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Worcester Massachusetts

"What did you expect?"


Among the bad points is the frequency with which people misspell it. A search of the web will show several thousand hits on "Worchester", which seems to be how people mentally picture the spelled-word, even when they know it is pronounced "Wuhster", or "Wooster", or "Woostah". The web sites are referring to Worcester MA, to Worcester England, or occasionally to Worcester County MD, to small towns in NY, VT, MO, PA, or a large town in South Africa. And there's Wooster, Ohio.

Major points of interest are Worcester Cathedral * American Antiquarian Society *, Worcester Art Museum, Higgins Armory, Worcester County Horticultural Society… And a bunch of colleges… A beautifully renovated but empty train station... Lots of great restaurants (Abigail's plug for the Bean Counter, on Highland St, near WPI) ... A mediocre newspaper, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette... which prints lots of nutty letters ...

Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology

Actually it stills exists legally, but as a microscopic part of UMass Medical Center

Worcester history:

Worcester is where the Royalist army of King Charles II was defeated in 1651 by the Puritans of Oliver Cromwell, ending the English Civil War. The area had been known as Quinsigamond to the Algonquins, but was renamed Worcester to commemorate the rebellion of Col. Daniel Shay against King Philip, protesting the high tariffs on imported Worcestershire sauce.

But seriously,
Worcester was a fairly typical farm town until the early 1800’s. It was and is the county seat, and by the late 1700’s there were rich merchants such as Stephen Salisbury (whose elegant house survives as a museum). Isaiah Thomas published the
Massachusetts Spy in Worcester, an influential Revolutionary era newspaper, away from the British army on the coast. Thomas and Salisbury were also founders, in 1812, of the American Antiquarian Society, a wonderful research library of early American documents. Worcester rapidly industrialized in the mid-1800’s – wire mills and abrasives seem to have been the big industries.  Here's a description of Worcester in 1890.

    Worcester still has a fair number of factories, but the biggest employer is the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

    The current population is somewhere around 150,000, which for decades made it the second largest city in New England. (Providence recently became the second city, according to the 2000 census.) That should mean everyone knows about it, but obviously they don’t. Worcester is too much in the shadow of Boston, and similarly-sized Providence and Hartford are their state capitals. The media morons in Boston seem to think Worcester is a small town near Albany.

    The city government has a "weak mayor" system, where the mayor is chair of the city council, and the city is run by a hired manager. This may inhibit corruption, but it seems also to inhibit progress and effectiveness. Taxes for social services are collected on weekends by uniformed gangs at roadblocks throughout the city.

 favorite places, Worcester and otherwise

 March 2001
Streetmail, Worcester 12/15/00:

With more than $34 million in renovation funds invested in it, WORCESTER'S Union Station remains mostly empty six months after it re-opened -- and now costs the city $36,590 a month in operating fees. Although Amtrak is expected to move into the building in February, the station still has no parking for passengers and remains inaccessible to pedestrians. Last week, the Union Station project was dealt another blow when the developer pulled out. U.S. Rep. JAMES MCGOVERN (D-Worcester) told the T&G that "a lot of resources have been invested in this, and it has to succeed," while acknowledging that the building is "a beautiful structure, but basically hollow inside." What are your thoughts on the Union Station project?

RAILS TO RICHES. Worcester's first Union Station, built with a single tower at Washington Square in 1875, served as a consolidated station for rail lines -- which made it possible for the city to remove the tracks that were crisscrossing the Common at the time. Construction on a "new" Union Station began in 1909. Its ornate design was reminiscent of a Roman basilica, with arched doorways and a tower at either end. In its heyday, more than 100,000 travelers streamed through the station every day, and 160 trains arriving and departing daily.

With the exodus of industries and people from the city in the 1950s and the construction of highways like Interstate 290, the automobile became the principal mode of transportation, and Union Station began to deteriorate. By 1978, it was empty and dilapidated.

A focus on city renewal in the mid-1990s began with the process of restoring Union Station to its former glory. The station has been redesigned to be an "intermodal transportation center," with commuter and long-distance passenger rails, and local and long-distance bus service. The $65 million price tag will eventually include a 500-car parking garage and extensive realignment of the roads converging at Washington Square. Plans for retail and entertainment, as well as office buildings, hotels and additional parking areas have been proposed for the surrounding neighborhoods.

(Courtesy of "Worcester: An Illustrated History" by Barbara Polan and Amy Brenner-Fricke, 2000.)

2:52 PM 12/1/2000 galaxy streetmail
A BLAZE OF GLORY. The first recorded fire in Worcester's history occurred on Dec. 2, 1675, when all the houses in the Quinsigamond settlement were burned to the ground by the Nipmuc Indians. Since the settlement had been abandoned in recent months, no lives were lost. It would be another 33 years before Worcester was permanently established.

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