A collapse of the Pemberton Mill in January 1861 killed 88 people and injured hundreds more. The event gained international attention and is considered by some to be the catalyst for labor laws improving working conditions for employees.
The construction of the Great Stone Dam on the Merrimack River in 1845 allowed industrialists to use the river to power mills. The development of factories and the Irish potato famine that began in 1845 led may Irish immigrants to come to Lawrence in search of work. By 1860 the city’s population had reached more than 17,500, up from just 140 in 1845.
Several influential figures were born or lived in Lawrence including Tony- and 18-time Grammy Award-winning composer Leonard Bernstein, four-time Pulitzer Prize winning poet Robert Frost and guitarist Joe Perry from the band Aerosmith.
The Feast of the Three Saints, a celebration of Italian-American heritage, includes a parade, local food vendors and free concerts. The Feast began in 1921 and draws close to 75,000 visitors in late August each year.
The Malden Mills factory burned down in 1995. Thousands of people were without work, but the CEO at the time, Aaron Feuerstein, continued to pay them while the factory was being rebuilt. Polartec LLC currently owns Malden Mills Industries, widely known for being the original manufacturer of Polar Fleece.
The city of Lawrence was once home to Bishop’s, a Lebanese-American restaurant that was frequented by locals and celebrities alike. Sports stars like the Bruins’ Bobby Orr and the Celtics’ John Havlicek and politicians like the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy frequented the 650-square-foot dining complex.
On May 26, 1930, the Merrimack Valley’s “Irish Bulldog,” boxer Andy Callahan of Lawrence, won the first of seven epic ring battles against the North End’s Sammy Fuller, aka Sabino Ferullo. The boxers’ fights were so emblematic of the daily skirmishes between the Irish and Italians that they became the subject of academic study. Today, while inner city boxing gyms are nearly extinct in the U.S., Lawrence is the home of four active gyms. Only Holyoke and Springfield can claim the same in New England.