The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. The ABCs of Lowell History continues with a look at flooding on the Flat River in 1904 and 1905. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.
The Flat River runs through the center of downtown Lowell, running under Main Street before flowing south into the Grand River. The close proximity of these two rivers to town has put Lowell repeatedly in the path of floods. This was a good thing for the Odawa that lived here, providing fertilizer for crops that were grown along the rivers. Later, as settlers began building permanent buildings along the rivers it could lead to damage.
The flood of 1904 caused extensive damage to the city, turning streets into rivers. Another flood in 1905 resulted in flood waters rushing over seven dams including the one at Main Street. Main Street itself was washed out along with two retail buildings and damage done to several other buildings.
The photo above shows Main Street two days after the 1905 flood waters washed out the street. Construction had started already on a temporary wooden bridge over the water.
After the 1904 and 1905 floods, flooding would not be significant again until 1948. That year flood waters rose to cover Main Street and many residential streets. Recently the flood of 2013 saw waters again rise up to Main Street flooding many basements.
Editor’s Note: With the exception of the 2013 flood, most modern flooding events have occurred along the Grand River and haven’t reached as far as Main Street. Recent notable floods have occurred in 2018 and 2020.