The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff tell us about the gates that used to welcome visitors to Lowell. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.
In 1938 the Lowell Garden Lore Club proposed the “Gateway to Lowell” project. The State Highway Commissioner gave his approval and soon it became reality. The west gates were completed in 1939 and then work began on the east gates.
The gateway project consisted of two pairs of monumental markers, one pair to be placed at the east village limits and one pair at the west village limits on both sides of Highway M-21. Made of fieldstone, the columns were to be nine feet high. A stone wall from each column led to a shorter column. They were arched away from the road, giving a gateway effect. The name ‘Lowell’ was to be on the taller column, and the garden club added landscaping, making the city gates a beautiful sight. The gates were even lit at night.
The west gate was located west of West Avenue which was the edge of town, near where the Calvary Christian Church educational building is today.
The Lowell Board of Trade helped with the project both in funding and publicity. E. C. Foreman, chairman of the Village Improvement Committee headed up the Gateway project. The project was to serve multiple purposes. It was hoped that motorists would slow down, realizing they were entering a village, and it added to the beauty of the road and of Lowell.
The gates were a tangible way of defining Lowell. In 1951 the Lowell Ledger described the Village Christmas scene, “From the west gate of the village to the east gate there are lighted windows, Christmas trees, decorations indoors and out, and Santa Claus beams down on the snow blanketed village street as though in approval of the lighted arch and the sparkling scenery throughout Lowell.” In 1953 a crèche was set up on the Foreman lawn at the West gate and decorated, all coordinated by the Garden Lore Club. Recorded Christmas music was played from 7-8 p.m. each evening from December 18 until Christmas.
Though the gates were 10 feet from the road, vehicle accidents were a problem for the gates. During their existence, both the east and west gates were damaged by multiple accidents. The accident scenes frequently caused heavy damage. One slippery Sunday in April of 1952 the west gates were hit in two separate accidents. Because of this, the same Garden Lore Club that in 1955 recommended to the city council that the west gates be removed after yet another accident.
Today a re-creation of a gate is located outside of the Foreman building in Recreation Park, along Broadway Street, with an added plaque honoring E.C. Foreman.
Those entering the city today are still welcomed by attractive and welcoming signage, but Lowell no longer has its “gates.”