JEERS to the sudden demise of a Haverhill landmark and an important artifact of the city’s history.

The L.H. Hamel Leather Co. smokestack, standing watch over a complex of buildings that date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, met its demise over the past week in a painstaking, brick-by-brick demolition. Its removal wasn’t planned, of course, but was required when lightning clipped the smokestack last Sunday, sending a splinter of missing bricks down its side.

Inspectors deemed the smokestack that looked over the city from more than 100 feet in the air to be unsafe. That prompted the two-day evacuation of about 100 residents of the adjacent Hamel Mill Lofts. By Friday, demolition crews had whittled down the pillar so that only two letters, “Co.,” remained on its side.

At that point there was no longer a danger of collapse or of an errant brick injuring someone or something below. The remaining smokestack, now just a nub of what used to be, looks to be about a quarter of its former height.

That the smokestack was part of a historic district was well known, but Bradford’s Dorothy Forrestall explained to reporter Breanna Edelstein the history of the name that, up until last Sunday, graced its side in white bricks. Her grandfather, Louis H. Hamel, a regular Horatio Alger-type protagonist, began selling popcorn balls around age 12 to provide for his mother and siblings after his father left the family. It was the launch of a successful entrepreneur.

Hamel later collected leather scraps and sold the discards back to local companies. As his business grew, he rented the basement of a nearby building and later expanded into the location that has since borne his name.

Suffice it to say that Hamel’s impact on Haverhill was far greater than a name gracing the side of a smokestack. The legacy of his business is counted among the many who worked there, supporting families. Forrestall’s father was among those who spent a career working there.

Still, it’s sad to see the disappearance of a visual reminder of the Merrimack Valley's industrial history.


JEERS to the inopportune closing of another Haverhill treasure, this one an oasis for residents looking to beat the summer heat.

The city closed Plug Pond on Wednesday due to elevated levels of E. coli, the bacteria spread in contaminated food and water that, in severe cases, can cause nasty gastrointestinal problems. The bacteria is not uncommon in groundwater, but certain concentrations pose a danger.

“Usually this happens after big rainstorms. We had a lot of rain (a week ago) which washed all the bacteria from the roads into the pond,” Shawn Regan, spokesman for Mayor James Fiorentini, told reporter Jessica Valeriani.

Closing the beach wouldn’t have been such a big deal, except that temperatures were topping 90 degrees. The fact that many people were celebrating an extended Fourth of July holiday, and looking for both recreation and relief, made the situation difficult to bear.

Luckily the city persistently tested and retested the water quality down at Lake Saltonstall, and was able to reopen the beach on Saturday morning. That gave Haverhill residents — the beach is only open to those who live in the city — plenty of time to cool off before the weekend was finished.


Finally, a CHEERS to the generosity of a Lawrence couple whose financial gift will help ensure the success of future generations of “Lawrence kids."

Angelique Alon, of Lawrence, a rising senior at Central Catholic High School, is the first recipient of a scholarship set up by Lorraine Kowalczyk and her late husband, Edward. The couple created the fund to benefit fellow Lawrencians and graduates of St. Patrick Grammar School, which merged nearly two decades ago with Our Lady of Good Counsel to create Lawrence Catholic Academy.

Alon, who graduated from Lawrence Catholic Academy, is now a standout at Central Catholic, where she helped begin a cultural diversity day as well as a club that supports students, particularly minorities, as they address their problems. Alon told reporter Paul Tennant she hopes to attend Northeastern University and someday become a neurosurgeon.

Her path has been made significantly smoother by the Kowalczyks, who created the scholarship to give a boost to fellow “Lawrence kids” who are good students and who make contributions to their community. The fund has covered Alon’s tuition at Central Catholic for the year — a scholarship worth about $14,000.

Lorraine Kowalczyk explained to Tennant that a similar gesture was instrumental in her life — the recommendation she received to the owner of Haffner’s gas station back when she was a student at Sacred Heart High School. She worked for the company for 73 years, retiring in 2013.

Who knows how many students will now benefit from the generosity she and her husband to pay forward.