Church Steeples of the Inner West Side


 Where was the camera?

The postcard photo is somewhat fuzzy, as it was found, and its source is unknown.  Closest under the camera’s line of vision are the Y.M.C.A. and the Free Public Library, adjacent to each other on Elm Street. The large building in the center is the Plymouth Congregational Church on Chestnut Street, which was demolished in 1941.



In the upper-right corner is the Pleasant Street Baptist church, its tower almost out of view because of its distance and because it is somewhat downhill relative to the others.




The map below is part of Plate 4 of the Worcester Atlas of 1911.

The line is drawn in such a way as to pass directly over the hipped roof of the Free Public Library and over the middle of the Plymouth church, and extended in each direction from there.

The black circle represents an estimate of the location of the camera, which, because of the height of the camera position implicit in the picture, almost surely was the State Mutual Building (now the Commerce Building) at 340 Main Street. 


The more or less vertical street on the right is Main Street. North is almost straight up.

The direction of the photo is more or less southwesterly.


Only one of the four steeples that are visible still remains, that of the All Saints Church on Irving Street at Pleasant, and it was almost lost. The Plymouth and First Universalist churches are now gone (replaced by parking lots), and the steeple was removed from the Union Church (later Chestnut Street Congregational, now the Presbyterian Church of Ghana), in 1954. The English High School is now the John E. Durkin Administration Building of Worcester Public Schools.

Click here for an aerial view of the modern-day inner westside, with identification of the churches in the area at the turn-of-the-century.


This partial of Plate 7 shows the next segment of Main Street, including the State Mutual Building.


If the photographer had swung the camera around to the right it could have picked up the tall tower of Classical High School on Maple Terrace.


(The map images (jpg) are large enough to make them more legible if downloaded and viewed in your photo viewing software.)


Dating the photograph:

The Y.M.C.A. relocated to its new quarters at 766 Main Street in 1915, and the Free Public Library was still on Elm at that date, so this puts the photograph between 1896, when the Union Church on Chestnut Street was completed, and 1915. A two-decade range is not very satisfactory but further pursuit was not worth the time.  (Maybe none of this was.)

Don Chamberlayne