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357 PAWTUCKET STREET
In 2006, the University of Massachusetts of Lowell, Center for Lowell History in partnership with the Lowell National Historical Park and the Franco American School developed the Franco American Orphanage Project. The goal of this project was to preserve and make available to the public Franco American Orphanage and School Records from 1908-1972.
Apostolate Prayer: 1909-1970 - gaps
FRANCO AMERICAN ORPHANAGE
FRANCO AMERICAN SCHOOL
AYER MANSION: 1876-1908
The former Frederick Ayer Mansion, built in 1876 and perhaps the most ornate building in Lowell, has long been a focal point on Pawtucket Street. This richly decorated Second Empire style residence was designed by Boston architect S.S. Woodcock.
This three-story structure is constructed of brick with sandstone, granite, and wood used throughout the façade as well. Asymmetrical in massing, all of the changes in the planes of the building's rather complicated wall surfaces are echoed in the line of the mansard roof. Windows have rich and varied classical surrounds including segmental, triangular, and flat pediments. Each story is defined by a broad sandstone stringcourse at each floor level and a molded sandstone sill course. The focal point of the façade is an elaborate entry portico with six engaged and four free-standing Corinthian columns, all with highly elaborate carving.
Above, the cornice consists of a broad wooden frieze and moderately projecting eaves supported by carved wooden brackets. Each change in plane of the concave curved and slated mansard roof is defined by wooden rope molding. The six paneled chimneys are inset with sandstone carvings and moldings while decorative iron cresting can be found at the very center of the mansard roof.
The mansion contained 67 rooms with the first floor of the mansion included a drawing room, library, sitting room, dining room, kitchen, music room, smoking room, and other smaller rooms. On the second floor were six bedchambers with accompanying dressing rooms. On the top story there were ten bedrooms. In addition, each floor was connected by a baggage elevator.
Frederick Ayer's mansion reflected his power and wealth as well as the significance of the Ayer family in Lowell. Ayer came to Lowell in 1855 and joined his brother, J.C. Ayer, in his downtown patent medicine firm. Throughout his life, Ayer added to his financial power by making a series of investments. In 1871 he, along with his brother, bought controlling interest in the Tremont in Suffolk Mills. Ayer also had interests in the Washington Mills in Lawrence, the American Woolen Company, the Lake Superior Ship Canal Railway and Iron Company, and the Lowell and Andover Railroad. He was also involved with several Lowell banks and the New England Telephone Company. In 1871, Ayer served on the Board of Aldermen and later as the Chairman of the Board of Health.
FRANCO AMERICAN ORPHANAGE: 1908-1963
By 1899, the Ayer family moved to Boston and from that year until 1908, the Ayer Mansion was vacant. In 1908, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate [Father Joseph Campeau, OMI, Saint Jean Baptiste] bought the estate and established a home for orphaned children. The staffing of the orphanage was entrusted to the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Quebec. In 1909, the building became the property of a non-profit corporation with administrative responsibilities delegated to the Sisters of Charity. In 1912, as enrollment increased, a four-story rear brick wing was added to the original Ayer Mansion.
FRANCO AMERICAN SCHOOL: 1963-2007
As the years passed, the administration of the orphanage remained attentive to the changing needs of the community. In 1963, day students were admitted to the school and its extended day care services. With this change of orientation, the Franco American Orphanage officially became Franco American School, with an academic enrollment of both residents and day students from Kindergarten through eighth grade. In 1978, the boarding school facilities were discontinued. Extended care services, both before and after school, were continued.
During the 1980s and 1990s the enrollment gradually increased and double classes in grades K-8 became the norm. New programs and extra-curricular activities were added to the curriculum: including physical education, music, art, computers, a library with a full time librarian, counseling, and organized athletic activities. In September 2004, Franco American School added a Pre-Kindergarten to its educational program.
Although changes have been made to meet the demands of the times, Franco American School remains faithful to its original raison d'être, providing an education that promotes human development, academic excellence, and spiritual growth, and thus prepare its students to encounter life with a sense of their own self-worth and social responsibility.
Lowell Historic Board: Doors Open
Franco American School