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: October 26, 2017

New An update on the Brookfield murders of 1898 – two new sources add to the story

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….  



Residential Development in Worcester in the early 20th century

An account of the area of the city known originally as Lenox, from its origin as the farm and homestead of a family there for six generations, through its conversion to urban residential use through subdivision development, beginning in 1909.

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   and a follow-up (Oct-2017)

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 relation-ship 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




Burgess-Lang building, 1980

 Mysterious Disappearance

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

Built in 1912, the Burgess-Lang building stood on Commercial Street across from the Central Fire Station. The “Centrum,” as  the DCU Center was originally known, was under construction in the background.  Had Burgess-Lang been renovated instead of demolished it might have ended up looking a lot like the Guaranty Bank building.  This statement, however, is not to suggest that it should have been renovated. That’s complicated.


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





Construction at Lincoln Square, about 1980. This was the site of the hotel and parking garage which still stand as parts of MCPHS. Most likely, someone else will know a lot better than I what was being done in this early moment of the construction process. Obviously, underground conduits were involved. The path running parallel to Main Street might have been the location of the former brook which had fed water into the canal system and had later been converted to a part of the sewer system.

The quality of the photo is poor because it was originally a slide and by the time of its conversion to a digital image a few years ago the colors had faded and some (additional) blurring had taken effect.

(more photos from the 1980 slide collection to follow)


Elwood Adams Hardware, 1831-2017

Another relic of Old Worcester fades from the scene.

(Google maps street view)



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


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 College 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