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Newly formed Jack Kerouac Foundation aims to build a museum and performance center in Lowell

Lowell's St. Jean Baptiste Church could one day house the Jack Kerouac Museum and Performance Center.Jack Kerouac Estate

The Jack Kerouac Estate presented plans on Tuesday for a Jack Kerouac Museum and Performance Center in the author’s hometown of Lowell. The newly created Jack Kerouac Foundation will seek to raise the money to get it built.

“What we’re trying to do is create a beautiful setting, a beautiful museum space, that is very [welcoming],” said Jim Sampas, the literary executor of Kerouac’s estate and CEO of the new foundation. “We can have various arts, whether it be spoken word, music, lectures on literature, all sorts of different things take place in that setting,” said Sampas, who is also Kerouac’s nephew.


Sampas and foundation board members already have a building in mind, the St. Jean Baptiste Church in the Acre, a historically French-Canadian neighborhood where Sampas said much of Kerouac’s family lived. Kerouac attended the church as a child, Sampas said, and it’s where his funeral was held in 1969. Converting the building for their purposes could cost as much as $10 million-$15 million, Sampas said.

“Our fund-raising kicks off now,” Sylvia Cunha, executive director of the Jack Kerouac Foundation, said in a statement. We plan to show this incredible space to those interested in collaborating with us in March when Jack’s original ‘On the Road’ scroll returns to Lowell to mark what would have been his 100th birthday.”

In a 20-day period in 1951, Kerouac typed out his most famous novel on “eight long sheets of tracing paper” totaling 120 feet, according to the Kerouac Society website. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who purchased the original scroll in 2001, will return it to Lowell for the celebration.

While a lot of people know Kerouac for “On the Road,” Sampas said, “many of his other novels, for instance ‘Doctor Sax,’ ‘Visions of Gerard,’ ‘Maggie Cassidy,’... are set in Lowell.”


“We’re trying to keep that Lowell framework in mind,” said Sampas of the hoped-for museum and performance center. “It’s an incredibly big undertaking, and we want to make sure it’s right.”

In addition to Kerouac’s centennial birthday celebration in March, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac will take place in October, with more events to be announced on

Sam Trottenberg can be reached at