In 1976, the Bicentennial issue of Life magazine declared that Francis Cabot Lowell’s factory in Waltham was the fourth most important development to shape America.
Unfortunately, Lowell’s factory was virtually dead when it received the honor. After 150 years of production, the historic facility was shuttered, neglected, and perilously close to demolition.
Luckily, the mill’s fortunes soon turned. The site was granted status on the National Register of Historic Places. Waltham received a $10 million urban revitalization grant, which allowed the site to be renovated and preserved.
As part of the site’s renovation, a group of cultural, civic, and business leaders created the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation in what had been the mill’s massive steam-powered engine and boiler rooms. Following a monumental campaign of fundraising, cleaning, building, planning, and installation, the museum began operation in 1980.
The museum’s founders were:
Michael Folsom, Founding Director, Charles Francis Adams, Artisan Industries, Mr. & Mrs. Fred C. Bailey, John Beaver, Cabot Corporation Foundation, Howard Gorin, Honeywell Bull, Hyde Birdfeeder, Keyes Associates, Arthur Neelon, Arthur Nelson, W.H. Nichols, Jr., Parker Hannifin, Polaroid Foundation, Raytheon Corporation, Rudolph Beaver, Inc., Fred W. Ruland, Shawmut Community Bank, Standard Thomson, Teledyne, Thermo Electron, Waltham Clock Company, Charles Woodman