Boston & Maine Railroad Depot
Middlesex Community College
Rialto Building/Boston & Maine Railroad Depot
B&M Railroad Depot c.1880 Rialto Building 1979 Rialto Building c.1995
This building was constructed in 1876 in the High Victorian Gothic style and once housed Lowell’s first Boston & Maine Railroad Depot. This building, located on Central Street, functioned as a depot for less than twenty years before railroad services were transferred to Boston & Lowell Railroad’s Northern Depot on Middlesex Street in 1895. New England Telephone and Telegraph Company occupied the head house portion of the building from 1896-1909. Later occupants include the Owl Theatre (1913-1920) and the Rialto Theatre (1921-1960). Storefronts were added to the lower floor, but the building’s exterior remained otherwise fairly intact until the mid-1900s. In the late 1940s the towers, front cornice, and central gable were demolished. From 1960 the building housed the Rialto Bowling Lanes, and later a paint supply store. In 1985 the remaining part of the train shed located behind the head house was demolished, which had held the theater auditorium and bowling lanes. By the late 1980s the Rialto Building was boarded up and awaiting an uncertain fate.
Preservation and Reuse
In order to preserve the seriously dilapidated building, which was of landmark prominence, a local developer transferred the Rialto to the Lowell National Historical Park for $1 in 1989. Over a fifteen year period the LNHP acquired grant funding to restore its storefront façade, replace the roof rebuild the missing cornice, implement major structural repairs, reconstruct its two towers, and install reproduction doors and windows, all true to its original historic character. Through an intergovernmental transfer program, Middlesex Community College recently acquired the building to redevelop as the new home for its theater and performing arts programs.