WorcesterThen: 1969

The Lincoln Square Rotary

Source:  The League of Women Voters, Here’s Worcester, 1969, cover.

Traffic coming down Highland Street was one way, from Harvard Street. The four lanes fed either onto Main or into the rotary. Along the rotary were entrances from and exits to Union, Belmont (below the camera), Lincoln, and Grove Streets.  The Boys Club was still the Boys Club; the Memorial Auditorium was fully in use (Mechanics Hall had not yet been renovated); the Court House was open (and open to view, not blocked by trees); a building of the old “house” style with pitched roof still stood on Main across from the court; and the flag and World War I Memorial were in the center of the rotary. 

The stone walls that are visible at Main Street are the walls of a tunnel that was dug under the rotary and to emerge on Lincoln Street.  The tunnel and the rotary design, as well as the new location of the railroad tracks, were products of a master of tunnel design and construction, named Ole Singstad, who was famous worldwide for his work,. In 1952, Mr. Singstad was brought to Worcester as a consultant to assess the problem and propose a solution.  

In his Once-Told Tales of Worcester County (1985), Albert B. Southwick described Singstad’s solution to the rapidly mounting problem of traffic tie-ups at Lincoln Square, which had long been made far worse by trains crossing it (long freights, slowly moving). Singstad, according to Southwick, quickly came up with a plan which was met with a favorable reception, given approval, and built to his specifictions. The results included a  tunnel from Main to Lincoln Street for vehicles, and another tunnel for the railroad under Belmont Street, emerging a bit to the north, thus removing the biggest traffic problem. He also designed the traffic rotary which, Southwick said, “performed well, especially in the early days before the traffic load reached the choke point.” (p.169)

Not only this chapter, number 37, entitled “The Man Who Mastered Lincoln Square,” but the rest of  this book of “short takes” on miscellaneous elements of Worcester history makes for good and recommended reading. (It was published by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette)  A second volume, More Once-Told Tales of Worcester County, was published by Databooks, 1994.


The general shape of Lincoln Square prior to the creation of the rotary and the tunnels, which evolved slowly and with little significant change over most of a century, can be seen in this aerial view, ca. 1950, courtesy of the Worcester Historical Museum.

Using the clock-face analogy, the road coming in at one o’clock is Belmont Street, and from 11 o’clock is Lincoln.  Coming around counter clockwise, Grove Street is at nine o’clock, Highland at seven, Main at four, Union Street at three, and the railroad tracks cross the square to the Prescott Street railyard at two o’clock.  The building between Lincoln and Belmont was the Morgan Construction Company. 

Note the multiple lanes of autos in front of the courthouse on Main Street. There were two lanes raised several feet above Main Street for the first two blocks, extending to the far end of the Wesley Methodist Church lot, used for parking for the court house. 

The big factory-warehouse buildings to the right (south) of the square consisted mostly of the Court Mills of the Salisburys.  Note also that the court house annex has not yet been built along Highland Street.

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Don Chamberlayne, 2016