Home of James and Mary Norcross, now Fairlawn Hospital.

See The Norcross Brothers and the Family Compound


Perspectives on Worcester History 

An amateur historian’s efforts to contribute a little to what is known about the fascinating past

of this great city


Site last updated: August 6, 2017

New second in series on the Railroads of Worcester (see below)

Images and commentary – list of contents

Short topics centered around photos and other images, with commentary      

an aerial view of downtown in 1919; a race track in the city in the 19th century; men at work on the railroad and building a new street; Lincoln Square in 1969; a listing of radio programs in 1929; steel-framed buildings in the 1910s; building permits as a measure of suburbanization of the city;  a book containing nearly 500 photographs of Worcester in the 1890s;  and others….  

Six generations of a family and its farm on Pleasant Street: the McFarlands and their descendants  (pdf)

The Scotts of Maplewood Road (pdf)

Images of Lenox

Photo Essays:

Notable Arches in Worcester Architecture

Excursion to the Exposition: to Seattle by Train in 1909 

Churches of the Common: 1719 to the present 

All Saints Episcopal Church – a setback and recovery

Murder in Brookfield in 1898   

Worcester High Schools, 1752-1916

The Norcross Family Compound, 1869-1920

Nationalities of Parents of Pupils in W.P.S. 1867-1930


Renowned builders in stone, the Norcross Brothers of Worcester built the high school shown in the ad in 1871-72, and it helped establish their long relationship with one of the foremost architects of the age, Henry Hobson Richardson.

Left: This advertisement in the 1878 edition of the City Directory, featuring a view of Worcester High School, built by the Norcross Brothers in 1872, serves as a lead-in to three essays:

The Norcross Brothers and the Family Compound, 1869-1920

 Worcester High Schools,


the evolution of curriculum, purpose, and function; growth in numbers of schools, buildings, classrooms, and pupils attending  

Plus:  Nationalities of the parents of pupils in the public schools, 1867-1930

chart, Excel data, and short narrative

Urbanization Crosses Park  Avenue: The Development of  Newton Square  (1880s-1900s) (pdf)


Newton Square in the 1890s

 Mysterious Disappearance

A prominent and respected manufacturer of machinists’ tools goes missing in 1875.  The case of Lucius W. Pond. An account of his disappearance and what followed.


In 1722   Worcester was established as a town of the Colony.

In 1848   Worcester was incorporated as a city.

In 2017   it is only five years before…

     2022   when Worcester turns 300.



WorcesterThen: 1830s – 1870s

From Court House to

Round House

A small, prim court house town

becomes a busy railroad center


what it meant for Worcester and its people

(1830s – 1870s)


Pictured: the George T. Rice of the Worcester & Nashua Railroad , ca. 1870s. Rice  was president of the railroad, 1854-1866.  

WorcesterThen: 1870s – 1900


Bigger, Fewer, More, and Better

The city and its railroads in the last third

of the 19th century

a continuation of

Railroads of Worcester



    Pictured: Union Station, completed 1875


Both photos courtesy of Worcester Historical Museum





WorcesterThen:  turn of the century

A postcard showing some of Worcester’s many steeples.

This colorized “bird’s eye view” shows an area of the inner west side where church steeples were the distinguishing feature of the landscape at the turn-of-the-century. The date of the photo is unknown, but the Union Congregational Church on Chestnut Street, to the right with the rose window, was completed in 1896 and was the youngest building in the picture.  An approximation of the date makes for an interesting mini-research question, and another is where might the photograph have been taken?  A little map searching (try the Atlases of 1911 or 1896) may yield an interesting look at this part of the city during that era.

Here is my estimate of the approximate date and the location of the camera.

* * *

The 1954 addition to the court house, facing Highland Street

It may not be very popular today (a safe bet), and maybe no one blinks when there is talk of tearing it down, but might the day come when this example of mid-century “modern” architecture will be considered important to save as a rare and significant example of this kind of design in the city?  As to its style, it may be a representation of the “International” style popular over a long span of the middle of the 20th century, but that is debatable.  Would that someone with real knowledge of architectural styles would speak up (here).  An online source on the international style

Bear in mind that most of the windows have sheets of material of some kind hanging inside, somewhat sloppily, adding to a look of disorder in the appearance of the building. Also, some cleaning of exterior surfaces could go a long way toward restoring the original appearance. But would it be worthwhile? 

Recognize this house?  It no longer survives, but it did stand within the memory of some Worcester seniors, especially alumni.


It was built in or shortly after 1853 on land situated between  Newton (now Park Avenue), Charlotte, and Maywood Streets, near what later became Woodland Street. The owner was John C. Mason, a partner in Nourse, Mason & Co., manufacturers of plows and other agricultural implements, and who, beginning about the time of the construction of the house, was also a banker and president of the Central Bank of Worcester for twenty-five years. 

Worcester Atlas of 1870, Plate 20

Mason called his estate “Woodland Cottage” and the name almost surely was the source of the name of the street which was built past his property in the 1860s.

The story of Mason, the agricultural tools firm of which he was a part, and its successor is one of some interest and a trace of significance, and may yet be told, in due course. The story leads to a 60-foot pyramidal monument in the state of Wyoming with not one but  two Worcester connections.

The house can be described as being in the style of the “country cottage,” which was popular at that time, displaying elements of the “stick” style and possibly a touch of “Eastlake” as well, although that style came into fashion a bit later. Another popular term for the style, owing mainly to its heavy use of bargeboard in the eaves, might be “gingerbread.”

Mason sold the property in 1880, and in the 1890s it was acquired by the new Clark University which used the house for the residence of its president. It served that purpose, with some years being the home of the Dean of Students, until about 1965 when it was demolished to make room for the new Goddard Library.




Contact  WorcesterThen.com