That Pesky Downtown Halls Chapter

When I started writing Twirling Jennies, one of the first chapters I tackled was the survey of downtown dance halls. I mean, gee, that should be nice and straightforward, a list of places people went dancing over the years, right? Hardly. That chapter kept growing until it became the longest in the book and covered 29 sites in only a few blocks of real estate. And even so, I tried to avoid delving too deeply into each hall’s history because I was writing a book about dancing, not buildings. Subsequent research for related projects has turned up minor errors in that chapter. For the accuracy-obsessed among us, including myself, here are the changes I’d be making in any future edition:

page 101: There was, it turns out, at least one dance in the Old Market Building. When the Lowell City Guards opened their office in the building in the mid-1800s, they held a dance in the Market House hall to celebrate.

page 101–102: Monsieurs Pushee and Gee, who invited the public to a dance in the new Appleton Block, were not connected with the Appleton Bank. They were dance teachers renting the hall in the building for their dancing school and were eager to show off their new space. And, while I’d still swear that the name of the band for this event looks like Pushes and Bends Cotillon Band in the old newspaper scans, it appears it was actually named after Monsieur Pushee and a musician named Alonzo Bond. Thus it would be Pushee and Bond’s Cotillon Band—but I still like the other name better!

page 103: In the c.1870 photo looking up Central Street, French’s Bakery and Ballroom were in the second building on the left, not the third. There is an extensive history of this building—and its connection with the Railroad Bank building on Merrimack Street—available at

page 104: The office for Hibbard’s Orchestra was not at the apex of the junction between Gorham and Central Streets; it was in the Harrington Building, one structure closer to Merrimack Street (the street’s multiple renumberings fooled me on this one). Whatever remains of the Harrington Building has been swallowed up by the current Eastern Bank building.

page 110: I shan’t go into the confusing history of Colonial Hall in detail here, but suffice it to say that the structure now known as the Pollard Building at the corner of Palmer and Middle Streets had two, or possibly three halls on its second floor around the turn of the last century. Two of the halls were Colonial and Middlesex, and the Foresters Club either had their own hall or shared Middlesex Hall and dubbed it Foresters Hall for their gatherings. These halls regularly held dances and were lost to fire in 1926. The building was rebuilt without the dance halls, and the upper floors were eventually removed at a later date.

page 116: The photo of the train depot that held Huntington Hall is from a souvenir book titled “Views of Lowell and Vicinity” published in 1905. But since the building burned in 1904 it’s safe to say the photo is earlier than that.

Folk Festival Weekend!

The Lowell Folk Festival is here and we expect to be out there dancing ourselves silly all weekend. Signed copies of Twirling Jennies are available at COOL Place, 122 Merrimack Street, right next door to El Potro Restaurant and smack dab in the middle of the Festival. Their extended hours for this weekend are 11–7 on Saturday and 12–6 on Sunday.

Also, if you’re a fan of Lowell history, I recommend checking back here in a couple of weeks. I’ve got several pages of additional research and photos regarding three area residents and two buildings (all nineteenth century) that are almost ready to go online.

Walking Tour of Downtown Dance Halls

I recently put together a easy-to-follow little tour based on a chapter in Twirling Jennies. I eventually hope to get these brochures printed in quantity and made available at various downtown Lowell locations. In the meantime, pdfs for printing the front and back of a single 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet can be found via the link at left, or you can get to the files directly: and 

The finished walking tour brochure!


Upcoming Presentation & Book Signing

We’ll be in downtown Lowell at Mill no. 5’s OtherWhere Market from noon to 6:00 on Saturday, April 30th signing (and selling) books.  For those who don’t know, Mill no. 5 is an eclectic mall on the fourth floor of 250 Jackson Street—just follow the signs from the sidewalk to the elevator hidden in the back corner of the breezeway.

There’s a Steampunk theme for the Market this time around and we’ll be doing presentations with demos at 1:00 and 2:30 regarding Victorian and Edwardian dancing in Lowell.


Revisions Went in Today

Put in revisions today to correct those couple of errors that Susan de Guardiola was kind enough to point out, plus I fixed one annoying error about the history of Chelmsford Town Hall that I’d misunderstood from my original source. Added one photo and tweaked another, and I added some more endnotes. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same book, just without the mistakes!

It may take a few days for the revisions to go through, but after that any new orders will get the revised edition.

Nice review…and some corrections!

I just came across a very nice review of Twirling Jennies from back in October on Capering & Kickery, a dance history site. Being the first review I’ve seen from a serious dance historian, she’s found some errors, alas. Elias Howe, the dance master, was not the same Elias Howe that invented the sewing machine (although they were born a mere year apart, and confusing the two is not uncommon). And The Lancers Quadrilles go back further than Twirling Jennies states. But beyond that (and some other lesser technical quibbles), she’s quite enthusiastic.

So, my apologies for the errors. Much as I would have liked everything to be perfectly accurate, it comes as no surprise that, with all the detail crammed into the book, a few mistakes were made. Happily, that is what second editions are for!

Reviews and Press Release

Twirling Jennies has gotten a couple of nice reviews at Amazon.  (And yes, I’ve been suggesting to readers that they write a review, but no, I had nothing at all to do with what they chose to say.)

There’s also now an official press release that can be seen via the link at left.

And here’s an interesting image that I found after Twirling Jennies went to press, probably from around 1870: