Spalding House

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383 Pawtucket Street, Lowell, MA

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Parking: Parking is located behind the Spalding House

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Witness to History

The Spalding House is a witness to Lowell’s changes since the Colonial period.

Built in 1760, the property was purchased in pounds and shillings during a time when we still lived under the rule of of a king.

Debates about taxation took place here in what was then called the Moses Davis Inn.  The Inn was a refuge for barge keepers bringing lumber down the Merrimack River before the canals were built.

The home’s location at Pawtucket Falls, abutting both state and national park properties on the river, provides a unique perspective on Lowell’s pre-industrial history.

Visit the Spalding House today and you will find a rare hanging wall and door as well as a lighting collection that represents every era of possible lighting sources.

The home is now a house museum open for educational programming by request, as it is currently being restored.  It is open to the public during Doors Open Lowell, an event held each May to celebrate the countless historical buildings in the city.

See how much the Spalding House has changed over the years!

Early History

The Spalding House is known for its rich colonial history, and with its proximity to Pawtucket Falls, its environmental history. Before European settlement, members of the Penacook tribe took advantage of this fruitful fishing spot.

The house was built around 1760, and between 1760 and 1790, ownership of the house changed eight times. During most of this period, the house was known as the “Davis Inn”, after Moses Davis who was the proprietor for at least fifteen years. The Inn provided lodging for barge workers transporting goods up and down the nearby Merrimack River – these workers had to portage around the falls, meaning they disassembled their boats and carried them on land until it was safe to continue along the river.

The house was expanded by two bays during this period; a second chimney was added; and the second floor main hall with a swing-down partitioning wall was constructed.

If you want to learn more about the home’s first 30 years (1760-90), check out our brochure here.

The Spalding Family – 1790 to 1906

Joel Spalding  purchased the house on October 6, 1790.  A 48-year-old widower, he moved into the house with his two children, Jonathan and Phebe. When he remarried six months later, his second wife Rebecca Cary joined their household (his first wife Phebe Tyler having died in childbirth).

Joel passed away in 1823, leaving the house to his son Jonathan. Jonathan raised his own family here; his two children Joel and Sarah were both born in the house and later inherited the property, living out the rest of their lives under its roof.

The Spaldings made some alterations to the house, including the addition of the Italianate-style hood over the front door and a small porch on the back of the house. Photos from the early 1900’s reveal the Spaldings also put in elaborate Victorian wallpapers as well as duct work for central heating.

Daughters of the American Revolution Chapter House – 1906 to 1996

On behalf of the Molly Varnum Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Mrs. Henry Lambert purchased the house from Miss Sarah Spalding in April 1906. The organization was looking for a place to display its growing collection of colonial artifacts, so a colonial-era home seemed quite fitting – particularly since it was owned by three different Revolutionary War soldiers (Moses Davis, Captain John Ford, and Joel Spalding).

The DAR began a restoration of the house to expose its colonial features. They uncovered old fireplaces, reopened old doors, and restored the second floor lecture hall.

For 90 years the DAR held its regular meetings, hosted teas, staged plays, and distributed scholarships and citizenship awards.

LP&CT: Restoring the Past, Preserving the Future

When membership in the Chapter declined in the 1980s, the DAR began looking for another local organization to assume ownership of the house and to continue to operate it as a museum.

The DAR approached the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust about taking ownership of the house in the mid-1990’s.  While taking on such a property  presented a major challenge for the newly-established organization, the board of directors at the time recognized that unless they stepped forward, a significant cultural resource for Lowell and the greater Merrimack Valley would be lost.

What’s a land trust doing with a historic home?

We have made it our mission to preserve not only parks and open spaces, but special places in the city of Lowell – and the Spalding House certainly qualifies as special.

With the house’s historic connection with the Pawtucket Falls and the Merrimack River, the Spalding House signifies the many ways in which the relationship between people and the river has shifted over the years; from providing abundant fish to abundant hydro-power.

 

Current restoration projects

Exterior landscaping was completed in 2016.  This included the installation of a 600 sq. ft. blue stone patio, dry-laid stone walls, granite steps, sod, and many flowering shrubs.

The “ell” section at the back of the house was renovated in 2017, making improvements to the archive room and our ADA-compliant accessible restroom.  Ceiling repair work is underway, funded generously by the Methuen Festival of Trees.

How can you help?

Volunteers play a critical role in helping us care for and monitor our properties. If you would like more information about the Spalding House, or would like to volunteer as a land steward, please let us know (978)934-0030. Action projects, in addition to regular site monitoring, on this property could include:

  • Basic Landscaping

  • Gardening

  • Litter Collection

  • Spring cleaning – dust off the winter cobwebs

  • Developing exhibits

  • Graphic design

  • Archiving

  • Helping when the house is open to the public (you can view our “Spalding House Tours” guide here.)

As a land steward you help provide the additional eyes and ears we need on properties that staff can’t visit as frequently as we would like to. If you can take a regular walk by the Spalding House, you can be a land steward! Check out the birds and other wildlife on the river, maybe pick up a little trash, and let us know if you see anything really interesting or out of sort (e.g., a garden area that needs work, yard waste dumping, or a broken sign). We have an easy online monitoring form that you can send to us at any time.

Many thanks to our supporters & funders, especially to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, for it’s operating support of the Spalding House.

This project is supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which receives support from the State of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Spalding House News

A sign honoring the Spalding House's first role as the Moses Davis Inn (photo courtesy of Barbara Poole)

Restoring the Past

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