Virginia H. Adams
Matthew A. Kierstead

Submitted to:
Middlesex Canal Association
65 Summer Street
Milford, New Hampshire 03055


Massachusetts Historical Commission
Massachusetts Archives Facility
220 Morrissey Boulevard
Boston, Massachusetts 02125

Submitted by:
210 Lonsdale Avenue
Pawtucket, Rhode Island 02860


PAL Report No. 989-2 November 1999



I.   Introduction
II.  Review of Existing Documentation
III. Survey Boundaries and Criteria for Property Selection
IV. Survey Methodology and Results
V.  Conclusions, Future Survey and Planning Recommendations
VI. National Register Recommendations
V.  Appendices

A - Middlesex Canal Bibliography
B - Index of Surveyed Properties
C - Middlesex Canal Narrative History

Note: Reconnaissance Archaeological Survey Report submitted separately for this project.


The Middlesex Canal Comprehensive Survey Project was undertaken by PAL for the Middlesex Canal Association (MCA). The project was funded jointly by the MCA and the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC), and by the Department of the Interior, National Park Service, through a matching survey and planning grant administered by the MHC. The purpose of this project was to provide the MCA and the MHC with information to form the foundation of a future nomination of the Middlesex Canal, in its entirety, to the National Register of Historic Places, and more generally to provide a context for preservation planning issues related to the Canal. The original scope of the project involved completing MHC Area forms for the nine communities in the Canal corridor (Charlestown, Somerville, Medford, Winchester, Woburn, Wilmington, Billerica, Chelmsford, and Lowell), a historic narrative, historic archaeological site forms, base maps indicating archaeological and historic resources within the survey corridor, an archaeological reconnaissance report, Canal bibliography, list of National Register-eligible resources, and a final survey report.

This Survey Report was prepared as part of the project Phase IV tasks and is an update and expansion of the Phase I Methodology Statement of October 1998. This Survey Report pertains to the above-ground component of the project. It includes an outline of the survey objectives, lists the research sources identified, provides an assessment of previous research, outlines criteria for selecting the survey properties, describes fieldwork procedures and products, and the amount and kinds of information gathered in the survey. It also includes an explanation of how results differed from expectations and reflects how the methodology changed during the course of the project. It also presents conclusions about the kind, number, location, character, and condition of the properties recorded; a list of National Register recommendations; an inventory of surveyed properties; and recommendations for future research and planning. All project deliverables meet the MHC criteria, methodology, and current standards for community surveys. PAL attended meetings with the MHC and the MCA at the end of each project phase.

Virginia H. Adams, Director of Architectural Projects at PAL, was responsible for overseeing the project. She was assisted by PAL staff members Matthew A. Kierstead, Industrial Historian; James C. Garman, Principal Investigator; Paul Russo, Project Archaeologist; and Emily L. Paulus, Project Assistant. The project coordinator for the Middlesex Canal Association was Nolan M. Jones, president of the MCA.




A thorough search of historic archival and documentary research materials pertinent to the purpose, scope, and focus of the survey was completed. Resources reviewed included records of the Middlesex Canal Association and their representatives in the nine Middlesex County communities through which the Canal passes. Records of state agencies including the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Metropolitan District Commission were reviewed. Middlesex Canal-related material at academic repositories including the Baker Business Library at Harvard University and the Lowell Cultural Center were examined. Previous Canal surveys were consulted. A final resource list encompassing all known historical resources associated with the Middlesex Canal appears in the bibliography in Appendix A.

Canal Organizations and Communities

PAL staff consulted with the Middlesex Canal Association and the Middlesex Canal Commission for initial identification of Canal-related documentary material. PAL met with representatives from the nine Canal corridor communities to assess and document the Canal-related archival and written resources reposited in those communities for use in the survey and inclusion in the project bibliography. Information was requested from local historical societies and libraries within the Canal corridor. PAL also received a resource list from the Lowell National Historical Park. The MCA provided copies of the assessor’s maps for the project study area, and a copy of Middlesex Canal Guide and Maps by Bert VerPlanck. The VerPlanck guide and maps provided general location information for only the most prominent Canal features, which are indicated on schematic maps. The MCC contributed a package of color-coded Canal route GIS maps that included assessors map and parcel information, however, they were found to be incomplete and of questionable accuracy in some areas and were ultimately not used in this survey.

Massachusetts Historical Commission

PAL consulted with Michael Steinitz, Survey Director, and Leonard Loparto, Archaeologist, for initial assistance in identifying Canal-related resources within the Canal corridor. The MHC files were reviewed and pertinent materials, including survey and National Register forms, correspondence, and background information were copied.

National Register of Historic Places Properties within the Study Area

MHC files were reviewed to identify Canal-related National Register-listed properties within the survey area. The segment of the Canal between Kilby Street in Woburn and the Merrimack River in Lowell was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. PAL obtained a copy of this nomination. This nomination set wide, arbitrary boundaries and did not include a list of specific Canal-related resources.

Properties included in the Inventory of Historic and Archaeological Resources of the Commonwealth within the Study Area

The MHC survey files were reviewed to identify Canal-related properties within the survey area. The MHC survey files contain individual inventory forms for 12 previously-surveyed Canal-related buildings, structures, and historic archaeological sites within the survey area.

Metropolitan District Commission

Maps and other documentation were obtained from the Metropolitan District Commission, which owns land including the Canal corridor along the Mystic Valley Parkway and Sandy Beach in Medford and Winchester.

Major Archival Repositories

Two major archival repositories of material relating to the Middlesex Canal were located. The Manuscript Division, Baker Library, Harvard Business School, holds the Baldwin Collection, which includes over four boxes of catalogued material related to the survey and construction of the Middlesex Canal. Materials from this collection that proved particularly useful during the Canal survey were the 1829 Survey Notes and Canal Plans, and the 1830 Canal Profile. The University of Massachusetts—Lowell’s Center for Lowell History at the Mogan Center in Lowell holds the Middlesex Canal Corporation Records, which have been completely catalogued, and the archives of the MCA, which have been partially catalogued.

Previous Surveys

In 1980 Industrial Archeology Associates (IAA) surveyed the Middlesex Canal for the MCC, Northern Middlesex Area Planning Council (NMAPC), Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), and MHC, which funded the survey. This report, Middlesex Canal Survey, was incorporated into the NMAPC-MAPC report, Middlesex Canal Heritage Park Feasibility Study. These studies identified selected Canal-related resources, but offered no comprehensive resource lists. Notably absent from these studies was a map component showing the exact locations of individual resources. During Phase III an incomplete, water-damaged, blueprint copy set of the IAA field survey maps were located in a private library in Woburn. Although faded, these maps were of some use in determining the location of expected resources in several communities.



The Canal survey corridor begins at the former Middlesex Canal Company Mill Pond Complex in Charlestown, and proceeds north through Somerville, Medford, Winchester, Woburn, Wilmington, Billerica, Chelmsford, and to the Merrimack Locks site on the Merrimack River in Lowell. The survey area boundary followed a 75-foot corridor, centered on the Canal bed, which included the entire width of the Canal prism. Where appropriate, the survey boundaries widened to include resources associated with Canal operation, including ponds, basins, feeder streams, etc., where encountered. Discontiguous Canal-associated resources of exceptional significance outside this corridor, including those that have been relocated, were also included in the survey. The resources included in the survey were limited to those associated with the period of construction and physical and commercial operation of the Canal. As the corridor was recorded on MHC A area forms, it was divided into nine areas corresponding with community political boundaries.



Phase I

Phase I included preliminary review of historical materials to identify themes, events, and persons that were important to the history of development of the Middlesex Canal. Contributions of relevant materials were solicited from the Canal corridor communities and enthusiast groups. Major repositories of information were identified. PAL staff conducted a two-day windshield reconnaissance survey of the Canal route with MCA members Roger Hagopian and Nolan Jones. This survey identified above-ground, archaeological, and potential archaeological resources within the corridor associated with the Canal. The survey results were incorporated into an annotated set of maps based on the VerPlanck Middlesex Canal Maps. A preliminary site list was generated, using an ACCESS-based matrix table including categories for map number, community, site name, address, and date of construction.

Phase II

In Phase II, additional documentary research was conducted, including the archival holdings at Harvard University and the University of Lowell. Using the survey criteria developed in Phase I, these materials were used to generate a list of known and expected resources for the intensive field survey. The list was organized by town, Canal segment, and, where appropriate, street address and identified any State Register of Historic Places properties to be included in the survey. A sample MHC Area form for Winchester was prepared to develop field survey and survey form preparation methodology. An outline narrative history of the Canal was prepared. A preliminary bibliography of Canal-associated archives and publications was compiled.

Phase III

Phase III involved the major work efforts of final research, intensive field survey, mapping, and photography of above-ground properties selected for survey. The field survey of the Canal corridor included taking detailed notes and photographs, and mapping the route and associated visible and expected features on sets of assessors maps for each Canal community. PAL staff were accompanied in the field by MCA members knowledgeable with the Canal route, including Roger Hagopian and Nolan Jones. Field application of the survey criteria yielded a list of 243 resources, 10 of which had been previously recorded in MHC survey files, and 17 that had not that were surveyed by PAL. Draft copies of the remaining eight MHC Area forms were prepared and submitted to MHC and the MCA for review and comment. These forms included draft Canal route maps based on assessors maps. A site list was generated, using an ACCESS-based matrix table including categories for map number, PAL record number, MHC number, name, community, location, date of construction, visibility and National Register status and photograph number. National Register criteria were applied to inventoried properties, and recommendations were prepared.

Due to logistical problems associated with the delayed procurement of the assessors maps and difficulties encountered during generation of the list of known and expected resources, the project scope and products were altered during Phase III. The concept of a single base map detailing individual Canal resources was discarded as too unwieldy, and the Area form maps were deemed adequate for this purpose. The bibliography was finalized with the information collected at that date. The narrative history component was set aside as a separate contract.

Phase IV

This final phase involved developing, in consultation with the MHC survey and MACRIS staff, an approved lettering and numbering system for inventoried properties and adding the numbers to the forms; fine tuning the resource list data tables; and preparing conclusions, and future survey and planning recommendations. Products generated during this phase included two sets of MHC inventory forms (one set for MCA and the second for MHC on 24 lb. bond paper of at least 25% cotton fiber content and accompanied by a full set of original black-and-white photographs); and four paginated, unbound copies of the Survey Report (two copies for MHC and two for MCA). This phase also included preparation of National Register recommendations, preparation of a Middlesex Canal Bibliography (Appendix A), and preparation of a final resource list data table (Appendix B). Two copies of the Reconnaissance Archaeological Survey Report were also provided.




The primary goal of this project was to locate and document known and potential structural and archaeological resources along the Middlesex Canal corridor using MHC survey methodologies to support future efforts to expand the National Register district and other planning and interpretive objectives. The survey recorded a total of 243 resources, ten of which had been previously documented on MHC survey forms, and 17 that had not that were surveyed and assigned MHC numbers through this survey. The resource types included segments of the Canal with widely varying integrity ranging from obscured and of questionable integrity, to intact and watered. The locations and archaeological remains of various types of Canal-associated infrastructure including locks, aqueducts, bridges, basins, landings, sluiceways, and culverts were recorded.

Ten surviving Canal-associated buildings were also included in the survey. Four of these, the Tavern/Canal House at 76 Canal Street, Medford (MDF.397, pre-1803), the Horn Pond House (Hudson Mansion) at 7 Lakeview Terrace , Woburn (WOB.21, ca. 1840), the Toll Keeper’s House at5 Middlesex Street, Woburn (WOB.22, ca. 1802), and the Samuel Thompson House at 31 Elm Street, Woburn (WOB.23, ca. 1730), were recorded through this survey. The remaining six, the Allen’s Tavern at 286 Salem Road, Billerica (BIL.148, ca. 1740), Mears Tavern at 12 Elm Street, Billerica (BIL.94, ca. 1814), CLM.2 Merrimack River Locks Toll House on the Chelmsford Town Common (CLM.2, 1832), LOW.3 Long Block Glass Worker’s Tenement at 139-143 Baldwin Street, Lowell (LOW.3, ca. 1802), Gillis Lock Tender’s House at 10 Shawsheen Avenue, Wilmington (WMG.209, a. 1803), and the Kimball Canal Toll House at 3 Middlesex Street, Winchester (WNT.538, ca. 1803), were previously surveyed. All of these properties have the potential to contain privies, trash pits, wells, and other resources that could yield information about the lifeways of the people who built, lived on, and serviced the Canal.

Of the total number of recorded archaeological sites, the survey documented seven sites ancillary to the function of the Canal. Included were two Canal accommodation bridge abutment sites. These included the Baldwin/Carter Farm Bridge Abutments site (WOB-HA-1) in Woburn, and the Brown’s Footbridge Abutments site (BIL-HA-36) in Billerica. Both of these sites were found to be in satisfactory condition on well-preserved portions of the Canal. These two sites are the only remains of dozens of bridges that once spanned the Canal. The survey recorded two aqueduct abutment sites, the Ipswich River (Settle Meadow) Aqueduct Abutments site (WMG-HA-4), and the Sinking Meadow (Lubber’s Brook) Aqueduct Abutments site (WMG-HA-5), both located in Wilmington. Unfortunately, the aqueduct remains have been affected, to varying degrees, by impacts related to post-abandonment development; however, each retains enough integrity to be potentially useful for study. Recorded ancillary sites also included two sluiceways, the Content Brook Sluiceway site (BIL-HA-37), and the Richardson’s Mill Sluiceway site (BIL-HA-38), both in Billerica. These sites are also located in a well-preserved section of the Canal, and possess good physical integrity. In addition to the above, the survey recorded two culvert sites, one associated with the Richardson’s Mill Sluiceway site, and the other (BIL-HA-42) located on Lowell Street in Billerica. Though each of the culvert sites possess only fair integrity, survival of culvert sites along the Canal is apparently rare, making them important elements in the archaeological interpretation of the Canal.

The survey identified and recorded one site associated with the construction of the Canal. Located in the Wilmington Town Forest alongside the Middlesex Canal, the Maple Meadow Aqueduct Stone Quarry site (WMG-HA-2) includes a quarry pit and quarried boulder field. Within the quarry boundaries, the survey also recorded the location of the Tow Line Grooved Boulder site (WMG-HA-3), perhaps a singular surviving example of its kind. Both sites, especially the quarry, retain good integrity. These sites were recorded together.

The survey recorded four sites, all in the town of Billerica, that directly relate to the operation of the Canal. The Floating Towpath Peninsula site (BIL-HA-39), and the Floating Towpath Anchor Stone site (BIL-HA-40) were part of an ingenious system carrying the Canal across a mill pond on the Concord River. Both elements of the Floating Towpath survive with good integrity. A short distance away, the survey recorded a surviving Lock Chamber (BIL-HA-9) under a parking deck in the Talbot Mill yard. The Lock Chamber, complete with carved granite pivot posts, is in a remarkable state of preservation. Finally, the survey recorded the Red Lock Basin Retaining Wall site (BIL-HA-41). Unfortunately, like most lock basins along the Canal corridor, this site has been affected by post-abandonment development.

Two aqueduct sites had been previously surveyed, including the Maple Meadow Aqueduct in the Wilmington Town Forest (WMG.902, ca. 1802, 1930s), and the Shawsheen River Aqueduct on Route 129 at the Billerica-Wilmington line (BIL-HA-2, BIL.909, and WMG. 900, ca. 1802).

The discovery of the intact segment of the Middlesex Canal in the Metropolitan District Commission’s Sandy Beach Reservation in Winchester prompted in part this thorough survey of the Middlesex Canal in the hope that major previously-undiscovered resources would be found. A particular area of concern was the Mystic Valley parkway corridor east of the Mystic Lakes in Medford and Winchester, where linear features east of the Parkway were thought to be remnants of the Canal prism. Field reconnaissance and review of historical documents indicate that this area was historically highly disturbed by the construction of the Boston & Lowell Railroad, the Mystic Valley Parkway, Mystic Valley Sewer (said to have been laid in the bed of the Canal), and adjacent residential development. Linear features thought to represent the towpath (and curiously not including the corresponding berm) were identified as the Mystic Valley Sewer embankment or remnants of elevated lake terraces that correspond to similar features elsewhere on the shores of the Mystic lakes.

Future Survey and Planning Recommendations

The Middlesex Canal survey demonstrated the historic archaeological potential of the Middlesex Canal corridor, and identified potential avenues for further research. The Canal corridor includes a wide range of resource types including the operational infrastructure of the Canal itself, and sites associated with the people who tended and supported it. Canal infrastructure sites recommended for further study include the prism itself, as well as the sites of locks, bridges, stop gates, culverts, towpath bridges and crossovers, and quarry sites. Canal-related engineering and construction technologies are potential research areas, and could include comparison of designed versus as-built specifications, qualifications and selection of contractors, variation of prism and other components, procurement of construction materials, and adaptive re-use of Canal components after its transportation function ended. The areas around standing Canal-associated buildings and the sites of former associated structures including houses, taverns, lock keeper’s and toll collector’s houses, and farms have the potential to contain privies, wells, trash pits, outbuildings, and other features that have the potential to reveal information about the lifeways of Middlesex Canal employees, builders, travelers, and suppliers.


The Middlesex Canal is a 27.25-mile long, linear archaeological resource that traverses, from south to north, the Massachusetts communities of Charlestown (Boston), Somerville, Medford, Winchester, Woburn, Wilmington, Billerica, Chelmsford, and Lowell. The northern 15.25 miles of the Canal from Kilby Street in Woburn to the south bank of the Merrimack River in Lowell were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. This section of the Canal was nominated based on its physical integrity. No physical remains of the Canal were known to exist south of Kilby Street at that time. The Canal infrastructure generally averages 75 feet in width, however; its route is sinuous. In order to establish simple National Register boundaries, the Canal was divided into six, wide, rectangular sections with arbitrary boundaries that include abundant non-contributing land and resources. The nomination did not include an itemized list of contributing archaeological sites or standing structures, and did not thoroughly address the varying physical integrity of the nominated portion.

A major task that will need to be performed if the Middlesex Canal National Register Nomination is to be extended, and the boundaries of the currently-listed section are to be defined, is the confirmation of the exact location of the Canal and its major infrastructural features. This survey determined that the exact location of the Canal and some of its features are not known in places, particularly within the segment outside the current National Register boundaries south of Kilby Street in Woburn. Through careful parcel-level deed research, a Middlesex Canal historian was able to trace the exact route of the Canal in Medford (Corbett n.d.). This level of research is recommended for each Canal community to determine the exact path of the Middlesex Canal. The exact location of features such as locks, bridges, and other structures can be determined through a combination of documentary research and limited subsurface archaeological testing, as demonstrated by recent investigations associated with the Cummingsville Branch Replacement Sewer Project in Winchester (Strauss and Cook 1998).

The following specific National Register recommendations are divided into two categories: recommendations for the previously-listed segment, and recommendations for the unlisted segment.

Within the National Register-listed segment north of Kilby Street in Woburn, it is recommended that the boundaries be narrowed to focus on Canal-related infrastructure. The redefined boundaries should include only those geographically- and historically-associated parcels identified upon completion of GIS mapping. Several resources identified during the field survey could then be included in the revised nomination as discontiguous resources. Within this segment, all Canal-related resources should be documented on an individual level. Intact sections of the Canal should be discussed in terms of their relative integrity. The Middlesex Canal Commission and Association should work with the towns that include National Register-listed resources to establish Local Historic Districts or to develop preservation easements or other mechanisms for the protection of Canal resources.

Within the unlisted segment south of Kilby Street, three Canal-associated buildings were identified that should be added to a revised National Register nomination as discontiguous contributing resources. Field work revealed the presence of no additional visible Canal infrastructural remains other than the recently-identified segment of the Canal within the Metropolitan District Commission land at Sandy Beach in Winchester, which should be added to the existing nomination as a discontiguous contributing resource. Features along the east side of the Mystic Valley Parkway in Medford and Winchester previously thought to be Canal towpath remains appear to be natural lake terrace features and man-made historic disturbance associated with the construction of the Boston and Maine Railroad right-of-way, the Mystic Valley Sewer, the Mystic Valley Parkway, and adjacent residential construction. Aside from these specific recommendations, additional property research and archaeological investigations are recommended to confirm the location and integrity of Canal remains and to assess whether resources exist that are eligible for National Register listing in the segment of the Canal south of Kilby Street.

The following are detailed National Register recommendations from south to north by community:

Charlestown: Additional property research and archaeological investigations are recommended to confirm the location and integrity of Canal remains and to assess whether resources exist that are eligible for National Register listing.

Somerville: Additional property research and archaeological investigations are recommended to confirm the location and integrity of Canal remains and to assess whether resources exist that are eligible for National Register listing.

Medford: Property deed and map research has accurately located the Canal route in Medford with the exception of the Metropolitan District Commission property associated with the Mystic Valley Parkway near the Winchester border. Additional property research and archaeological investigations are recommended to confirm the location and integrity of Canal remains in that area. Archaeological investigations are recommended to confirm the location and integrity of Canal remains elsewhere in Medford and to assess whether resources exist that are eligible for National Register listing. The existing National Register nomination should be amended to include one discontiguous resource, the Tavern (Canal House) (MHC MDF.397).

Winchester: Additional property research and archaeological investigations are recommended to confirm the location and integrity of Canal remains and to assess whether resources exist that are eligible for National Register listing. The existing National Register nomination should be amended to include two discontiguous resources, the intact Canal segment on Metropolitan District Commission land at Sandy Beach, and the Canal Toll House (MHC WNT.538).

Woburn: The segment of the Canal north of Kilby Street in Woburn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. South of, and outside the Kilby Street National Register boundary, additional property research and archaeological investigations are recommended to confirm the location and integrity of Canal remains and to assess whether resources exist that are eligible for National Register listing. The existing National Register nomination should be amended to include one discontiguous resource, the Toll Keeper’s House (MHC WOB.22). Additional Research is required to determine the age, associations, and National Register eligibility of the Horn Pond House (MHC WOB.21). North of, and inside the Kilby Street National Register Boundary, the existing National Register nomination should be amended to include one discontiguous resource, the Samuel Thompson House (MHC WOB.23).

Wilmington: The segment of the Middlesex Canal in Wilmington was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. This nomination set arbitrary, wide boundaries and did not document resources individually. It is recommended that the boundaries be redefined to include only geographically- and historically-associated parcels upon completion of GIS mapping, and that Canal-related resources be documented on an individual level.

Billerica: The segment of the Middlesex Canal in Billerica was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. This nomination set arbitrary, wide boundaries and did not document resources individually. It is recommended that the boundaries be redefined to include only geographically- and historically-associated parcels upon completion of GIS mapping, and that Canal-related resources be documented on an individual level.

Chelmsford: The segment of the Middlesex Canal in Chelmsford was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. This nomination set arbitrary, wide boundaries and did not document resources individually. It is recommended that the boundaries be redefined to include only geographically- and historically-associated parcels upon completion of GIS mapping, and that Canal-related resources be documented on an individual level. The existing National Register nomination should be amended to include one discontiguous resource, the Merrimack River Locks Canal Toll House (MHC CLM.2), moved from Lowell to the Chelmsford Town Common.

Lowell: The segment of the Middlesex Canal in Lowell was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. This nomination set arbitrary, wide boundaries and did not document resources individually. It is recommended that the boundaries be redefined to include only geographically- and historically-associated parcels upon completion of GIS mapping, and that Canal-related resources be documented on an individual level.



Middlesex Canal Bibliography


Published Sources

1813 Remarks on the Importance of Inland Navigation from Boston by the Middlesex Canal and Merrimack River. Boston, MA.

1860 Statement to the Public in Reference to the Act of the Legislature to Remove the Dam Across the Concord River at Billerica. Stone & Huse Book Printers.

1877 Official Reports of the Canal Commissioners of the State of New York. New York, NY.

1885 A Sketch of the Life and Works of Loammi Baldwin, Civil Engineer. Boston, MA.

American Society of Civil Engineers
1972 Biographical Dictionary of American Civil Engineers. Committee on History and Heritage of American Civil Engineering, A.S.C.E., New York, NY.

Amory, T. C.
1859 Life of James Sullivan: with Selections from his Writings. Boston, MA.

Baldwin, Charles C.
1881 The Baldwin Genealogy from 1500 to 1881. Cleveland, OH.

Baldwin, George R.
1860 Report on Supplying the City of Charlestown with Pure Water: Made for the City Council by Order of Hon. James Dana, Mayor of Charlestown, by George R- Baldwin and Charles L. Stevenson, Civil Engineers. Boston, MA.

Baldwin, Loammi
1834 Report on the Subject of Introducing Pure Water into the City of Boston. Boston, MA.

Barry, John Stetson.
1855 The History of Massachusetts. 3 Vols. Boston, MA.

Beers, F. W.
1875 County Atlas of Middlesex, Massachusetts. New York, NY.

Brooks, Charles.
1855 History of the Town of Medford, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from Its First Settlement, in 1630, to the Present Time. Boston, MA.

Cadbury, George and Dibbs, Sealey P.
1929 Canals and Inland Waterways. New York, NY.

Chapman, Henry S.
1936 History of Winchester, Massachusetts. Winchester, MA.

Clarke, Mary Stetson
1971 Guide to the Middlesex Canal, 1793-1853. The Middlesex Canal Association

1974 The Old Middlesex Canal. Center for Canal History and Technology, Easton, PA.

Coolidge, John
n.d. Mill and Mansion: Architecture and Society in Lowell, Massachusetts 1820-1865. The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA.

Davis J. S.
1917 Essays in the Earlier History of American Corporations. 2 Vols., Cambridge, MA.

Drake, S. A.
1899 Historic Mansions and Highways around Boston. Boston, MA.

1880 History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts. 2 Vols.,Boston, MA.

Eddy, Caleb
1843 Historical Sketch of the Middlesex Canal with Remarks for the Consideration of the Proprietors. Samuel N. Dickinson, Boston, MA.

Ellis, G. E.
1871 Memoir of Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, with Notices to His Daughter. Boston, MA.

Eno, Arthur L., Jr., ed.
1976 Cotton Was King: A History of Lowell, Massachusetts. New Hampshire Publishing Company in collaboration with the Lowell Historical Society, Lowell, MA.

Farmer, John
1816 Historical Memoir of Billerica. Amherst, NH.

Frederick, John H.
1932 Development of American Commerce. New York, NY.

Fulton, Robert
1796 Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation. London, England.

Gallatin, Albert.
1808 Report of-the Secretary of the Treasury, on the Subject of Public Roads and Canals. Washington, DC.

Goodrich, Carter.
1961 Canals and American Economic Development. New York, NY.

Gould, L. S.
1905 Ancient Middlesex, with Brief Biographical Sketches of the Men Who Have Served the County Officially since Its Settlement. Somerville, MA.

Hadfield, Charles
1969 The Canal Age. New York, NY.

1971 Canal Enthusiasts' Handbook. Newton, MA..

Hale, Edward Everett
1893 A New England Boyhood. New York, NY.

Harlow, Alvin F.
1964 Old Towpaths. New York, NY 1926; New Edition, Kennikat Press Inc., Port Washington, NY.

Hart, A. B., Ed.
1927 Commonwealth History of Massachusetts, Vol. IV. New York, NY.

Hazen, H. A.
1883 History of Billerica. Boston, MA.

Holmes, Cary W.
1975 The Middlesex Canal and the Coming of the Railroad 1792-1853: Towpaths to Oblivion. Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Boston, MA.

Hoxie, Wilbar M., P.E.
1967 Precis in Partial Justification for Recommending the Middlesex Canal 1793-1853 as an Historic Landmark of American Civil Engineering under the History and Heritage Program of the American Society of Civil Engineering.

Hurd, D. H., Ed.
1890 History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of' Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, 3 Vols. Philadelphia, PA.

Jennings, W. W.
1926 A History of Economic Progress in the United States. New York, NY.

Lawrence, Lewis M.
1942 The Middlesex Canal. Middlesex Canal Association, Boston, MA.

Locher, Harry 0., Ed.
1963 Waterways of the United States. New York, NY.

Massachusetts, Commonwealth of
1965 Report of the Water Resources Commission Relative to the Public Water Supply Resources of the Ipswich River. Wright & Potter Printing Co., Boston, MA.

Meyer, B. H., Ed.
1917 History of Transportation in the United States before 1860. Washington, DC.

Middlesex Canal Association,
1967 The Middlesex Canal 1793-1859. pamphlet, Billerica, MA.

Morison, Samuel Eliot.
1921 The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860. Boston, MA.

Munro, Melville Smith.
1932 The Old Middlesex Canal in 1932, 3 Vol.

Payne, Pierre Stephen Robert
1959 The Canal Builders: The Story of Canal Engineers Through the Ages. New York, NY.

Peters, Wayne R.
1984 This Enchanted Land: Middlesex Village. Martin Publishing Co., Lowell, MA.

Poor, Henry V.
1860 History of the Railroads and Canals of the United States. New York, NY.

Preble, G. A.
1883 A Chronological History of the Origin and Development of Steam Navigation. Philadelphia, PA.

Roberts, Christopher
1938 The Middlesex Canal, 1793–1860. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Seaburg, Carl and Alan, and Thomas Dahill
1997 The Incredible Ditch, A Bicentennial History of the Middlesex Canal. The Anne Miniver Press, for the Medford Historical Society, Medford, MA.

Secor, J.
1817 Treatise on Internal Navigation: The Report of Albert Gallatin on Roads and Canal. U.F. Doubleday, Ballston Spa, NY.

Sewall, Samuel
1868 The History of Woburn, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Boston, MA.

Sherbourne, R. P.
1888 What Has Been: A Sketch of the Old Middlesex Canal. pamphlet, Woburn Public Library, Woburn, MA.

Smiles, Samuel
1868 Lives of the Engineers, 4 Vols. London, England.

Stuart, C. B
1871 Lives and Works of Civil and Military Engineers of America. New York, NY.

Sullivan, John Langdon
1818 Letters First Published in the Boston Daily Advertiser. Boston, MA.

Tanner, H. W.
1840 A Description of the Canals and Rail Roads of the United States, Comprehending Notices of All the Works of Internal Improvement throughout the Several States. New York, NY.

Thoreau, Henry David
1849 A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. 1849. Reprint The Concord and the Merrimack. Dudley C. Lunt, ed., Bramhall, New York, NY.

Town of Billerica
1855 Celebration of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Incorporation of Billerica, Massachusetts, May 29th, 1855. Lowell, MA.

Vose, George L.
1885 Notes on Early Transportation in Massachusetts. New York, NY.

Waters, Wilson
1917 History of Chelmsford. Lowell, MA.

Weston, William
1799 Report on the Practicability of Introducing the Water of the River Bronx into the City of New York. New York, NY.

Winthrop, James
1838 "Biographical Memoir of the Honorable James Sullivan, Esq." Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 1, Second Series, Boston, MA.

Unpublished Sources

Adams, Charles Francis.
n.d. "A Paper on the Middlesex Canal." M/CFA/21, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 315.

Adams, George R.
1977 Lowell Locks and Canals Historic District National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. On file at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

n.d. The Old Middlesex Canal: A Story in Pictures, 1932. 2 Vol. Scrapbooks with photographs. Archives, Wessell Library, Tufts University, Medford, MA.

n.d. Badger and Porter's Stage Register. Boston, MA.

Baldwin Family
n.d. Vertical files and manuscripts relating to the Middlesex Canal. On file at Harvard University, Baker Business Library Historical Collections, Cambridge, MA.

Baldwin, Loammi, et al.
1793 Press Report of a Preliminary Route Survey of the Middlesex Canal. On file at the Mogan Cultural Center, Lowell, MA

Condon, Henry S.
1985 The Former Middlesex Canal and the Medford Branch Canal in Medford, Middlesex County, MA 1793-1853. Unpublished manuscript on file at the Middlesex Canal Commission, Winchester, MA.

Elia, Ricardo J. and Nancy S. Seasholes
1990 Phase II Archaeological Investigation of a Section of the Middlesex Canal in Wilmington, Massachusetts. Office of the Public Archaeology, Boston University, Boston, MA.

Fitch, Virginia A., Mary E. Myer, and Dr. Charles E. Stearns
1983 Billerica Mills Historic District National Register of Historic Places Nomination. On file at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

Fitzsimmons, Neal
1966 The Old Middlesex Canal: Civil Engineering Landmark. Kensington, MD.

Franceschi, Michael
1971 Middlesex Canal – Shawsheen Aqueduct National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. On file at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

Hagopian, Roger
1996 Middlesex Canal Access Charts. The Middlesex Canal Association.

Hale, Richard W.
1972 Middlesex Canal National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. On file at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

Harvard University
1800 Class Book of Harvard, Class of 1800, "Loammi Baldwin" (11). Cambridge, MA.

Industrial Archaeology Associates
1980 Middlesex Canal Survey. Report on file at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

Joy, Thomas and Gretchen Sanders Joy
1991 Early Canal Transportation: The Boats of the Middlesex Canal. Exhibit at the Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center, University of Lowell, Center for Lowell History, Lowell, MA.

Lawrence III, William A.
n.d. The Middlesex Canal: A Technological Triumph, a Business Enterprise, and a Financial Fiasco.

Massachusetts Historical Commission
1980 MHC Reconnaissance Survey Report, Town of Billerica, MA. Original report on file at Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

1980 MHC Reconnaissance Survey Report, Town of Charlestown, MA. Original report on file at Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

1980 MHC Reconnaissance Survey Report, Town of Chelmsford, MA. Original report on file at Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

1980 MHC Reconnaissance Survey Report, Town of Lowell, MA. Original report on file at Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

1980 MHC Reconnaissance Survey Report, Town of Medford, MA. Original report on file at Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

1980 MHC Reconnaissance Survey Report, Town of Somerville, MA. Original report on file at Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

1980 MHC Reconnaissance Survey Report, Town of Woburn, MA. Original report on file at Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

1981 MHC Reconnaissance Survey Report, Town of Wilmington, MA. Original report on file at Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

1981 MHC Reconnaissance Survey Report, Town of Winchester, MA. Original report on file at Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

McCormick, Patrick A.
n.d. The Rise and Decline of the Middlesex Canal. North Billerica, MA.

Metropolitan Area Planning Council
1979 "Renewal Plans Inject Life Into Century-Old Canal." Metropolitan Area Planning Commission Regional Report, February, p.1.

1980 Middlesex Canal Heritage Park Feasibility Study. Prepared for the Middlesex Canal Commission.

Middlesex Canal Association
1793-1859 Records of the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal. On file at the Mogan Cultural Center/ Center for Lowell History, Lowell, MA.

Molloy, Peter M.
1976 Middlesex Canal Dam and Locks HAER Inventory Card.

Pearsall, Paul P.
1982 Middlesex Village Grand Reunion: A Historic Report on Middlesex Village. Lowell, MA, 12 September.

Rawson, Michael J.
n.d. Imprints of the Past: The Brooks Estate in Medford, Massachusetts.

Silver, Ruth
n.d. "The Middlesex Canal." manuscript, Woburn Public Library, Woburn, MA.

Smith, Tom
1984 Baldwin Mansion History. The Middlesex Canal Association.

Strauss, Alan E. and Lauren J. Cook
1998 Archaeological Reconnaissance Survey of the Cummingsville Branch Replacement Sewer Project, MWRA Contract NO. 6092. Boston Affiliates, Inc, Boston, MA.

Sullivan, John L.
1821 Public Documents Relating to the New York Canal. Part of Report Regarding the New York Canal Commission.

VerPlanck, Burt
1996 Middlesex Canal Guide and Maps. Middlesex Canal Association.

Weible, Robert and Betsy Bahr
n.d. Lowell National Historical Park Historic Resource Study. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell, MA.


1998 "Commission Seeking Support for Restoring Part of Middlesex Canal." The Sun, 5 February.

1897 "The Old Middlesex Canal." Boston Sunday Herald, 26 September.

1900 "Charming Boulevard in the Valley of the Mystic." Boston Globe, 17 March.

1909 " Only Living Ex-Locktender of the Old Middlesex Canal." Boston Journal, 22 August.

1911 "Old Landmark Gone: Destruction of the Granite Arch Bridge Over the Middlesex Canal Is Regretted on Account of Its History and Beauty." Medford Mercury, 25 August.

1933 "Granite Arch Destroyed." Medford Daily Mercury, 1 May.

1941 "The Middlesex Canal." Boston Traveler, 11 November.

1955 "Mementos of Famed Middlesex Canal Are Still Visible." Medford Daily Mercury, 14 June.

1962 "New Fire-Police Bldg. Rising on Part of Old Middlesex Canal: Branch of Waterway Served Wagon Factory." Medford Mercury, 22 August.

1962 "New Englanders Aim to Restore Part of the Old Middlesex Canal." Christian Science Monitor, 27 November.

1967 "The Middlesex Canal." Boston Sunday Herald, 8 January.

1971 "The Middlesex Canal, 1793-1853." Vol. 6, No. 1, March.

1980 "Henry Condon is a Professional "Canal Sleuth"." Medford Daily Mercury, 3 September.

1983 "Walk the Historic Middlesex Canal." 19 October.

1988 "Plaque Notes Path of Middlesex Canal." Medford Daily Mercury, 1 February.

Atkinson, Roy
1967 "Middlesex Canal Trip a Test of Endurance." Boston Sunday Herald, 8 January.

Britton, Sharon
1995 "Middlesex Canal’s History Still Runs Deep in Woburn." The Boston Globe, 23 April.

Condon, Henry
1980 "The Middlesex Canal." Medford Mercury, 3 September.

Dame, Lorin
1962 [2–part article on Middlesex Canal]. Royal House Reporter, April and July.

1998 [article on Middlesex Canal]. Medford Historical Register, April.

Doyle, Laura
1995 "Chelmsford Toll House Gets New Life." The Sun, 3 July.

Hyde, Fred G.
1934 "Old Middlesex Canal Was Empire’s Dream." Lowell Sunday, 30 March.

Ingraham, Alec
1995 "Shawsheen Aqueduct: A Local Landmark." Billerica Minuteman, 13 July.

Laidler, John
1997 "Dream of Canal Restoration Nears Reality." The Boston Globe, 17 August.

1998 "New Grant Boosts Canal Project." The Boston Sunday Globe, 25 January.

Lovering, Frank W.
1966 "Middlesex Canal Called 'Highway of Waters'." Lewiston Journal Magazine Section, 8 January.

Mahoney, Joan
1972 "The Incredible Ditch." The Boston Sunday Globe, 23 April:10-16.

Ristino, Kristen
1995 "The Canal That Once Was King." Lowell Sunday, 2 November.

Periodicals and Journals

1909 "A Pioneer Railroad and How It Was Built." Medford Historical Register,12 July.

1909 "Wood's Dam and the Mill beyond the Mystic." Medford Historical Register, 12 January .

1920 "Medford Branch Canal." The Medford Historical Register, 23(2):24-31.

1926 "Memorial Service to Hon. Samuel P. Hadley, Late President of the Society." Contributions of the Lowell Historical Society, Vol. 11, No. 3,

Baldwin, Loammi
1785 "An Account of a Very Curious Appearance of the Electrical Fluid Produced by Raising an Electrical Kite in the Time of a Thunder Shower." Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1.

Colonial Society of Massachusetts
1905 Publications, Vol. V11. Cambridge, MA.

Dame, Lorin L.
1884 "The Middlesex Canal." The Bay State Monthly, November, Vol. II, No. II.

Dickson, Brenton H.
1968 "Comparison of the Blackstone and Middlesex Canals." Old-Time New England, Bulletin of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Vol. 58, No. 4, April-June.

Durivage, Francis A.
1855 "The Middlesex Canal." Ballou's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion, 15 September.

Edes, Henry Herbert
1905 "An Excursion on the Middlesex Canal in 1817." The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Vol. VII.

Fitzsimons, Neal.
1967 "William Weston: The Seven American Years." Civil Engineering-ASCE, October.
1967 "The Old Middlesex Canal: Civil Engineering Landmark." Civil Engineering-ASCE, August.

Hadley, Samuel P.
1911 "Boyhood, Reminiscences of Middlesex Village." Contributions of the Lowell Historical. Society, Vol. 1, No. 2.

Hill, Mabel
n.d. "The Old Middlesex Canal." Lowell Book.

Hopkins, Arthur T.
1898 "The Old Middlesex Canal." The New England Magazine, January, Vol. XVII, No. 5.

Mann, Moses Witcher.
n.d. "The Middlesex Canal: An Eighteenth Century Enterprise." Medford Historical Register, Vol. VII.

Middlesex Canal Association
n.d. Towpath Topics. Middlesex Canal Association.

Middlesex Canal Corporation
1830 "Regulations Relative to the Navigation of the Middlesex Canal." Mechanicks Magazine.

Pressey, Park.
1956 "Old New England Canals." Old-Time New England, S.P.N.E.A. Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 4, Serial No. 164.

Proctor, Thomas C.
1984 "The Middlesex Canal: Prototype for American Canal Building." Canal History and Technology Proceedings 7:125-174.

Stark, George
1886 "Navigation of the Merrimack River." Old Residents Historical Association, 111.

Maps and Atlases

The American Society of Civil Engineers
1967 Middlesex Canal, 1793-1853. Middlesex Canal Association.

1868 City of Charlestown. Published by Sampson, Davenport & Co.

1898 Middlesex Canal within the Limits of Medford. From the original plan of George R. Baldwin.

1795 Field Survey Book. Collection of the Baker Business Library Archives, Boston, MA.

1829 Field Survey Book. Collection of the Baker Business Library Archives, Boston, MA.

Baldwin, George
1829 Plans of the Middlesex Canal. Located at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

1830 Profile of the Middlesex Canal.

Baldwin, James
1829 Middlesex Canal Survey Map. Copy located at Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

1836 A Plan and Profile of the Boston and Lowell Railroad (and the Middlesex Canal). Boston, MA.

Baldwin, Loammi
1880 Sections of the Middlesex Canal.

Condon, Henry S.
1980 Map of Medford Massachusetts Showing the Former Middlesex Canal 1793-1853. Published in Medford Daily Mercury 3 September.

Eddy, R.H.
1844 Plan of Horn Pound Estate, Woburn, October 15.

Hadley, Judge
1911 Map of Middlesex Village. Copied by Leon Cutler, 1931.

Middlesex Canal Association
Middlesex Canal Maps. Various dates.

Middlesex Registry of Deeds.
1840 Plan of Canal from Middlesex Registry of Deeds. Plan Book 20, Plan 2.

Works Progress Administration
1934 Tracing of the Middlesex Canal Route. Located at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Boston, MA.

MHC – Massachusetts Historical Commission
MCA – Middlesex Canal Association
MCC – Middlesex Canal Commission
PJMCC – Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center/ Center for Lowell History

Material on the Middlesex Canal is located in the following collections:

Records of the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal. In custody of the Middlesex Canal Association at the Lowell Technological Institute, Lowell, MA

Archives of the Middlesex Canal Association. On deposit at the Lowell Technological Institute, Lowell, MA

Baldwin Papers. Manuscript Division of the Baker Library, Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, Boston, MA

Baldwin Papers, Clement Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Baldwin Papers, Essex Institute, Salem, MA

Frothingharn Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA

Lowell Historical Society Collection, Lowell Technological Institute, Lowell, MA

Massachusetts Archives, State House, Boston, MA

American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA

Billerica Historical Society, Billerica, MA

Boston Athenaeum, Boston, MA

Bostonian Society, Old State House, Boston, MA

Boston Public Library, Boston, MA

Boston University Libraries, Boston, MA

Chelmsford Historical Society, Chelmsford, MA

Harvard University Libraries, Cambridge, MA

Lowell Historical Society, Lowell, MA

Lowell Public Library, Lowell, MA

Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA

Massachusetts State Library, Boston, MA

Rumford Historical Association, North Woburn, MA

Tufts University Library, Medford, MA

Woburn Public Library, Woburn, MA

The Library of Loammi Baldwin is in the Rare Book Collection of the Humanities Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA



Index of Surveyed Properties



Middlesex Canal Narrative History

Formation of the Middlesex Canal

The Middlesex Canal, completed in 1803, is significant as a major Federal Period (1775–1830) internal transportation improvement and an outstanding engineering accomplishment of the early nineteenth century.

Operating 27.25 miles between Boston and Lowell for almost 50 years, it was the second major transportation canal to open in Massachusetts after the 1795 South Hadley Canal. Following the Revolutionary War and the subsequent freedom from Britain’s restrictive trade laws, America’s shipping business began to increase. As a result American merchants, businessmen, and farmers began to search for more efficient means of distributing their products and transporting them to the country’s increasingly busy ports (Clarke 1974:11). While overland travel was the most obvious possibility, the current state of roads was not conducive to the inexpensive and fast transport of large cargoes. In contrast, canals were considered to be a cheap and efficient means of distributing goods because their effectiveness had been clearly proven in England by such works as James Brindley’s Worsely-Manchester Canal (1759-1761), the Forth and Clyde Canals of John Smeaton, and the Ellesmere and Caledonian Canals of Thomas Telford (Clarke 1974:13). In 1793, inspired by the success of these European canal systems, a group of canal visionaries including Massachusetts Attorney General James Sullivan and native engineer Loammi Baldwin incorporated as the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal in an act signed by Governor John Hancock of Massachusetts.

The Canal was a financial business venture developed by regional entrepreneurs as a solution to costly and difficult overland transportation that hampered trade in the north-south axis between Boston and the Merrimack River Valley. The principal actors in the new Corporation were James Sullivan and Loammi Baldwin. Sullivan was born in Berwick, Maine, on April 22, 1744, and in 1790 he became the attorney general for Massachusetts. In 1797 he ran unsuccessfully for governor of Massachusetts and then ran again successfully in 1807 (Proctor 1988:139). At the time of the Middlesex Canal’s incorporation, Sullivan was one of the wealthiest and most prominent lawyers in the state. Loammi Baldwin, in contrast to Sullivan, had been born to a family of meager income and had managed to establish his reputation as a colonel in the Revolutionary War and as a local politician. Born in Woburn, Massachusetts, on January 10, 1744 Baldwin trained as a craftsman, but as a young man began attending classes at Harvard taught by John Winthrop on such topics as pumps, hydraulics, pneumatics, and hydrostatics. During the Revolutionary War, Baldwin served as a military engineer and attained the rank of colonel before being honorably discharged due to ill-health (Clarke 1974:19). In 1780 Baldwin was appointed sheriff of Middlesex County, and served as a state legislator in 1778, 1780, and 1800-1804 (Lawrence 1942:2). In 1785 he was awarded an honorary degree from Harvard College (Clarke 1974:19).

James Sullivan is recognized as being the original creator of the Middlesex Canal and the primary motivator behind the push for legislative incorporation, a process which took almost a year to complete (Lawrence 1942:2). The first petition to the state legislature, put forth on November 6, 1792, was not accepted as insufficient funds were raised by the hopeful petitioners. The second petition, submitted in May, 1793, was accepted and signed by Governor John Hancock on June 22. This act incorporated Sullivan, Baldwin, Jonathan Porter, Ebenezer Hall, Samuel Swan, and four Bostonians, as well as four members of the Hall family from Medford as the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal. The act granted the Corporation the right of eminent domain, gave them the option of appointing additional officers, established a 5.5 cents per ton toll rate, and stipulated that the project must be completed within ten years. The first board of directors was selected on October 7, 1793 and included the following men: Loammi Baldwin, Thomas Russell (merchant, Boston), Joseph Barrell (Charlestown), Andrew Craigie (Cambridge), John Brooks (Medford), Ebenezer Hall, Jonathan Porter (both yeoman farmers from Medford) , Ebenezer Storer, Caleb Swan (yeoman farmer, Charlestown) , and Samuel Jacques (yeoman farmer, Wilmington). James Sullivan was appointed President of the Middlesex Canal Corporation, while Baldwin and Brooks were named vice-presidents. The importance of these men within the state of Massachusetts is well demonstrated by the fact that three of the board members, Sullivan, Brooks and Christopher Gore, later became Governor of Massachusetts (Clarke 1974:21). Additionally, other famous Massachusetts men were shareholders of the Middlesex Canal Corporation: Josiah Quincy, president of Harvard University, and John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, both of whom served as President of the United States (Clarke 1974:22). A legislative act of February 28, 1795 authorized the extension of the future Canal from Medford to the Charles River, and also allowed for the sale of 800 shares, with 200 additional shares reserved for future sale (Proctor 1988:143).

The Canal Corporation was formed in order to construct a canal to link the Merrimack River with the Charles River, thereby connecting the raw material resources of the Merrimack River Valley with the commercial and industrial markets of Boston. The idea of a canal came primarily from England where its success as a means of transportation had been well-demonstrated. In fact, canal building in England reached its peak in 1793 when the English parliament looked at 36 acts for the construction and incorporation of canals (Proctor 1988:136). The overwhelming acceptance of canals in England seemed to provide the board of directors of the Middlesex Canal Corporation with clear proof that their venture, though subject to the variable conditions of the weather, would be able to easily compete with, and surpass the traditional forms of overland transportation.

Canal Survey and Construction

The first survey of the possible route of the Canal was undertaken in August of 1793 by Loammi Baldwin, Samuel Thompson, Baldwin’s son Benjamin Franklin Baldwin, and James Winthrop. This survey was intended to measure the crucial levels in the ascent between the Mystic and Merrimack rivers. At this time, however, there was no established civil engineering profession in America, and this first route survey was inaccurate, with a degree of error of 140 vertical feet over 26 miles, due to inadequate equipment and inexperience. A second survey was conducted in the summer of 1794 with the help of William Weston, an Englishman familiar with the construction of canals, and it was during the completion of this survey that the first accurate Wye level and rod with magnetic needle was introduced to America, an instrument which Baldwin later had reproduced for his own use on the construction of the Canal (Clarke 1974:28). After the failure of the first survey, Baldwin was sent to Philadelphia and the Capitol to recruit a competent surveyor and construction advisor, as well as to visit and inspect as many other canals as he was able. In Philadelphia Baldwin met Weston, who was then working on several projects in Pennsylvania, and was able to eventually lure him to Boston. Weston spent nine days surveying the Canal route; he submitted his final report on the 2nd of August, 1794 (Lawrence 1942:12). For his work, Weston charged the Middlesex Canal Corporation $2,107.93, an exorbitant sum which the Corporation nevertheless paid. However, learning from their expensive experience with Weston, the board rejected the possibility of any further foreign advice and on October 1, 1794, appointed Loammi Baldwin the Superintendent of Construction, a position which he held until 1805 (Proctor 1988:146).

In his final report Weston actually proposed two possible routes for the Canal, an eastern one which would have passed through the towns of Stoneham and Reading and which Weston supported, and a western one passing through Woburn and Wilmington. However, the decision of which route to use was primarily forced by the inhabitants’ of the towns of Stoneham and Reading who were strongly set against having the Canal run through their towns. The inhabitants dislike of the Canal was prompted by a fear that the increased flow of trade would urbanize and industrialize their towns. In contrast to the battle which the inhabitants of Stoneham and Reading waged against the construction of the Canal, the inhabitants of many of the towns along the western route actually encouraged the construction of the Canal through their towns as a means of increasing business and commerce (Proctor 1988:146). Once the route was adopted, the next step before construction could begin was for the Corporation to begin purchasing the land through which the Canal would travel. Ultimately, 142 separate pieces of property were connected to form the path of the Canal, and most of these were sold to the Canal Corporation at reasonable prices. However, in 16 cases the Corporation had to resort to their power of eminent domain in order to seize the land from property owners who feared that the Canal’s presence on their property would adversely affect its value (Clarke 1974:33).

Actual construction of the Canal began on September 10, 1794 when Baldwin, Samuel Jacques, and John Winthrop commenced the groundbreaking ceremony, which took place on the western shore of the Billerica Mill Pond adjacent to the Concord River (Proctor 1988:147). The construction of the Canal provided Loammi Baldwin with the opportunity to truly employ his creative and engineering talent, for in building the 27.5 mile-long Canal Baldwin was faced with many obstacles unforeseen by the American engineer. One of the primary obstacles to Baldwin’s efforts were the directors themselves, who questioned many of his decisions in an effort to minimize costs. One particular example of this is the flight of triple stone locks at the junction between the Canal and the Merrimack River constructed in Lowell. The directors of the Canal Corporation asked that Baldwin construct this set of locks out of wood, but Baldwin argued that the force of the waters converging here would be too great, and that consequently stone locks were needed. In the end, Loammi’s concerns won out, and in September 1795, construction began on the set of three stone locks (Proctor 1988:150).

The construction of the Canal was primarily undertaken by the farmers and landowners whose property the Canal crossed and who performed the work using primitive hand tools and animal power. The landowners were contracted to complete certain segments and were paid according to the length of their excavation and the type of ground which they had to remove (Clarke 1974:34). In addition to the work of small property owners, construction on other parts of the Canal was undertaken by several principal New England contractors (Clarke 1974:36). The final designs called for a trench which was 20 feet wide at the bottom, and widened to 30.5 feet at the waterline, and in addition to the Canal itself, the workers also had to construct a 10 foot wide towpath which lay to the east, and a 5 foot wide berm which was situated on the western bank. The digging of the Canal began at several places and work continued from these diverse points until all the parts were connected. This system of construction and excavation was successful enough that by December 1, 1795 Baldwin announced that they were ready to let water into the first completed segment of the Canal, a portion about 2.5 miles long adjacent to the Billerica Mill Pond (Proctor 1988:150).

The Canal was designed so that water flowed into it from the Concord River at its highest point at Billerica Mill Pond, 107.9 feet above sea level (Clarke 1974:45). However, at several points on the course of the Canal, locks were constructed to enable the water to meet the required changes in height; for example, where the Canal met the Merrimack River in Middlesex Village there was a difference in height of 27 feet, and consequently a set of three stone locks was required to move the barges from the Canal down to the level of the river (Clarke 1974:63). At eighty feet long and ten to eleven feet in width, the locks on the Middlesex Canal were only able to raise or lower one raft or barge at a time. These locks were extremely expensive to build, each requiring about one thousand tons of stone, a material costly to cut and transport. To decrease the cost of the locks, of which a total of 20 were constructed, the board of directors ordered that Baldwin use wood to construct the remaining locks, and though Baldwin strongly objected to this order the directors overrode his objections. From 1799 the locks on the Canal, except those adjacent to rivers, were constructed of wood (Clarke 1974:69).

Throughout the course of construction, Baldwin was often required to develop entirely new methods of canal construction or to adapt established methods, developed primarily by British engineers, to the specific conditions which he faced. One particularly innovative technology which Loammi Baldwin adapted and employed was hydraulic cement, which was used in the construction of the Canal’s locks in emulation of the British manner of canal construction (Proctor 1988:152). Hydraulic cement of considerable strength was necessary to hold together the stones of which the lock chambers were constructed, for without a strong bond connecting the stones, the chamber of the lock was liable to break and fail. Baldwin faced the challenging problem of developing an appropriate hydraulic cement mixture, for the materials which European engineers used to make the substance were not readily available to the American engineer (Clarke 1974:63). However, through a sea captain, one of the directors learned that volcanic ash, similar to the European "trass" which was the crucial ingredient in hydraulic cement, was readily available in the West Indies. A ship was immediately chartered and sent to the West Indies to procure the necessary amount of ash. By August 23, 1796 the ship had returned to Boston with 40 tons of trass (Clarke 1974:65). Baldwin was one of the first Americans to perfect the production and use of hydraulic cement, for through his own experiments he found an optimum mixture of trass, limestone and sand well before such knowledge became available to engineers in John Smeaton’s book Narrative of the Eddystone Lighthouse (1798) with its information on improved methods of mixing cement.

The technique of "puddling" was another aspect of canal construction that Baldwin copied from the English and then modified to suit the particular demands of the Middlesex Canal. "Puddling" is a technique used to waterproof the Canal by applying several layers of clay to the walls of the Canal and then pounding them to compress the clay further. The technique is described by Samuel Smiles in his 1874 book Lives of the Engineers as follows:

"Puddle is formed by a mixture of well-tempered clay and sand reduced to a semi-fluid state, and rendered impervious to water by manual labor, as by working and chopping it about with spades. It is usually applied in three or more strata to a depth of thickness of about three feet: and care is taken at each operation so to work the new layer of puddling stuff as to unite it with the stratum immediately beneath. Over the top course a layer of common soil is usually laid. It is only by the careful employment of puddling that the filtration of the water of canals into the neighboring lower lands through which they pass can be effectually prevented." (Clarke 1974:51)

Weston, the English engineer who had surveyed the Canal and introduced Baldwin to the technique of "puddling", advised that two feet of clay should be applied to the walls in separate layers of six inches each. However, in constructing the Middlesex Canal, Baldwin and the directors realized that Weston’s technique was too expensive and time-consuming and consequently adapted it to their own needs and capabilities (Proctor 1988:152). Baldwin’s new technique consisted of pounding the interior walls of the Canal and then allowing some water into the Canal in order to "season" the banks. After the water had drained Baldwin then applied a layer of clay to seal the walls. While this new technique of "puddling" was not completely successful in preventing leakage, the small amount of water that did leak out was accepted by most neighboring residents as a natural consequence. Furthermore, the unavoidable leaking of the Canal bed was also accepted by the Massachusetts Supreme Court: when several farmers protested against the flooding of their fields and sought payment from the Canal Corporation, the court strongly supported the rights of the Canal proprietors and rejected the farmers’ claim (Proctor 1988:150).

The construction of the Middlesex Canal included, in addition to the excavation of the Canal bed, the establishment of culverts, bridges, and aqueducts where the Canal had to be lifted over other rivers, streams, and lakes. The practice of not allowing the waters of any stream to mix with the waters of the Canal adopted by James Brindley, engineer of England’s first canal, was accepted by Baldwin and consequently many aqueducts and culverts had to be constructed in order to provide a single unobstructed path for the Middlesex Canal. Baldwin’s use of stone for the construction of locks, aqueducts, and bridges required that he pioneer new methods for cutting and moving the large pieces of granite which he required for these structures. The aqueduct over the Shawsheen River in Billerica (BIL.909/HA-2/WMG.900) is a good example of Baldwin’s use of large granite blocks, for the aqueduct which he constructed was built on six abutments with four central piers, all made of stone (Proctor 1988:151). To move the large pieces of stone used in the construction of the piers and abutments Baldwin had to develop an especially strong hoist, using a gin pole and block and tackle. The trough of the Canal, which was made of wood, was supported by the aqueduct 35 feet over the Shawsheen River and crossed a span of 188 feet. A total of eight aqueducts were needed along the length of the Canal. The first to be constructed was over Black Brook in Middlesex Village and was 110 feet long. The Black Brook Aqueduct was supported by stone abutments and wooden piers (Clarke 1974:57).

On November 7, 1797 the first six miles of the Canal, between the Concord and Merrimack rivers, were opened and tested by the directors of the Middlesex Canal Corporation and a group of prominent citizens who all traveled on barges down this section of the Canal. While the directors traveled without problems, the opening of the Canal, which Baldwin had protested, caused a fissure in the one of the locks and a breach in the wall near the Black Brook Aqueduct (Proctor 1988:153); despite these setbacks, Baldwin and the directors remained positive about the Canal’s prospects as a major trade corridor between Boston and the Merrimack River Valley. However, by the end of 1798, only 9.75 miles of the Canal, from the Merrimack River to south of the Concord River and the Billerica Mill Pond , had been completed, and as a result there was increasing tension between the directors and Baldwin (Proctor 1988:154). At one point tensions between Baldwin and the board of directors became so difficult that a search even began for a new superintendent.

The difficulty Baldwin was experiencing in his relationship with the board of directors and the construction of the Canal was further heightened in 1799 when Baldwin’s wife died, and in fact the difficulties between Baldwin and the board continued up until the Canal was finished, for tensions worsened appreciably as the deadline drew near and the Canal’s completion seemed increasingly doubtful. Sullivan, however, remained a constant supporter of Baldwin throughout these conflicts, and continued to be supportive of the Canal and its prospects for being completed on time. In addition to the conflict between Baldwin and the board, the Canal also encountered financial difficulties serious enough to force Sullivan to offer the state 200 shares in return for $50,000 to complete the Canal (Proctor 1988:155). The state did not accept Sullivan’s offer, and instead he was forced to increase the assessments levied on the Canal shares. He also made several particular efforts between 1800 and 1803 to make sure that Canal received favorable publicity and that it was well received by elite of Massachusetts. The Canal was finally completed for travel over its entire length at 2:30 in the morning on December 31, 1803, less than 24 hours before the deadline set almost ten years before by the Massachusetts State Legislature. Total cost for the construction of the Canal amounted to $528,000, of which one-third was for the purchasing of land, and the completed Canal included eight aqueducts, 20 lock chambers, and approximately 50 bridges (Hopkins 1898:145). At the time it was the longest canal in the nation and the most complex and innovative in construction.

The completed Canal served as a transportation corridor for freight and passengers, and when it opened it quickly became the cheapest and most efficient means of transporting goods between the Merrimack River Valley and the busy port of Boston. A horse could pull 25 tons of coal on the Canal as easily as it could one ton of coal on the road, while one team of oxen could tow almost one hundred tons of cargo, an amount that would require eighty teams of oxen on the road (Clarke 1974:71). The clear difference in these numbers demonstrates the immediate attraction which the Canal presented to businessmen in both Boston and the Merrimack River Valley who desired to transport their goods, be they raw materials or finished products, from one point to the other. Barges and rafts brought agricultural products, timber, building stone, and other raw materials and bulk commodities from Merrimack River Valley communities as far north as Concord, New Hampshire, and the Canal towns south to Boston markets. Imported ocean trade products and manufactured goods were moved from Boston to new markets to the north. Both Canal Corporation barges and private craft carried passengers between Boston and Lowell. To aid in the loading and unloading of the Canal barges, the Middlesex Canal Corporation maintained eight official landings at Charlestown, Medford, Woburn, Billerica, and Chelmsford, where goods could be loaded and exchanged.

The operation of the Canal and its use by freight and passenger boats were strictly controlled by a set of regulations established by the proprietors. Passage on the Canal was forbidden at night, and numerous taverns were located at lock and basin sites for the evening accommodation of Canal boatmen and passengers. A maximum speed of four miles per hour was also established as well as a strict hierarchy of boats which determined which boats could pass others and which must allow themselves to be passed. The journey for many of these barges began in Charlestown, Massachusetts at the southern terminus for the Middlesex Canal and the site of its main administrative offices. From Charlestown, the barges and rafts carrying goods and passengers traveled north till they reached Middlesex Village and the Merrimack River.

Operating History

From its opening in 1803 to 1807, under Canal Superintendent John Sullivan, the Canal was not operated well and was slow to demonstrate its potential; the operation of the Canal was hampered by repairs, uncollected tolls, and detained boats (Hopkins 1898:154). However, this did not prevent the proprietors from looking to increase their involvement and soon after the Canal opened, the proprietors bought the entirety of the Charlestown Mill Pond and began to use it as a storage pool for barges and rafts waiting to be towed up to Middlesex Village.

However, the purchase of this property also meant that the barges which came down the Canal from the Merrimack River Valley could now be easily connected to the ships docked at Boston’s port, and the Canal’s productivity increased. To accomplish this end, the Canal Corporation constructed a floating towpath, similar to the one they had first constructed along the easterly side of the Billerica Mill Pond, which enabled the barges to be towed directly to the seaward side of Boston Harbor. After being towed along the edge of the mill pond , the barges would pass through a set of locks down to the Charles River. The barges would then pass along the Charles River by means of a long cable that was weighed down with anchors but served to provide the bargemen with a handhold by which they could tow their craft. On the Boston side of the river the barges entered the Mill Creek Canal which connected directly with Boston’s seaport. To facilitate the business which these barges conducted, the Middlesex Canal Corporation established an office at the river end of the Mill Creek Canal. (Clarke 1974:103)

In 1808 both Loammi Baldwin and James Sullivan died, and though their deaths seemed to portend hard times for the Canal, John Langdon Sullivan, the son of the Governor, immediately took over as the superintendent of the Canal and began to conduct the Canal’s business in a more effective and efficient manner (Hopkins 1898:154). Under Superintendent John L. Sullivan (1808–1820), tolls and other charges were enforced, and repairs were made. John L. Sullivan’s practice was so effective that by 1810 the Corporation’s receipts had risen to $15,000 and by 1816 had reached $32,000, resulting in the first dividends to shareholders in 1819. John L. Sullivan also undertook several ambitious projects to increase the profits of the Canal by expanding its range and the ease of passage for the Canal boats. While the Canal was not an overwhelming financial success during its period of profitability in the 1810s and 1820s, it did serve as a model for more ambitious projects, and a delegation from New York State visited the Canal in 1817 as part of efforts to develop the Erie Canal.

After extending their services south towards Boston and its seaport, the Canal Corporation also began to think of extending the navigable path for Canal boats further northward. To achieve this end John L. Sullivan began a series of projects to make the Merrimack River more easily accessible to the freight barges that would transport the raw materials produced farther north in New Hampshire. To accomplish this goal, Sullivan helped to establish several canals and locks which would allow the barges to circumvent the Merrimack River’s dangerous falls and rapids (Clarke 1974:106). While John L. Sullivan was only the superintendent of the Middlesex Canal, he worked vigorously to encourage the construction of these additional canals. Furthermore, he also acted to purchase shares in these additional canals in the name of the Middlesex Canal Corporation (Clarke 1974:107). John L. Sullivan’s efforts to extend the navigable water corridor between Boston and New Hampshire were effective, and by 1814 a fully navigable route had been established between Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, and Concord, the capital of New Hampshire (Clarke 1974:105).

In 1812 John L. Sullivan became involved in another ambitious project to increase business on the Canal, for in October of that year the first steam powered boats appeared on the Canal under his direction. Sullivan purchased the first steam engine from Philadelphia, but it quickly proved incompatible with the Canal boats as its vibrations shook the boats too much (Clarke 1974:76). Sullivan then introduced a second type of steam engine, this one a rotary steam engine the patent of which he had purchased from Samuel Morey. This type of engine was eventually built in a mill in which Sullivan owned half the interest, and in June of 1819 the steamboat Merrimack was launched on the Canal and used successfully to tow large cargoes of both passengers and goods (Clarke 1974:77). However, the strict regulations limiting the speed of travel on the Canal, designed to prevent the banks from washing out, restricted the usefulness of the steamboat and John L. Sullivan’s steamboats were the only ones to have been used on the Middlesex Canal. John L. Sullivan served as the superintendent of the Canal until 1825, at which time Caleb Eddy became the new superintendent. Under Caleb Eddy (1825–1845), the Canal remained profitable, and the Corporation undertook a major capital rebuilding program in the late 1820s, rebuilding many of the timber locks and wharves with stone.

Middlesex Canal Community Resource Histories

Charlestown was the southern terminus of the Middlesex Canal and was the site of a cluster of significant buildings as well as other Canal resources. In 1803 the Canal proprietors bought the Charlestown Mill Pond as well as its dam and mills, all of which has since been filled. Within the mill pond there were two locks, in the present vicinity of Rutherford Avenue, and Bridge No.1 and a tow path which was later built across the pond. In addition to these features a large wharf, known as Landing No.1, was constructed at the mill pond in 1808 in the vicinity of the present-day Essex Street. A pre-existing two-story building near the landing in Charlestown was made into offices for the collector of the tolls and for the Canal agent. Also near the wharf was a storehouse, moved in from Billerica, which was 80 feet long and 60 feet wide. As the Canal left the pond it passed across Charlestown Neck and under Bridge No. 2 and Bridge No.3. Bridge No.2 was called Adams’ bridge and was rebuilt in 1823 before being moved to a farm in Medford three years after the reconstruction. The third lock in Charlestown was the Malden Road Lock, located near Alford Road. Near this lock was Landing No. 2 and beyond the lock was an accommodation bridge. Between the third and second lock was a dwelling house built in 1825, which also served as a public house for boatmen. At this site a 100 foot long wharf was also built. In 1826, a productive year, Adams’ bridge was moved, the swing bridge over Lock No.1 was rebuilt, the old boat house was turned into a stable for 21 horses, and a breakwater was built in the mill pond. In 1827 a pre-existing house at Main and Canal Streets was turned into a tavern and a stable was constructed on the site. An addition was made to the house in the same year and several were also made to the Bunker Hill tavern in 1828. A year later a brick office was built for the Canal Corporation near the tavern. Built to the Corporation’s specifications, it was 26 feet long, 16 feet wide, and two stories high. Within the building were the lock tender and inspector’s office, the collector’s office, and an area to accommodate boatmen during rainy weather. In the same year another dwelling house was built at the first lock for the lock tender and inspector. The last Canal related structure built in Charlestown was a storehouse/shed erected in 1834 on the wharf (Lawrence 1942:106-108). All above-ground traces of these resources have been obscured by subsequent industrial, transportation, and residential development, and their integrity is unknown.

The Middlesex Canal’s passage through Somerville was dotted with only a few features and structures related to its operation. Heading in a westerly direction after entering Somerville, the Canal passed beneath Bridge No.5. Another bridge, Tuft’s Accommodation Bridge, spanned the Canal just beyond the hill known as Plowed Hill or Mount Benedict, near the present location of Garfield and Kensington streets. The only other features important to the Canal’s operation through Somerville were Lane’s Bridge, a culvert, and a stop gate to prevent water loss when parts of the Canal were emptied for repairs. The Canal ran very close to the Mystic River before it crossed into Medford. The curvature of the Canal, combined with the geographical boundaries of Somerville and Medford placed the route of the Canal briefly in Somerville later along its path. This brief segment of the Canal contained stop gates before the Canal re-entered Medford (Lawrence 1942:108-109). All above-ground traces of these resources have been obscured by subsequent industrial, transportation, and residential development, and their integrity is unknown.

The town of Medford was rich with Canal-related features and structures. Due to its proximity to the Mystic River, Medford was the site of a branch Canal that connected the main Middlesex Canal with the Mystic River and the shipyards of Medford, located at present on Mystic Avenue near Grava Chrysler. Whereas there was only one lock along the Canal in Medford, there were many bridges which spanned the Canal. As the Canal entered Medford, but before it reached the place from where the branch Canal extended, the Canal passed under two accommodation bridges, one called Adams’, and over two culverts, one of brick. The outlet from the main Canal to the Medford Branch Canal was regulated by gates and led to a circular basin. The branch Canal, which required a pair of locks, extended from the basin and fed into the Mystic River. On the main Canal, boats and rafts waiting for passage into the branch Canal were assembled in an area of the main Canal that widened just beyond the basin outlet.

Beyond Medford bridge was Landing No.3 where a warehouse and wharf sat on the south side of the Canal, in the present vicinity of Summer Street south of Walnut Street. Bridge No.9 was named Touro’s Bridge, No.10 was called Tufts’ Bridge, and No.11 was known as Cutler’s Bridge, Teal’s Bridge, or Leonard’s Accommodation Bridge. After passing under Cutler’s Bridge the Canal briefly exited Medford into Somerville before re-entering Medford. At this point was an aqueduct that carried the Canal over the Mystic River, situated where Boston Avenue currently crosses the Mystic. This imposing aqueduct was 135 feet long and 14 feet wide within the wooden trough. The two granite abutments were 100 feet from each other and each of the three piers and two abutments was 20 feet long, 6 feet thick, and 12 feet high. First constructed in 1803, the trough and piers were rebuilt in 1829, and today the Boston Avenue bridge is located on the site. The only lock on the main Canal passing through Medford was immediately north of the aqueduct. Medford, or Gilson’s, Lock had a lift of 8 feet and was rebuilt in 1829. In the immediate vicinity of the lock and aqueduct was Landing No. 4, in the present vicinity of the Boston Avenue and Arlington Street intersection.

The tavern for boatmen passing through Medford was called the Canal House (MDF.397) and served as the lock tender’s house as well. Most taverns related to the Canal were owned by the Corporation and usually rented to the lock tender. He would make income off of the boatmen and their horses who paid for a place to rest, eat, and drink. The bar at these taverns was often the center of night time activity. Facilities for keeping horses were also available at most taverns. Five years after its opening a barn was added and in 1830 the house and related buildings were repaired and enlarged to hold more guests. An extant building, the Canal House is now located at 76 Canal Street. After leaving the Mystic River and its complex of aqueduct, lock, and tavern the Canal traveled beneath Brook’s Accommodation Bridge, Bridge No. 12, and Peter C. Brooks’ Bridge. Mr. Brooks’ Bridge, formerly located on the site of Sagamore park, was built in 1821 and was an expensive, well-crafted, Chelmsford granite, elliptical arched bridge. As the Canal reached the Medford-Winchester line it crossed a wooden culvert and passed a set of stop gates (Lawrence 1942:109-110). Other than the Canal House, all above-ground traces of these resources have been obscured by subsequent industrial, transportation, and residential development, and their integrity is unknown.

Crossing into Winchester, the Canal ran along the area now occupied by the Mystic Valley Parkway, past Medford Pond, and over several brick culverts. The only intact segment of Canal in Winchester passes through the Metropolitan District Commission’s Sandy Beach Reservation, west of the Mystic Valley Parkway. This intact segment includes the remains of a Canal boat basin. The Canal then crossed the Symmes (Aberjona) River on an aqueduct which was 127 feet long and was supported by two stone abutments and three stone piers. This structure was situated at the western end of Mystic Lake, just north of the present overlook. The trough of the Canal was supported thirty feet above the Symmes River. The Symmes Aqueduct was repaired in 1818 and then rebuilt completely in 1828. Unfortunately, the aqueduct was completely destroyed by dynamite when it caused flooding in the winter of 1865. Past the Symmes River Aqueduct, the Canal reached Gardner’s Locks, marking the seven mile point from the landing at Charlestown, and located in the vicinity of the present-day No. 1 Edgewater Place. Gardner’s Locks consisted of a double set which had a total lift of 12.5 feet. The locks, which were originally constructed in 1803, were rebuilt in 1825 and in 1830 a house and barn were erected adjacent to the locks. A little farther north of the locks was a set of stop gates.

Once past the locks, the Canal ran under the site of Huffmeister’s Bridge, No. 14, named after Andrew Huffmaster, an old Hessian soldier captured in the Revolutionary War, and situated at the present intersection of Church and Fletcher streets. The Canal continued past Bridge No. 15, the site of which is not fully determined as it was destroyed in 1819 and not replaced. The Winchester segment of the Canal route includes one extant building, the Kimball Canal Toll House at 3 Middlesex Street (WNT.538) dating from prior to 1803. Past Bridge No. 15 and the eight mile mark, the Canal crossed Horn Pond Brook, the only source of water used by the Canal in addition to the Concord River. After crossing Horn Pond Brook, the Canal arrived at Hollis’s Locks, known also as Stone Lock and Grey’s Lock and placed in the vicinity of the present Canal street and Horn Pond Brook. Originally constructed of wood, Hollis’ Lock was rebuilt in stone circa 1825. A carpenter’s shop was also added to the site that same year (Lawrence 1942:111-113)

Woburn was the site of many taverns related to Canal travel as well as numerous bridges, culverts, and locks. As the Canal entered Woburn from Winchester it soon reached Horn Pond, where much recreational activity took place. Three sets of double locks were employed at Horn Pond to raise and lower the Canal boats a distance of almost fifty feet. The locks, which were originally all constructed from wood, were located along the present stretch of Arlington Road that runs parallel to the northern end of Horn Pond. Between 1828 and 1837 nearly all of the Horn Pond Locks were rebuilt of stone. Culverts, sluiceways, and basins were also incorporated into this process of raising and lowering boats, as well as a large basin which separated the middle set of locks from the other two. This basin was designed to provide the water necessary for the middle lock to operate, but because, as Hopkins writes, "These locks were so near Boston, the journey thither in the packet boat General Sullivan was such a pleasant one, the view of Canal and lake was so picturesque and interesting," the basin became a popular recreation area. At this site also stood two taverns which were run by the lock tender whose name, Stoddard was closely associated with the set of locks (Clarke 1974:74). The first of the taverns near Horn Pond was a small one consisting of a bar room for the boatmen and an open shed for horses. It was situated opposite the upper locks and east of the tow path. Sometime around 1824 a second tavern was constructed opposite the middle locks on the same side of the tow path. Larger than the first, it was further enlarged in 1827. Later still a larger tavern was built just south of the first tavern on Horn Pond. An exception to the general manner in which taverns were built and owned by the Corporation was made as Horn Pond grew into a noted resort area. A private Corporation built a very large and finely appointed tavern that had various outbuildings and other recreation features. The Horn Pond House (WOB.21) at 7 Lakeview Terrace may have been associated with the resort activities at Horn Pond. The Middlesex Canal Corporation also owned an ice house on the north shore of Horn Pond.

After exiting the Horn Pond locks the Canal ran beneath Wyman’s Bridge and crossed two culverts, one of brick and the other of wood. Next the Canal widened into three basins followed by a sluiceway and more stop gates. At 5 Middlesex Street the Canal Corporation built a toll keeper’s house (WOB.22). The Canal then passed below a series of bridges, starting with Wright’s Bridge. It was at this bridge that the Canal was most difficult to navigate. The Canal snaked through a cut 25 feet deep and was only 21 feet wide at Wright’s Bridge, which was followed by a severe curve. From Kilby Street, the site of Wright’s Bridge, to its northern terminus at the Merrimack River in Lowell, the Middlesex Canal is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. After Wright’s Bridge the Canal went under N. Parker’s Accommodation Bridge, Edgell’s Bridge, Baldwin’s Bridge, and Loammi Baldwin’s Accommodation Bridge. Abutments from the Baldwin Accommodation Bridge (WOB-HA-1) are extant, and situated north of the Loammi Baldwin Mansion. South of this bridge was Landing No. 5. Loammi Baldwin’s house, The Loammi Baldwin Mansion (WOB.1) still stands today, at No. 2 Alfred Street, and is situated a short distance from the Canal in what was Newbridge Village. The house was first built by Henry Baldwin, an ancestor of Loammi Baldwin, and was enlarged by Loammi in 1801 or 1802 (Lawrence 1942:28). To the west and north of the Baldwin Mansion was the 1790 House (WOB.12), a structure that was not inhabited but was instead where Loammi Baldwin held many social events. Beyond the 1790 House the Canal passed over a half-culvert before heading under several more bridges. Samuel Thompson, who made the first attempt to survey the land and plan the Canal’s route, lived in a house (WOB.23) west of these bridges which is currently located at No. 31 Elm Street. Interspersed between Nichol’s Bridge, Eaton’s Accommodation Bridge, Buxton’s , or Thompson’s, Accommodation Bridge, Lyman’s Bridge, and Tay’s Bridge were several sluiceways, brick culverts, and stop gates. Before leaving Woburn the Canal passed Kendall’s Tavern and Tay’s Tavern, the latter of which was situated next to Tay’s Bridge in the vicinity of present-day Main Street, north of North Maple Street (Lawrence 1942:113-115).

Across the Wilmington-Woburn line, past a small wooden culvert, was the Ox-Bow curve, a sharp S-turn in the section of the Canal located in the Town Forest near Main Street. The turn was so sharp that the tow ropes crossed over the bank on the opposite side, and the large boulders (WMG-HA-2) on that shore were permanently marked by the many towropes which rubbed against their surface. The Maple Meadow Aqueduct (WMG.902) just north of the Ox-Bow carried the Canal over the Maple Meadow Brook, located in the Wilmington town forest. Supported on two stone abutments 19 feet apart and resting on one stone pier, the aqueduct was rebuilt in 1819 and remains today after further reconstruction by the WPA and CCC during the 1930's. A quarry (WMG-HA-3) is also extant just south of the aqueduct where the Canal Corporation obtained the stone for the aqueduct’s reconstruction (Clarke 1974:173). Before reaching the Ipswich River Aqueduct the Canal passed beneath Butter’s Bridge, widened into two large pools, passed beneath Jacques’ Bridge, and passed by a culvert and sluiceway. The aqueduct across the Ipswich River was approximately 15 feet long and rebuilt in 1826. Abutments from the aqueduct (WMG-HA-4) still survive at its former site on the Ipswich River near the present Main Street.

Four years before the Ipswich River Aqueduct was rebuilt, Gillis’s Lock, a wooden lock northwest of the aqueduct at the present No. 10 Shawsheen Avenue, sometimes called Jacques’ lock, was rebuilt. For the tender of Gillis’s Lock a two-story house (WMG.209) was built in 1808. The Canal Corporation expected the house to also be used as a tavern for travelers along the route. Several bridges crossed the Canal before it reached a third and final aqueduct in Wilmington. Bridges No. 31 and 32 did not have names, but No.33 was known as either Carter’s Accommodation Bridge or Walker’s Bridge. The third aqueduct in Wilmington spanned a small stream known as Lubber’s Brook or Sinking Meadow Brook and was situated northwest of the current intersection between Shawsheen Avenue and route 129. The aqueduct, called Sinking Meadow Aqueduct, was 18 feet long and rebuilt in 1828. Abutments (WMG-HA-5) from the bridge are still extant as is a stretch of Canal to its north, including the basin where the Canal barges waited their turn to cross over the aqueduct. Burnap’s Bridge and Nichols’ Bridge both crossed the Canal before it encountered Nichols’, or Hopkins’ Lock. In the same vicinity was landing No.6 and possibly a tavern maintained by Nichols the lock tender, all located just to the north of the current intersection between Shawsheen Avenue and Nichols Street. Four years after Nichols’ Locks was rebuilt in1821, a 100-foot-long wharf was built at the foot of the lock. Before the Canal passed over the town line into Billerica, it crossed over a small, brick, half-culvert (Lawrence 1942:115-116).

At the town line of Wilmington and Billerica stood the Shawsheen River Aqueduct on what is now Route 129 (BIL.909/HA-2/WMG.900). This structure carried the Canal over the Shawsheen River and was arguably the most imposing structure along the Canal. First built in 1797 of wood, the aqueduct rose 35 feet above the river and spanned 140 feet between the abutments. When the wooden structure was rebuilt in stone during the summer of 1817 traffic was interrupted for six weeks. Some discrepancy exists regarding the dimensions of the rebuilt aqueduct, but the most generous figures assign the structure a length of 187 feet and a height of 30 feet. A third rebuilding was undertaken in 1841-1842 when the structure was shortened to include only one pier. Past the Shawsheen River Aqueduct, the first bridge across the Canal was Kendall’s Bridge, located on the present-day George Brown Street, followed closely by Manning’s Accommodation Bridge, also known as Patten’s Bridge. The smaller Brown’s Foot Bridge, the abutments of which (BIL-HA-36) are extant, spanned the Canal before it crossed Shawsheen Street and passed under Allen’s Bridge. In close proximity to Allen’s Bridge was Allen’s Tavern (BIL.148) which stands now at 286 Salem Road. Richardson’s Bridge, named for the owner of several mills in North Billerica, is the fifth overpass the Canal runs beneath in Billerica. Past Richardson’s Bridge, the Canal passed two sluiceways which still remain, the first leading from Content Brook (BIL-HA-37) and the second leading from Richardson’s Mill (BIL-HA-38), and then flowed under Davis’ Bridge and Tuft’s Bridge before reaching Lincoln’s Lock, located just before the Canal meets the Concord River and at present just south of Roger Street. The lock was first built in 1809 and rebuilt in 1818. After Lincoln’s Lock the Canal was crossed by Roger’s Bridge, which collapsed in 1819 and was rebuilt shortly thereafter.

The Middlesex Canal encountered a serious obstacle further west of Roger’s Bridge at the Billerica Mill Pond, which is still extant, for here there was no existing strip of land to allow the tow animals to cross the river. In response Loammi Baldwin and his workers constructed a floating towpath, a famous innovation which the Corporation also later used to transport their customers across the Charles River at Boston (Clarke 1974:45). The towpath was also designed so that a portion of the structure could be moved to allow river debris to pass through the mill pond . The towpath peninsula is still extant (BIL-HA-39) as well as the dam which blocked the Concord River to create the mill pond and they are presently located on Faulkner Street. Construction of the dam was authorized in 1708, many years prior to the planning of the Canal. The 150-foot-long, 8-foot-high dam was originally made of wood, but in 1828 a stone dam was built to replace the deteriorating wooden one. Waste gates constructed in the dam allowed overflow from the river into the Canal (Clarke 1974:45). A final remnant of the boats that moored in the pond while waiting for their opportunity to enter the locks still stands on the northern edge of the mill pond in the form of a mooring stone with an iron ring (BIL-HA-40).

Also at the mill pond, but not extant, was Landing No. 7. Usually comprised of a wharf and warehouses or other storage sheds, landings were meant to be the only places along the Canal’s route where items were allowed to be transferred between land and boats. A Corporation employee tended the landing site. Parts of the locks which allowed the Canal barges to be raised to the level of the mill pond still remain (BIL-HA-9, HAER) as does Mear’s Tavern (BIL.94), a popular watering hole for passengers waiting for their boat to enter the locks, which is currently situated at 12 Elm Street (Clarke 1974:45). The Talbot Mill now stands on this site, and the mill later used the defunct Canal as part of its water power system (Hopkins 1898:146).

Once beyond the mill pond the Canal ran beneath Canal Bridge, also called Lund’s Bridge, and just beyond that a new lock was built in 1837. This lock, often called the Red Lock, was particularly important as it connected the Canal with the Concord River so that boats could travel directly to Lowell via the river. The Red Lock basin retaining wall (BIL-HA-41) is an extant feature of the lock, which was located just northwest of the current intersection between Lowell and Faulkner streets. Past the Red Lock, the Canal was crossed by Farmer’s Bridge and then by Sprague’s, or Livingston’s, Bridge which was located at the site of the current intersection of Boston Road and Lowell Street. In between these two bridges was a stone culvert (BIL-HA-42) the ruins of which are still visible on Lowell Street. Once across this stone culvert and past Sprague’s Bridge the Canal flowed along its course across the town line and into Chelmsford (Lawrence 1942:116-120)

As the political boundaries that defined the town of Chelmsford shifted frequently in the nineteenth century, certain features that were once in Chelmsford are now geographically in Lowell. There are few structures and features that existed within the current boundaries of Chelmsford. Upon entering Chelmsford the Canal passed a sluiceway and two culverts, one of brick and one of wood. The first of two bridges in Chelmsford crossed the Canal shortly after the second culvert. After passing under Manning’s Bridge, which was located at the present-day Riverneck Road, the Canal was carried over River Meadow Brook, also called Hale’s Brook or Mill Brook. The first aqueduct at the site was built in the late eighteenth century, but was rebuilt in 1808 due to inadequate foundations. The trunk of the aqueduct was wood and ran 40 feet on stone piers. In 1819 repairs were made to the structure and in 1831 the entire aqueduct was rebuilt. (Today the site of the aqueduct is found within Lowell’s political boundaries.) The final Canal feature of Chelmsford, which was situated right as the Canal brushes the corner of what is currently Lowell, was the Long Causeway, or Long Causey, Bridge. The bridge was originally of wood, but it was rebuilt in 1825 and stone was used for the new abutments and towpath.

The only building in Chelmsford related to Canal activity is an original toll house (CLM.2) for the Middlesex Canal. Originally located at the Merrimack River locks in Lowell, the house was moved to its current site at Chelmsford Center from its original site at Middlesex Village, now part of Lowell (Lawrence 1942:120).

The northern end of the Middlesex Canal was located in Middlesex Village where the Canal was joined to the Merrimack River. In addition to the business brought by the Canal, Middlesex Village was a busy commercial and industrial center in its own right. As the northern termini of the Middlesex Canal, Lowell was the site of several features and structures crucial to the Canal’s operation. Before reaching a cluster of important administrative and operations buildings, the Canal encountered culverts, an aqueduct, and some bridges. Near the Canal’s entrance into Middlesex Village it encountered a sluiceway and a wooden culvert before it passed beneath the Glass House Bridge. After passing another culvert the Canal was carried over Black Brook by way of an aqueduct which first dates from 1817 and was then situated in the vicinity of where Lauriat Street currently crosses the brook. At that time it had two stone abutments, 110 feet apart, and ten wooden piers supporting the aqueduct sixteen feet above the brook. An 1818 or 1819 rebuilding of the aqueduct extended its length to 120 feet. A second rebuilding occurred in 1846, at which time the aqueduct was shortened to 75 feet and was supported with only two stone abutments and four stone piers. Slightly south of the aqueduct was a basin where a dry dock was located; north of the aqueduct was the final bridge over the Canal. Assigned the number 48, it was 21 feet, 6 inches in length and 25 feet, 10 inches wide. To the east of the dry dock, and at 139-141 Baldwin Street, was the Glassworker’s Long Block (LOW.3), tenement housing for workers at the Lowell glassworks in which the Canal Corporation leased the basement for storing Canal boats during the winter.

As the Canal came to its northern terminus in Lowell it passed by and between several important buildings. Once under Bridge No. 48 the Canal passed within 25 feet of the Baldwin House, built by Cyrus Baldwin in 1800. Currently the house sits on a plot of land on Middlesex Street, east of where it was originally built. Beyond the Baldwin house was Landing No. 8, where the Canal passed between two wooden wharves and which was situated just north of the present Middlesex Street. The Canal storehouse, which was on the western wharf, was two stories high, sixty feet long, and forty feet wide and served several functions: a boardinghouse, a bar, and for storage, and before 1832 a room in the finished part of the building was the Canal office. Beyond the storehouse, opposite a circular basin used for turning the boats, was a stable that held horses that pulled boats along the Canal. In 1832 a building was erected beyond the stable to house the Canal and collector’s offices. The building was clapboarded, 15 feet wide, and 12 feet long. One of the two rooms was the office and the smaller one was for boatmen and the public to conduct business with the office. Near these official Canal Corporation buildings was the Middlesex Tavern. Sometimes called Clark’s Tavern, the structure was built in the early eighteenth century and stood on the north side of Middlesex Street, east of the Canal. Boatmen used the Middlesex Tavern mostly during the summer and otherwise it had transient guests. The building was taken down in 1929. Just as the Canal reached the Merrimack River it encountered three locks. Their construction dates from 1797 and was of stone masonry. Due to their durable construction, the locks never required rebuilding. Each was 80 feet long and their total lift was nearly 25 feet. The locks terminated in a nearly semi-circular basin on the river which marked the northern terminus of the Middlesex Canal.

Decline, Closing, and Subsequent History

Shortly after the start of the Early Industrial Period (1830–1870), the Middlesex Canal’s fortunes began to decline in the face of competition from new, parallel railroads. The Boston & Lowell and the Nashua & Lowell railroads, completed in 1835 and 1840 respectively and offering faster, year-round transportation, cut dramatically into Canal traffic and profits, and moved civic and industrial development away from the Canal route. With its income so dramatically reduced the Canal Corporation was unable to cover the costs of maintaining the Canal and the Corporation’s buildings, and so Caleb Eddy began to look for alternative sources of income (Clarke 1974:125). By 1843 Caleb Eddy proposed sale of the Canal as a water supply for Boston which was at that time experiencing a water shortage. However, Eddy’s proposal was rejected by the state legislature and revenues began to decrease even further (Clarke 1974:127). In 1846, under the last Superintendent Richard Frothingham, the Canal Corporation began to sell its property, though it maintained the right to use the Canal for transportation purposes. The last boat run between Boston and Lowell was in November of 1851, and the last trip on the Canal was in April of 1852. Later in that year the Corporation began to refill portions of the Canal, thereby ending its life as a navigable water passage between Boston and northern Massachusetts and New Hampshire (Clarke 1974:129). The last recorded meeting of the Middlesex Canal Corporation was held in 1854, and finally on October 3, 1859 the Supreme Court of Massachusetts decreed that the Corporation no longer enjoyed their rights and the Middlesex Canal Corporation ceased to exist as a corporate entity (Clarke 1974:130).

Through the Late Industrial (1870–1915), Early Modern (1915–1940), and Modern (1940–1960) periods, and until the present time, the route of the Middlesex Canal has been slowly impacted by transportation, civil engineering, and residential construction, the last of which has been pervasive in all communities through which the Canal route passes. Along the Canal’s former path there are portions which still remain somewhat intact, but there are also segments where nothing is visible. Some of the modifications to the Canal are old enough to be of historical significance in their own right, while newer ones have simply obscured it. The integrity of the remains of the obscured portions of the Canal and its associated infrastructure is unknown.

In Charlestown, there are no visible traces of the Middlesex Canal Company complex, originally located in what is now the vicinity of Essex Street and Rutherford Avenue, due to residential construction and the construction of Rutherford Avenue itself. The mill pond was filled in for railroad yards in the mid-nineteenth century. Interstate 93 and the Sullivan Square rotary and underpass overlay the Canal route, and residential and industrial development obscure the Canal route from this point to the Somerville line. The Canal route in Somerville and Medford is obscured by extensive late-nineteenth century residential development, as well as several instances of park, highway, and railroad construction. In Medford there is one remaining visible resource, the old Canal tavern which was moved from its original location.

The portion of the Canal along the Mystic Valley Parkway between the north end of Sagamore Street in northern Medford and Sandy Beach in southern Winchester was variously impacted by the construction of the Boston & Lowell Railroad in the 1830s, the Mystic Valley Sewer in the 1890s, and the Mystic Valley Parkway itself. A short visible section of the Canal is visible at the Metropolitan District Commission’s Sandy Beach Reservation. This is the only visible segment of the Canal in Winchester and the first visible segment north of Charlestown. Further north in Winchester and Woburn the Canal route was impacted in places by the mid-nineteenth-century construction of the Horn Pond and "Woburn Loop" railroad lines of the Boston & Maine Railroad. Late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century residential home and street construction in Winchester and the south half of Woburn has obscured the remains of the Canal.

The Canal between Kilby Street in Woburn and it’s northern Terminus in Lowell has fared better since it’s abandonment and includes numerous watered stretches. A major interruption exists at the Route 95/38 interchange, where the Canal was culverted for modern highway construction. From this point north to School Street, the Canal was restored and watered for recreational use in the late 1960s with unknown impact to its bed and towpath. Late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century residential construction has obscured the Canal north to the Wilmington line.

In Wilmington, acquisition of stretches of the Canal by the Town of Wilmington and the Middlesex Canal Association have resulted in preservation of a significant, scenic section of the Canal route. The construction of the modern Sweetheart Plastics industrial complex resulted in the covering of the Canal route and reconfiguration of the Ipswich River near its crossing with the Canal. The insensitive restoration of a short stretch of the Canal north of Route 129 during the 1970s has impacted the Canal. Lighter density residential construction and the proximity of the Boston & Maine Railroad right-of-way have let to relatively good preservation of the Canal in northern Wilmington, although the remains of the Lubber’s Brook Aqueduct appear to have been impacted by post-Canal drainage changes. A major gap in the Canal resulted from the late-nineteenth-century expansion of the Boston & Maine Railroad’s Billerica Shops complex, around which the Canal was rerouted. At the Billerica Mill Pond area, mid-nineteenth-century adaptive reuse of the Canal as a mill raceway has resulted in the preservation of the only intact lock chamber on the Canal. Further north, the construction of the modern Route 495/3/110 interchanges and the Wang industrial complex at the Chelmsford-Lowell line has obscured the Canal route, as has dense twentieth-century residential construction between Route 3 to the Merrimack River in Lowell, where railroad construction has obscured the site of the Canal’s northern terminus.

Despite the impacts to the Canal since its closure, the section between Kilby Street in Woburn and the Canal’s northern terminus possesses sufficient physical integrity to have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The Canal was also declared a National Civil Engineering Landmark in 1967. The Canal route constitutes a significant historic archaeological resource associated with the history of American civil engineering and regional commerce and trade.


Clarke, Mary Stetson
1974 The Old Middlesex Canal, Center for Canal History and Technology, Easton, PA.

Hopkins, Arthur T.
1898 "The Old Middlesex Canal," The New England Magazine, January, Vol. XVII, No. 5.

Lawrence, Lewis M.
1942 The Middlesex Canal, Middlesex Canal Association, Boston, MA.

Proctor, Thomas C.
1984 "The Middlesex Canal: Prototype for American Canal Building," Canal History and Technology Proceedings 7:125-174.


For complete Middlesex Canal bibliography see:

Adams, Virginia H. and Matthew A. Kierstead,
1999 Middlesex Canal Comprehensive Survey, Phase IV Survey Report, PAL Report No. 989-2, Appendix A.