EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


June 8, 2014

Rising from the rubble

Crumbling Woolworth building nears rebirth as downtown anchor

HAVERHILL — If you drive past the Woolworth building, you’ll notice it looks the same as it has for decades.

The windows are boarded up. There are no customers coming and going as they did in the 1950s and ‘60s when the business was an anchor for the then-bustling downtown.

But a different story is unfolding inside the walls of this empty landmark, which has been an albatross around Haverhill’s neck for more than 40 years.

Local carpenters Phillip and Matt Lacroix are removing the last few salvageable items from the otherwise empty building, notably the 60-foot long lunch counter and its stools. Their work and the demolition to follow will make way for the much anticipated Harbor Place building, which will be home to a UMass Lowell satellite campus and a variety of businesses overlooking the Merrimack River.

Four of those stools along with an eight-foot long section of counter and an eight-foot long section of granite footrest were recently removed for shipment to a museum in Jackson, Mississippi, which plans to use the items as a centerpiece of a new exhibit on the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Workers will also try to also remove a few damaged Woolworth signs above the inside of the building’s two entrances, and possibly a stone threshold embedded with the Woolworth name.

Peter Carbone, vice president of the city’s Buttonwoods Museum Board of Directors, said the Greater Haverhill Foundation, which owns the building, gave the lunch counter, stools, three mirrors and other items to the museum.

The building has been mostly empty since it closed, with only a few historic items remaining to be removed before demolition can begin this summer.

River to boost the economy

Harbor Place is the kind of development city officials have sought for years, as Haverhill works to resurrect the eastern end of downtown, just as the western end has grown in the last decade. The state refers to this new breed of development as “transformative” — intended to literally transform an area in various ways.

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