The work of masons and carpenters is reflected in the Worthen’s exterior. The ground floor, constructed of brick, is defined by a central entrance flanked by two large, multi-panel windows. The second story façade on Worthen Street has been restored to wood clapboards, replacing metal shingles and dilapidated wood, and features six windows and three gabled dormers on the front slope of the roof. A stuccoed brick wall hides the exterior southern wall on the ground floor. This is a fragment from Hadley’s stable, which formerly occupied the site that is now a parking lot. All of the windows have been restored.
A 1989 restoration revealed old bottles, dishes and coins now used in the interior décor. The bar and floor, which had been sinking, were raised almost two feet and the mahogany bar itself was restored to its former glory. The pressed tin ceiling on the first floor, late nineteenth century bar and the system of belt-linked ceiling fans are a nod to the building’s history. It is said that a clever hiding spot in the attic may have protected run-away slaves, perhaps a way station in the Underground Railroad.
Prohibition & Secrets
O’Donnell remodeled the building, creating a tin ceiling and bar, and in 1898, opened the original “Worthen House.” It was used as a tavern and hotel until Prohibition. During Prohibition, the city directories listed many occupants, including “Mathew J Stowell Beverages,” “Arthur J. Sency Soft Drinks,” “John D. Shines Restaurant” and “Arthur J. Turcotte Real Estate.” One or more of these businesses could have maintained the tavern’s traditional use. This is evidenced by a piece of paneling that when removed, reveals a secret hiding spot for various bottles of spirits. This panel is located behind the bar on the right side, just above an old built-in icebox. This era lasted from 1924 through 1933. From 1933 until 1941, the building was known as Adelard N. Gerard’s Restaurant. The “Old Worthen” name was applied to the restaurant in 1942. The term "old" was commonly applied to many proper names after Prohibition.
Patrons & Personalities
Beginning as a neighborhood Irish bar with O’Donnell in 1888, people from all walks of life now frequent the Worthen. Our visitors are students, professionals, artists, writers, and politicians. Artists and creatives are major players in the recent history. In the past, patrons have included famous faces including Jack Kerouac, Allan Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Jimmy Breslin and Ed McMahon. Inside the walls, memorabilia reflects some of Lowell’s famous and infamous.
More Fun Facts About The Worthen
- A favorite bar of Edgar Allen Poe, who visited frequently and is rumored to have written some of “The Raven” within its walls
- Houses the only pulley driven fan system in its original location in the United States
- When removed, a piece of paneling behind the bar reveals the secret hiding spot of various bottles of spirits dating back to the prohibition era. Ask your bartender!
- Rumored that the friendly ghost of Matthew can be heard and seen throughout the building