For more than four decades, historians, historic preservationists, journalists, and public officials have debated the purpose and appropriateness of a national park in Lowell, Massachusetts. This article, written by the first NPS historian in Lowell, builds on existing literature and interprets the founding and early development of Lowell National Historical Park in the context of changing national politics. It locates the concept for the park in the Great Society, documents the contested debate over the park's founding in the 1970s, and argues that the park developed very differently than planned during the radically changed political environment of the 1980s.

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