Under the guidance of founder James T. Smith, Lowell Textile opened its doors in February 1897. Thirty-two students started classes in three rented rooms on Middle Street in downtown Lowell, paying $100 annual tuition for three-year courses that earned them diplomas in cotton or wool manufacture, design, or textile chemistry and dyeing.
In 1903, the school moved to permanent quarters in Southwick Hall, giving the growing student body, state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories, and vast workrooms necessary for hands-on experience in textiles.
Ten years later, the school granted its first bachelor’s degrees in textile dyeing and textile engineering. By 1929, Lowell’s expanded curriculum, larger faculty, and livelier extracurricular program warranted a name change that reflected its evolution from a trade school to a technical college, and it became the Lowell Textile Institute.