Irish immigrants much of the physical work of building the city of Lowell as we know it today. The first Irish immigrants arrived in Lowell in the 1820’s. In the early days, they were primarily employed as physical laborers, digging and maintaining the transportation canals as well as the power canals needed for the mills.
Because they were not provided housing by the mill owners, something that most regional workers were afforded, the earliest Irish lived in camps in the area of Lowell now known as the Acre, largely segregated from the rest of the city. The expectation from the mill owners had been that the laborers would do the work needed and then leave. However, whole families soon joined the men, and a community began to grow from the “Paddy Camps.”
With the Irish Potato famine in the 1840s, the numbers of Irish in Lowell grew exponentially as those fleeing the famine joined the existing Irish community. The Irish who settled in the Acre faced prejudice like that which affected Irish immigrants throughout the nation. Racist stories and editorials appeared in local papers, and there was occasional racially motivated violence as the Irish community grew.
Since the early days of Lowell the Irish community has grown in power and influence. Irish politicians dominated City Hall from the late 19th century and well into the 20th, as Lowell gradually became home to many more immigrant populations, making it the diverse community we know today.