West Campus, located on Princeton Boulevard over the border of North Chelmsford, started life as the Middlesex County Truancy School in 1898, a reform school that housed juvenile boys for over five decades.
It was shut down in February 1973 after a series of investigations into the treatment of inmates (SNAC). After the truancy school shut down, the buildings were abandoned until Wang Laboratories acquired the property, with the initial plan to set up a main headquarters (Pierson).
Wang Laboratories, finding no use for it, donated the property in 1984 to University of Massachusetts Lowell (known as Lowell State College at the time) The price was one dollar.
A year later, the college moved into three of the five buildings (Upham Hall, Read Hall, and Gould Hall) to house the Graduate School of Education. Up until this point, the GSE was located in the basement of Dugan Hall on South Campus (Greenwood).
The two buildings that were not in use by the college were Richardson Hall, which had been in a fire a few years earlier, and Bigelow Hall, which was in use by the Robert F. Kennedy school that housed juvenile girls. Despite this, West Campus bloomed into a beautiful site for the GSE, with its rich landscape and convenient parking.
For almost 20 years, all four directions were established for UMass Lowell. During its stay at West campus, the GSE had to contend with the building conditions, which ranged from deterioration to lack of cosmetic repairs. The distance between South and West contributed to a feeling of isolation compared to the proximity of North and South campuses.
Around the turn of the new millennium, then chancellor Bob Hogan deemed the buildings unsuitable to house the GSE department or host classes. Not wanting to put in the money to make the repairs to meet inspections, Hogan moved the GSE department back to South Campus in 2003 on the fifth floor of O'Leary Library (Welker).
This was meant as a temporary stay, as plans were being made to move the department into the Lawrence Mills complex on Perkins Street, near the Tsongas Center on East Campus. The plan fell through after Hogan did not come to an agreement on how the building would be utilized, and it was turned into an apartment complex.
Ironically, the college bought the Perkins property for housing in 2017 (Pierson). As for the buildings out West, the only building that was still in use was Bigelow Hall, until the Robert F. Kennedy Center left the location in 2015. Over the years, the vacant buildings were subjected to vandalism and trespassing. UMass Lowell, which currently owns the property, installed No Trespassing signs.
In 2013, Read Hall caught on fire and as a result, the building was demolished (Welker). In response to the fire, Massachusetts Senator Michael Barrett drafted a bond, which became a bill in 2014, to fund the demolition of Upham, Gould, and Richardson. This left the fate of Bigelow Hall undetermined (Welker).
In February 2017, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed off on the bond bill with the demolition date yet to be determined. At the same time, Chelmsford Town Manager Paul Cohen established the West Campus Planning Committee, with the goal of listing ways the property could be utilized when it comes to the point of acquisition from the college. The talks are still ongoing (Smith). In August 2018, UMass Lowell has been cleared by the state Legislature and Governor Baker to sell the property in Chelmsford (Melanson). West Campus is up for sale, but the college has yet to state a price.
“Middlesex County Training School (Mass.) @ SNAC.” Social Networks and Archival Context, snaccooperative.org/ark:/99166/w60d346f.
Greenwood, Anita. “UML West Campus - Anita Greenwood.” 16 Feb. 2017.
Pierson, Donald. “UML West Campus - Donald Pierson.” 27 Feb. 2017.
Welker, Grant. “Town, UML Push to Raze Site of Fire.” Lowell Sun Online, 15 Sept. 2013, www.lowellsun.com/todaysheadlines/ci_24099822/town-uml-push-raze-site-fire.
Melanson, Alana. "UML Cleared to sell West Campus in Chelmsford." Lowell Sun Online. 17 Aug. 2018,