Coral Street. It was the first appearance of Southeast Asians in the record for the Westford-Coral-Loring-Leroy Street grid. In 1990 several families (Legere, Lannan, McWilliams, McGadden, Jacques) remained. But the neighborhood was changing as several Southeast Asian families (Pham, Pin, Vu, Ngyuen) were homeowners or tenants there.

The 1990 occupants of 311-17 Westford Street mirrored the changes of the surrounding streets. Sanara Chea and Phurin Am operated Arun’s Fashions at 311 Westford Street. The relationship between Sanara and Phurin is unknown, although the Chea and Am families lived together at 363 Walker Street within walking distance of Arun’s Fashions. Sanara lived with Son and Seourn Chea and operated equipment at the Analog Device facility in distant Wilmington, Massachusetts. Mrs. Phurin Am was also an operator at Analog Devices, and Visay Am lived with the couple and clerked at Arun’s. The close knit nature of the housing and working conditions may represent close family ties or simple convenience.

It is important to note that the newcomers to the neighborhood filled quite similar roles/occupations as their predecessors, opening a variety of convenience shops and service-oriented businesses and also working in many of the leading industries of the time. In 2000, 311 Westford Street housed Monora Videos & Services. By 2007 the Cambodian Bayon Jewelry store operated there. Elsewhere in the Cupples Square neighborhood there were numerous Cambodian video stores, despite the closing of Monora Video. The Som Barber Shop worked out of 313 Westford Street while 315 and 317 remained residential.

Though the composition of the neighborhood had changed dramatically over the 20th century, successive waves of newcomers established the small service-type stores, neighborhood markets, and convenience stores necessary to go about their lives.