Central Congregational Church, Worcester, Mass

Central Congregational Church, at the corner of Grove Street and Institute Road in Worcester, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2016:


This church is one of many historic Romanesque style buildings in the city of Worcester, and like many of the others it was designed by Stephen C. Earle, a local architect who designed public buildings in Worcester and across New England. The church congregation that occupied this building was originally established in 1820, but as the city grew in the second half of the 19th century, they sought to move out of the rapidly developing commercial center.

Located just north of downtown at Wheaton Square, construction of the church began in 1884, and was completed the following year. Its design included many elements that were found in Romanesque churches of the era. Its exterior walls were made of Longmeadow brownstone, and it had an asymmetrical design that included a tower plus smaller turrets, along with plenty of arches and stained glass windows. Further down Grove Street in the first photo is the Worcester National Guard Armory. This castle-like building was completed a few years after the church, and it similarly features Romanesque architecture. Also visible in the distance are two other historic Romanesque buildings of the same era. Just beyond the church, near the corner of Grove and Salisbury Streets, is the 1891 Worcester Historical Society building, and just to the left of the Armory is the 1889 North High School.

Today, all four of these late 19th century buildings are still standing here at Wheaton Square, and aside from the tree partially blocking the view of the church, almost nothing has changed in this scene over the past 110 years. Because of this, all four are listed as contributing properties in the Institutional District, a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places that encompasses much of the surrounding neighborhood.

6 thoughts on “Central Congregational Church, Worcester, Mass”

  1. Hello,
    My name is Joanie Carew Lukins. As a child, I often attended Central with my grandparents William and Maida Carew. I remember fondly my time with the church, and with a particular pastor, whose name I cannot recall. Can you tell me who was serving as pastor there in the 1940’s and 50’s>

    Thanks very much.

    • Hi Joanie,
      I was baptized by Rev. Oliver Powell in 1953. What joy it was to grow up in Central. Beloved to the choirs starting with the alphas in the blue and white robes, then onto the seraphims in the red and white robes. Was in the choir until I graduated from high school with Alan Walker as organization and choir director.
      It was so sad to see how the interior was stripped of it’s beauty when it ceased to be Central Congregational.

      • I’m glad to not have known of or seen the stripping of the interior. I carry my childhood memory of the Central Church structure and beautiful sanctuary as it was in the 1950’s, undisturbed in my mind’s eye.

    • I remember hearing my grandmother and mother speak of both Oliver Power and Shepard Knapp. I found an obituary notice for Rev Knapp dated 1946 and believe Rev Powell married my parents in 1948. I don’t know if he was still there when I was baptized in 1954 – I don’t think so; I only remember James McCutcheon from my childhood there until 1961 when we moved from the area.
      I visited this site because I have a decorative plate depicting Central Church which my parents got while we attended in the 1950’s, and I hoped to find someone at the church with an interest in receiving that history. I also recently came across a journal entry I wrote in 2007 during a Lenten study at my Illinois church in which I reflect upon my childhood memory of Central, a structure and community which was central to our family life. In my unrealistic fantasy world, it continued to serve that role for families today; I’m disappointed to learn it no longer does.


Leave a Comment