Post Office, Worcester, Mass

The old post office on Main Street, near Southbridge Street, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2016:

Worcester was first settled in the 1600s, and incorporated as a city in 1848, but it did not have a permanent post office building until the very end of the 19th century. For years, the post office was located in private homes and shops, and it was not until the completion of this building in 1897 that it had a dedicated, federally-owned building. It was built on a trapezoid-shaped plot of land between Main and Southbridge Streets, with Romanesque Revival architecture that was common in late 19th century public buildings.

By the early 20th century, Romanesque architecture had already fallen out of vogue, and the building’s size was insufficient for the needs of a growing city. It was demolished in the early 1930s, and replaced with the current Harold Donahue Federal Building and Courthouse, which has itself become a historic building. The only building still standing from the first photo, though, is the 1850s Stevens’ Building, which is partially visible in the distance to the left of the post office. Today, both it and the neighboring federal building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Salem Square, Worcester, Mass

The churches of Salem Square in Worcester, around 1895. Image from Picturesque Worcester (1895).


The scene in 2016:

Taken from nearly the same spot as the photos of the previous post, this scene shows Salem Square, a roughly triangular-shaped plaza on the east side of the Worcester Common. On the other side of this square were two churches, with the Salem Square Congregational Church on the left and the First Baptist Church on the right. As mentioned in the previous post, this Congregational church was established in 1848, and the building was probably completed soon after. The Baptist church was slightly older, dating back to the 1830s when it replaced an earlier meeting house which had burned on the same site.

In 1902, the Baptists sold their building to the Catholic church, and it became the Notre Dame Church. In the late 1920s, the old building was demolished to build the present Notre Dame Church on the same site. The other buildings in the first photo have also since been demolished, and by the early 1970s the entire area here was redeveloped as the Worcester Center urban renewal project. Part of this project included eliminating most of Salem Square itself, replacing the plaza with the office building that is seen here now. It hides the view of the 1929 Notre Dame Church, which survived the Worcester Center construction but, as of 2016, is scheduled to be demolished soon as part of the CitySquare redevelopment project.

Soldiers’ Monument, Worcester, Mass

The Soldiers’ Monument on the Worcester Common, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2016:

This scene shows the Soldiers’ Monument from the opposite direction of the view in an earlier post. As mentioned in that post, the monument was designed by sculptor Randolph Rogers and dedicated in 1874, during a time when memorials to fallen Union soldiers were appearing on town commons across New England. It was placed at the northeast corner of the common, across from the Salem Street Congregational Church, which can be seen in the distance to the right. Although information on this church is scarce, the congregation appears to have been established in 1848, and based on the architecture of the building it was probably built around this same time. Also in this scene, on the left side, are several commercial buildings, with signs for carriage and sleigh harnesses, horse clothing, furniture, and even one for “Talking Machines.”

Today, the only landmark left from the first photo is the monument itself. All of the buildings in this scene have since been demolished, and in the early 1970s the Worcester Center urban renewal project was built here, in the area east of the common. It included the office building in the background of the 2016 photo, along with a shopping mall and parking garage. The mall closed in 2006, though, and parts of the complex have since been demolished. As of 2016, the area is now being redeveloped as CitySquare, another downtown Worcester revitalization project.

Old Union Station, Worcester, Mass

Worcester’s old Union Station, seen around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2016:

This building was Worcester’s original Union Station, serving the Boston & Albany Railroad along with several other railroads. It was completed in 1875 in a Gothic Revival style designed by the Boston architectural firm of Ware & Van Brunt. Along with the usual passenger station amenities, it included a train shed over the tracks, along with a 212-foot clock tower at the corner of the building.

The station served Worcester for over 35 years, but by the early 20th century the city’s busy railroad traffic made it necessary to elevate the tracks through downtown. This, in turn, required a new station, which opened in 1911 just west of here. Most of the old station was demolished at this point, but the tower itself was saved. Unlike the two towers of the new station, which had to be taken down just 15 years later because of their deteriorated condition, the old 1875 tower stood here until 1959, when it was demolished to build Interstate 290.

Today, the 1911 Union Station, with replica towers, is still standing just to the right of the rotary, and in the distance the highway passes over the spot where the original station once stood. The only remnant from the first photo is the railroad itself, which can be seen on the right side of the photo, with MBTA commuter rail passenger cars passing over the bridge in the distance.

Main Street, Worcester, Mass

Looking north along Main Street from just south of Pleasant Street, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2016:

Taken just across Main Street from the previous post, this scene shows the buildings along the east side of Main Street, many of which are still standing some 110 years after the first photo was taken. Most prominent in this view is Harrington Corner, the four-story commercial block on the right side at the corner of Front Street. This Italianate brick building was designed by local architect Elbridge Boyden and completed in 1850, several years before his more famous Mechanics Hall was built a few locks away in the distance. When the first photo was taken, it had several businesses in the ground-level storefronts, including D.H. Eames Men’s & Boys’ Clothing, and Bemis & Co. Fine Shoes. The upper floors had professional offices, with signs showing offices for a stock broker, architect, and even Whittemore’s Dancing Academy on the top floor. Today, the building is somewhat altered, but is still standing as a prominent historic landmark in downtown Worcester.

Beyond Harrington Corner on the right side of the street, starting closest to the foreground in the first photo, is the Piper Block, the Richmond Block, and the Clark Block, all of which were built in the 1850s. Today, these buildings are still standing, but they were heavily altered in the second half of the 20th century with drastically different Main Street facades, leaving only the two upper floors of part of the Clark Block still recognizable from the first photo. Even further in the distance on the right side are several other historic buildings, including the 1871 Grout’s Block and the 1857 Mechanics Hall. The left side of the photo has seen more changes, but a few buildings are still standing, including the 1869 Rogers Building, in the foreground at the corner of Pleasant Street, and the 1897 State Mutual Building further in the distance.

Main and Front Streets, Worcester, Mass

Looking north on Main Street from the corner of Front Street, around 1895. Image from Picturesque Worcester (1895).


Main Street in 2016:

This intersection is right in the middle of Worcester’s commercial center, and most of the buildings in the first photo are gone today. Some would be gone within a decade or so, including the ones that stood on the west side of Main Street between Pearl and Walnut Streets. These were replaced with the 1907 Slater Building in the middle of the photo, and the 1897 State Mutual Building further in the distance.

Despite these changes, though, the buildings in the immediate foreground have survived to the present day. On the left, at the corner of Pleasant Street, is the Rogers Building. Completed in 1869, it was designed in the Second Empire style that was popular in the United States in the post Civil War years. Its original design was partially altered in the 20th century, though. The mansard roof on the left side still survives, but on right side of the building it was removed and replaced with a fifth story.

Another survivor from the first photo, just beyond the Rogers Building, is the smaller Taylor-Kelly Building, which dates back to around 1878. On the other side of the street, at the corner of Front Street, is Harrington Corner. This commercial block was built in 1850, and for over 160 years the Italianate building has been a distinctive feature in downtown Worcester. Today, it is still standing as the oldest building left from the 1895 photo here.