Clipping from the Boston Globe on September 1938 after the Long Island Express Hurricane passed over Lawrence.
The article compares flood levels to the 1936 Flood.
When it was completed in 1848, after three years under construction, the Great Stone Dam spanned the width of the Merrimack River 900 feet in Lawrence at Bodewall Falls and was the largest structure of its kind in the country. The overall length extends to 1629 feet onto each bank. The dam was commissioned by the Abbot Lawrence and other members of the Boston Manufacturing Group who established the Essex Company for the purpose of building an manufacturing town at that location along the river, 11 miles downstream from Lowell, which by that time had become the model for other entrepreneurs participating in the growth of the Industrial Revolution. The dam was needed to raise the level of the river at the falls, which was only five feet to a height of 30 feet to make it an effective source of power for textile production at the mills that would be built around it. The Essex Company maintained a machine shop, foundry and forges but the real business was in selling power to other factories and expand the entire city.
The Great Stone Dam on a blue-sky day. The Boston & Maine Railroad Bridge is on the left side of the frame -
photo credit: Digital Commonwealth
Solidly built with granite in hydraulic cement, 35 feet thick at the base, the dam withstood its first historic flood just a few years after it was completed, in 1852, and was not damaged in subsequent events in 1927, 1936 or even later in 2006 when the region was battered somewhat unexpectedly again despite infrastructure upgrades and flood mitigation measures having been built in 1937, largely by WPA workers under the direction of the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Built in 1918, the Falls Bridge and Railroad Bridge over the Merrimack River, just downstream from the Great Stone Dam in Lawrence, Massachusetts during the 1936 Flood.
Photo from Lawrence Public Library
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map (1943) - National Archives
Two canals were also built nearby. The North Canal pre-existed the construction of Old Stone Dam and was built to allow navigation around Bodewall Falls, about one mile long with three gates and locks and spanned 29 vertical feet over its course running parallel to the Merrimack River, creating a narrow island within it which was densely built with mills and factories the entire length. It was reconfigured at the same time the dam to facilitate hydropower generation, ultimately producing 13 thousand horsepower when fully operational. The smaller South Canal was completed later, in 1896, purpose-built for hydropower production. It provided a maximum output of two thousand horsepower. Similar to the North Canal but shorter and more narrow, it also provided a spate of land between it and the river on which dozens of factory buildings were built.
The Great Stone Dam has withstood the floods of 1936, 1938, the Mother's Day Flood of 2006
Today, the dam provides hydroelectric power to the city of Lawrence. The modern flood mitigation upgrades to the Old Stone Dam allows for remote deployment of a 900-foot-long, five foot high pneumatic crest gate, the longest built in North America.
Modern-day flood mitigation measures on the Great Stone Dam - photo credit: HL Turner Group
Great Stone Dam. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.hlturner.com/Dams-Hydropower/great-stone-dam.html
LHC Collections. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.lawrencehistorycenter.org/collections
Merrimack River Flood Control - Lowell MA. (2017, February 19). Retrieved from https://livingnewdeal.org/projects/merrimack-river-flood-control-lowell-ma/
The Great Stone Dam. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.greatstonedam.com/home/the-great-stone-dam