January 7, 2010

Worthen House Cafe, Lowell MA

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More commonly known as “The Old Worthen,” the historic Worthen House is the oldest restaurant and tavern in Lowell, Massachussetts.

The Worthen House was established in 1898. The bar’s most notable features are the belt-linked fan system, which is the only existing set in its original building in the country and the 19th century pressed tin ceiling. A few notable patrons are said to have included Edgar Allan Poe, Jack Kerouac, and Jimmy Breslin. In 1989, “Lowell’s Oldest,” was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

I decided to photograph the Worthen on my most recent “drive-by”. That’s where I drive home and decide to stop somewhere to photograph something. Some drive-bys are more fruitful than others. Drive-bys are also easier in any season other than winter. Between the sun setting around 4:00PM and temperatures often in the teens, it’s tough to get motivated to shoot – especially after a day at work.

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Anyway, as I was getting off the highway, I decided to drive to Lowell’s Historic District and check out the Old Worthen. I was thrilled to see there were no cars parked in front. I shot the exterior then, hoping it wasn’t too crowded, decided to ask if I could photograph the bar. There were only a hand full of people at the bar and the barmaid was happy to let me shoot.

The results are in this post.

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As a student at the University of Lowell (many years ago), the Worthen was THE place to go after finals.

After the last final exam we would migrate to the Worthen and (depending on academic prowess) either celebrate or drown our sorrows. Not surprisingly, whichever end of the IQ scale we were, the results were the same. Pass or fail we all crawled out of the bar.

At that time the tables were booths. The booths were carved with peoples names dating back decades. In the early 80’s (if I recall correctly) the bar underwent a renovation. The booths were removed and replaced with tables. The decor changed too. They actually hung plants. Much to our chagrin, the Old Worthen became a “Fern Bar.” It had a decidedly “yuppie” feel to it.

Last night was my first visit to the inside of the Worthen since the early 80’s. I was happy to see that it more closely  resembled the Worthen I knew in college. The highlights of this gem are clearly the old tin ceiling and belt driven ceiling fan system.

Since that night, I returned to the Worthen to meet the owner and take more pictures. The full gallery:

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You can purchase any of these images at my  Smugmug Site.

You can check out more of my HDR work on my SmugMug site.

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  1. Hi I have been in Lowell several times and did not know about this place it looks great. You did a good job showing it. Is it one shot at 9 exposures or 9 shots bracketted? I find trying to do HDR shots like this with a person in them difficult if I do more than one shot because they tend to move!!

  2. My late Uncle Babe (Walter Welcome) use to work at the Old Worthern, every time we came to town we stopped there, it was fabulous !

  3. Bob,
    Do they still serve hot dogs boiled in beer? We used to devour those and wash them down with 10 cent Bud drafts! Oops, showing my age again!