Step back in time to the eighteenth century, to the days of hand crafted wooden boat construction. Resting on the banks of the Merrimack River, you would have found The Lowell Boat Shop, just the place to purchase such a boat for your fishing or water travel needs.
Now, return back to 2019 where you will find a working, maritime national/historical treasure, The Lowell Boat Shop and Museum. This fully operational boat shop is still located in the same place on the banks of the Merrimack River at 459 Main St. in nearby Amesbury.
The Lowell Boat Shop is the oldest continually operating boat shop in the U.S. When Simeon Lowell founded his company in 1793, he also introduced radical innovations to the traditional boat designs of the time. His innovations in boat building included the elimination of the complex, hand carved keel, and substituted a simple, flat football shaped bottom and lapped planks to form a rounded bilge to provide extra buoyancy.
Most importantly, he designed high, narrow, steeply raked, wedge shaped transom that could split a flowing sea and propel a boat up and through the surf.
Known for their efficiency, durability, and seaworthiness, Lowell’s dories (small fishing boats) became the favorite of the Gloucester Fishing Fleet. As the days of the great fishing industry faded, Lowell dories became a favorite of recreational boaters. Rowing clubs, hunting camps, Boys and Girls Scouts, and Lifesaving Services all turned to the high quality Lowell dories and skiffs for their maritime needs.
Simeon Lowell started his boat shop intending to start a business that he could pass down to his children. His wishes were more than obtained, as the boat shop stayed in the Lowell family for seven generations until it was sold to Jim Odell in the 1980’s. Odell’s vision was to preserve the heritage of the boat building trade of the Lowell family and the region.
In the 1990’s, the Odell family passed the boat shop onto the Newburyport Maritime Society. Then in 2006, the Lowell Boat Shop was purchased by the Lowell’s Maritime Foundation, a non-profit group whose mission is dedicated to preserving and perpetuating the art and craft of wooden boatbuilding.
The Lowell Boat Shop today is a National Landmark with a working boat shop and museum, offering custom built wooden boats as well as repair and restoration services.
Known worldwide for their restoration abilities, the Lowell Boat Shop has faced many historically important restoration projects, including the recent Shallop Restoration Project for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage.
The shallop is a small rowing or sailing boat that is docked along side of the Mayflower II in Plymouth. This small boat was considered the “colonist work boat” and will be on display at the 400th anniversary of Plymouth Colony in 2020.
Classes and educational opportunities are also offered at the boat shop. Classes on how to build your own wooden surfboard, apprentice programs, educational outreach programs, and summer youth seafaring and sail camps are just a few of the programs offered to the community.
In celebration of their 225th anniversary, the Lowell Boat Shop/Museum is having a fundraising event called “500 for 225.” Because this working museum is more active now than it has been for the past 50 years, it is in need of renovations in order to sustain a high level of activity without compromising its historical integrity. The boat shop hopes to raise $500,000 by August 2019 in order to receive a grant of $150,00.
The Lowell Boat Shop and Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and starting June 1, will also be open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $8 for a guided tour, or $5 for a self guided tour, children under 12 years of age are free. Senior and student discounts are also available.
For a list of classes and opportunities offered at the Lowell Boat Shop, including rowing reservations and instructions, to donate to the “500 for 225” fund, or to find out about purchasing a custom made boat, call them at 978-834-0050 or visit their website at www.lowellboatshop.com