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Worcester, MA

City of Worcester

Downtown Worcester

Nickname(s): The City of the Seven Hills, The Heart of the Commonwealth, Wormtown, Woo-town, The Woo

Location in Worcester County in Massachusetts

Coordinates: 42°16′N 71°48′W / 42.267°N 71.800°W / 42.267; -71.800Coordinates: 42°16′N 71°48′W / 42.267°N 71.800°W / 42.267; -71.800

Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Worcester
Settled 1673
Incorporated as a town June 14, 1722
Incorporated as a city February 29, 1848
 • Type Council-manager
 • City Manager Michael V. O'Brien
 • Mayor Joseph Petty
 • City 38.6 sq mi (99.9 km2)
 • Land 37.6 sq mi (97.3 km2)
 • Water 1.0 sq mi (2.6 km2)
Elevation 480 ft (146 m)
Population (2012)
 • City 182,669
 • Density 4,678.1/sq mi (1,807.8/km2)
 • Metro 923,672
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 01601–01610, 01612–01615, 01653–01655
Area code(s) 508 / 774
FIPS code 0 25-82000
GNIS feature ID 0617867

Worcester (/ˈwʊstər/ )[1] is a city and the county seat of Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Named after Worcester, England, as of the 2010 Census the city's population was 181,045,[2] making it the second largest city in New England after Boston.[3] Worcester is located approximately 40 miles (64 km) west of Boston, and 38 miles (61 km) east of Springfield. Due to its location in Central Massachusetts, amidst Massachusetts' major metropolitan regions, Worcester is known as the "Heart of the Commonwealth", thus, a heart is the official symbol of the city.

Worcester was considered its own region for centuries; however, with the encroachment of Boston's suburbs, it now marks the western periphery of the Boston-Worcester-Manchester (MA-RI-NH) U.S. Census Combined Statistical Area (CSA), or Greater Boston. The city features many examples of Victorian-era mill architecture.


The Pakachoag tribe of the Nipmuc nation of Native Americans were the indigenous settlers of the area. They called it Quinsigamond, meaning "fishing place for pickerel". Lake Quinsigamond provided fine hunting and fishing grounds a short distance from their main village near a spring on Pakachoag Hill in what is now Auburn.[4] Mt. Wachusett was their sacred place.[5]

Worcester was first settled by the English in 1673,[6] along the Upper Boston Post Road.[7] The modest settlement of six or seven houses was burned to the ground during King Philip's War on December 2, 1675, when settlers were either killed or driven off. The town was subsequently resettled and was incorporated in 1684. On September 10 of that year, Daniel Gookin and others petitioned to have the town's name officially changed from Quinsigamond to Worcester.[8] However, its inhabitants were still vulnerable to attack, and some, such as Samuel Leonardson Jr., were taken hostage by natives during the 1690s. When Queen Anne's War started in 1702, the town was again abandoned by its English inhabitants except for Diggory Sargent. Sargent was later tomahawked, as was his wife, who was too weak to make the journey on foot to Canada. Their children were taken to Canada and survived.[9]

In 1713, Worcester was resettled for the third time, permanently, by Jonas Rice (1673–1753). Jonas Rice held many offices and was selected as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas for historic marker stands as a reminder where Plantation St. and Massasoit Rd. intersect.

Named after the historic city of Worcester, England, Worcester was incorporated as a town on June 14, 1722 and chartered as a city on February 29, 1848.[11] When the government of Worcester County was established on April 2, 1731, Worcester was chosen as shire town (later known as a county seat). From that date until the dissolution of the county government on July 1, 1998, it was the only county seat.

As political tensions rose in the months before the Revolution, Worcester served as a center of revolutionary activity. Because it was an important munitions depot, Worcester was targeted for attack by Loyalist general Thomas Gage. However, officers sent secretly to inspect the munitions depot were discovered by Patriot Timothy Bigelow. General Gage then decided to move on to the second munitions depot in Lexington. In 1775, determining that Boston was too dangerous, Isaiah Thomas moved his newspaper, the Massachusetts Spy, to Worcester. The Massachusetts Spy was one of the few papers published continuously during the Revolution. On July 14, 1776, Isaiah Thomas, intercepting the packet from Philadelphia to Boston, performed the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence ever in front of Worcester City Hall. In 1812, Thomas founded the American Antiquarian Society, a research library containing more than two-thirds of all known printed materials created in America before 1821, making it the single greatest repository of such materials in the world.[12]

Known for innovation in commerce, industry, education, and social thought, Worcester and the nearby Blackstone Valley were major contributors to the American Industrial Revolution. Ichabod Washburn, an early industrialist, developed a process for extruding steel wire. His company, Washburn & Moen, founded in 1831, was "the company that 'barbed-wire fenced the American West, '"[13] and held the battle lines during World War I. In 1840, Loring Coes invented the monkey wrench. In the 1850s, George Crompton and L.J. & F.B. Knowles founded companies that manufactured textile looms which drove the Industrial Revolution. Another Worcester innovator, physician Russel Howes, invented the first envelope folding machine in 1856. It could produce 25,000 envelopes in ten hours, using three operators.

Women found economic opportunity in Worcester. An early female entrepreneur, Esther Howland, designed and manufactured the first American valentine cards in 1847. Women also found opportunity in The Royal Worcester Corset Factory, a company that provided employment opportunity for 1200 women; it was the largest employer of women in the United States in 1908.[14]

Several entrepreneurs brought growth to Worcester's economy during this period. John Jeppson, a skilled potter, emigrated from Höganäs, Sweden. He began working with Frank B. Norton at his stoneware manufacturing company located on the Blackstone Canal. He later bought out Norton and during the 20th Century, Norton Company was one of the largest industries and employers in Worcester.[15] In 1988, Norton Company was acquired by Saint-Gobain, the world's largest manufacturer and supplier of performance engineered abrasives for technical manufacturing and commercial applications, in addition to general household and automotive refinishing. Jeppson created economic opportunity for the thousands of his countrymen who followed him to Worcester, and others. Many Irish immigrants settled in Worcester during this period, as well. They helped build the railroad and Blackstone Canal, further driving Worcester's economic engine.

An innovative form of affordable housing appeared in the 19th century: the three decker. Hundreds of these houses were built, affording capacious, comfortable apartments for a homeowner and two tenants. Many extended families settled in these houses, developing safe, stable neighborhoods for city factory workers. While considered passé by the 1960s, they have enjoyed renewed interest and attention due to the quality of - and attention paid to - the quality of construction and variety of design. Intricately carved doorjambs and moldings considered too expensive to produce today are common in these homes, as well as hardwood floors and built-in glass-doored china cabinets. Many homes in the Vernon Hill and Grafton Hill neighborhoods have been restored to their original appearance inside and out.

In December 1999, the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire received national attention. Two homeless people, deemed mentally disabled, accidentally knocked over a lit candle in an abandoned cold storage warehouse, igniting a conflagration. Six firefighters lost their lives in an attempt to rescue the homeless people. This fire was one of the worst firefighting tragedies of the late 20th century. President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and other local and national dignitaries attended services and a memorial program.

The first decade of the 21st century saw the closing and creation of major cultural institutions in the city. In April 2006, the Worcester Center Galleria, a 1,000,000-square-foot (93,000 m2) mall that occupies a large swath of downtown Worcester, was set to be demolished to make way for the long-planned "City Square", a multi-use collaboration of several downtown buildings for commercial, retail, and residential use. The Worcester Foothills Theatre, formerly located in the Outlets, "suspended operations"[16] on May 10, 2009, due to lack of funding.[17] It is unclear if it will ever reopen. In March 2008,[18] the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts opened as a venue for touring Broadway-style shows.


Worcester is located at 42°16′8″N 71°48′14″W / 42.26889°N 71.80389°W / 42.26889; -71.80389 (42.268843, −71.803774).[19], close to the center of Massachusetts.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 38.6 square miles (100 km2), of which 37.6 square miles (97 km2) are land and 1.0 square mile (2.6 km2) 2.59%) are water-covered. Worcester is bordered by the towns of Auburn, Grafton, Holden, Leicester, Millbury, Paxton, Shrewsbury, and West Boylston. These towns serve as some of the bedroom communities and suburbs of the greater Worcester area.

Worcester is about 40 miles (64 km) west of Downtown Boston.[20]

The Blackstone River passes through Worcester. Its headwaters are found in Institute Park. The river courses underground through the center of the city, and emerges at the foot of College Hill, flowing through Quinsigamond Village and into Millbury. Water Street, originally the Blackstone Canal, is emerging as the center of the "Canal District". Folklore has it that the city sits atop seven hills: Airport Hill, Bancroft Hill, Belmont Hill (Bell Hill), Grafton Hill, Green Hill, Pakachoag Hill and Vernon Hill. Actually, there are more than seven hills. Others include Indian Hill, Newton Hill, Poet's Hill, and Wigwam Hill, among others. Worcester's lakes include Lake Quinsigamond, the site of rowing competitions, Indian Lake, Bell Pond, and Coes Pond.

Worcester counts within its borders over 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) of publicly owned property. Elm Park, purchased in 1854 and laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted, was not only the first public park in the city (after the 8-acre (32,000 m²) City Common from 1669) but also one of the first public parks in the U.S. Both the City Common and Elm Park are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[21] In 1903 the Green family donated 549 acres (2.22 km2) of Green Hill area land to the city, making Green Hill Park the largest in the city. Green Hill Park Shelter, built in 1910, is on the National Register of Historic Places. In June 2002, city and state leaders dedicated the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Green Hill Park grounds. Other parks include: Newton Hill, East Park, Morgan Park, Shore Park, Crompton Park, Hadwen Park, and University Park.


Worcester's humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb) is typical of New England. The weather changes rapidly owing to the confluence of warm, humid air from the southwest; cool, dry air from the north; and the moderating influence of the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Summers are typically warm and humid, while winters are cold, windy, and snowy. Snow typically falls from the second half of November into early April,[22] with occasional falls in October; May snow is much rarer. The USDA classifies the city as hardiness zone 5.

The hottest month is July, with a 24-hour average of 70.2 °F (21.2 °C), while the coldest is January, at 24.1 °F (−4.4 °C). There are only 3.5 days of 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs and 4.1 nights of sub-0 °F (−18 °C) lows per year, and periods of both extremes are rarely sustained. The all-time record high temperature is 102 °F (39 °C), recorded on July 4, 1911,[23] the only 100 °F (38 °C) or greater temperature to date. The all-time record low temperature is −24 °F (−31 °C), recorded on February 16, 1943.[24]

The city averages 48.1 inches (1,220 mm) of precipitation a year, as well as an average of 65.6 inches (167 cm) of snowfall a season, receiving far more snow than coastal locations less than 40 miles (64 km) away. Massachusetts' geographic location, jutting out into the North Atlantic, also makes the city very prone to Nor'easter weather systems that can dump more than 50 inches (130 cm) of snow on the region in one storm event.

While rare, the city has had its share of extreme weather. On September 21, 1938, the city was hit by the brutal New England Hurricane of 1938. Fifteen years later, Worcester was hit by a tornado that killed 94 people. The deadliest tornado in New England history, it damaged a large part of the city and surrounding towns. It struck Assumption Preparatory School, now the site of Quinsigamond Community College.

Climate data for Worcester, Massachusetts (Worcester Regional Airport), 1981–2010 normals
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 67
Average high °F (°C) 31.3
Average low °F (°C) 16.8
Record low °F (°C) −19
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.49
Snowfall inches (cm) 18.6
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 12.5 10.5 12.9 12.4 13.6 12.3 10.9 10.1 9.8 10.4 11.6 12.2 139.2
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 8.4 7.2 5.7 1.6 0 0 0 0 0 .2 1.4 6.7 31.2
Source: NOAA (extremes 1892–present)[22][25]


Worcester can be divided into the larger neighborhoods of North Worcester, West Worcester, East Worcester, Central City, Downtown, and South Worcester. It can be further subdivided into smaller neighborhoods:[26]

  • North Worcester
    • Greendale
    • Burncoat
    • Indian Hill
    • Indian Lake East
    • North Lincoln Street
    • Summit
  • East Worcester
    • Great Brook Valley Area
    • Booth Apartments Area
    • Brittan Square
    • Biotech Park Area
    • Bell Hill
    • Laurel/Clayton
    • Shrewsbury Street
    • Lake Park
    • Franklin/Plantation
    • Hamilton
    • Union Hill
    • Grafton Hill
  • West Worcester/West Side
  • Central City
    • Elm Park
    • Crown Hill/Piedmont
    • Main Middle
    • Beacon Brightly
    • University Park
  • Downtown
  • South Worcester
    • Webster Square
    • South Worcester (proper)
      • Cambridge Street[28]
    • Hadwen Park
    • Vernon Hill
    • Green Island
      • Canal District[29]
    • Kelley Square/Water Street[28]
    • College Hill
    • Broadmeadow Brook
    • Quinsigamond Village
    • Main South between Main Middle and University Park[28]


  • Sunderland/Massasoit Road/Rice Square spans Union Hill, Grafton Hill, and Broadmeadow Brook.[28]
  • Lake Avenue/Quinsigamond Lake spans several neighborhoods in South Worcester and East Worcester.[28]
  • Park Ave skirts the eastern edge of West Worcester.[28]
  • The Edgemere neighborhood is primarily in neighboring Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.[28]
  • The Arts District spans several neighborhoods in Central City.[27]


Historical population
Census Pop.

Successive waves of immigrants have in the past formed coherent ethnic enclaves, some of which continue to contribute to the rich ethnic texture of Worcester today. Swedes settled in Quinsigamond Village and Greendale, Italians settled along Shrewsbury Street, Irish and Poles settled around Kelly Square, Lithuanians settled on Vernon Hill, and Jews built their first synagogues on Green Island and Union Hill. The African-American community has existed since colonial times. Since the late 19th century, Grafton Hill and Vernon Hill have been points of entry for immigrants from all over the world: Irish, Italians, Lithuanians, Poles, Syrians, Lebanese, Indians, Puerto Ricans, French Canadians, and more recently, Albanians and Brazilians. Other prominent groups include Russians, Armenians, Greeks, Vietnamese, Ghanaians, Liberians, and Congolese.

According to the 2010 Census, Worcester had a population of 181,045, of which 88,150 (48.7%) were male and 92,895 (51.3%) were female. In terms of age, 77.9% were over 18 years old and 11.7% were over 65 years old; the median age is 33.4 years. The median age for males is 32.1 years and 34.7 years for females.

In terms of race and ethnicity, Worcester's population was 69.4% White, 11.6% Black or African American, 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native, 6.1% Asian (3.0% Vietnamese, 0.9% Chinese, and 0.8% Asian Indian), <0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 8.4% from Some Other Race, and 4.0% from Two or More Races (1.2% White and Black or African American; 1.0% White and Some Other Race). Hispanics and Latinos of any race made up 20.9% of the population (12.7% Puerto Rican).[31] Non-Hispanic Whites were 59.6% of the population in 2010,[32] down from 96.8% in 1970.[33]


County-level state agency heads
Clerk of Courts: Dennis P. McManus (D)
District Attorney: Joseph D. Early, Jr. (D)
Register of Deeds: Anthony J. Vigliotti (D)
Register of Probate: Stephen Abraham (D)
County Sheriff: Lew Evangelidis (R)
State government
State Representative(s): John J. Binienda (D)
James O'Day (D)
Dan Donahue (D)
John Mahoney (D)
Mary Keefe (D)
State Senator(s): Michael Moore (D)
Harriet L. Chandler (D)
Governor's Councilor(s): Jen Caissie (R)
Federal government
U.S. Representative(s): James P. McGovern (D-2nd District),
U.S. Senators: Elizabeth Warren (D), Ed Markey (D)
Worcester is governed by a Council-manager government with a popularly elected mayor. A city council acts as the legislative body, and the council-appointed manager handles the traditional day-to-day chief executive functions.

City councilors can run as either a representative of a city district or as an at-large candidate. The winning at-large candidate who receives the greatest number of votes for mayor becomes the mayor (at-large councilor candidates must ask to be removed from the ballot for mayor if they do not want to be listed on the mayoral ballot). As a result, voters must vote for their mayoral candidate twice, once as an at-large councilor, and once as the mayor. The mayor has no more authority than other city councilors, but is the ceremonial head of the city and chair of the city council and school committee. Currently, there are 11 councilors: 6 at-large and 5 district.

Worcester's first charter, which went into effect in 1848, established a Mayor/Bicameral form of government. Together, the two chambers — the 11-member Board of Aldermen and the 30-member Common Council — were vested with complete legislative powers. The mayor handled all administrative departments, though appointments to those departments had to be approved by the two-chamber City Council.

Seeking to replace the old, outdated charter, Worcester voters in November 1947 approved a change to Plan E municipal government. In effect from January 1949 until November 1985, this charter (as outlined in chapter 43 of the Massachusetts General Laws) established City Council/City Manager government. This type of governance, with modifications, has survived to the present day.

Initially, Plan E government in Worcester was organized as a 9-member council (all at-large), a ceremonial mayor elected from the council by the councilors, and a council-appointed city manager. The manager oversees the daily administration of the city, makes all appointments to city offices, and can be removed at any time by a majority vote of the Council. The mayor chairs the city council and the school committee, and does not have the power to veto any vote.[34]

In 1983, Worcester voters again decided to change the city charter. This "Home Rule" charter (named for the method of adoption of the charter) is similar to Plan E, the major changes being to the structure of the council and the election of the mayor. The 9-member Council became 11, 6 at-large and 1 from each city district. The mayor is chosen by popular election, but must run as an at-large councilor.


Worcester's history of social progressivism includes a number of temperance and abolitionist movements. It was also a leader in the women's suffrage movement: The first national convention advocating women's rights was held in Worcester, October 23–24, 1850.[35]

Two of the nation’s most radical abolitionists, Abby Kelley Foster and her husband Stephen S. Foster, adopted Worcester as their home, as did Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the editor of The Atlantic Monthly and Emily Dickinson's avuncular correspondent, and Unitarian minister Rev. Edward Everett Hale.

The area was already home to Lucy Stone, Eli Thayer, and Samuel May, Jr. They were joined in their political activities by networks of related Quaker families such as the Earles and the Chases, whose organizing efforts were crucial to the anti-slavery cause in central Massachusetts and throughout New England.

Anarchist Emma Goldman and two others opened an ice cream shop in 1892. "It was spring and not yet warm," Goldman later wrote, "but the coffee I brewed, our sandwiches, and dainty dishes were beginning to be appreciated. Within a short time we were able to invest in a soda-water fountain and some lovely coloured dishes."[36]

On October 19, 1924, the largest gathering of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) ever held in New England took place at the Agricultural Fairgrounds in Worcester. Klansmen in sheets and hoods, new Knights awaiting a mass induction ceremony, and supporters swelled the crowd to 15,000. The KKK had hired more than 400 "husky guards", but when the rally ended around midnight, a riot broke out. Klansmen's cars were stoned and burned, and their windows smashed. KKK members were pulled from their cars and beaten. Klansmen called for police protection, but the situation raged out of control for most of the night. The violence after the "Klanvocation" had the desired effect: Membership fell off, and no further public Klan meetings were held in Worcester.

Robert Stoddard, owner of The Telegram and Gazette, was one of the founders of the John Birch Society.

Sixties radical Abbie Hoffman was born in Worcester in 1936 and spent more than half of his life there. Until he was 30, Worcester was the center of his universe; when he moved to New York in 1966, Worcester remained a haven. Even during his years as a fugitive, he would slip back into town and gather with old friends at his favorite restaurant, El Morocco. Biographer and friend Jonah Raskin explains that "Worcester provided him with his view of society and his way of dealing with the world."[37]

Voter registration and party enrollment as of October 17, 2012[38]
Party Number of voters Percentage
  Democratic 45,953 44.28%
  Republican 9,159 8.83%
  Unaffiliated 47,948 46.21%
  Minor Parties 187 0.18%
Total 103,767 100%

Fire department

The Worcester Fire Department (WFD) employs 406 full-time firefighters to protect the city. The WFD operates out of ten fire stations in two divisions, located throughout the city. The WFD operates a fire apparatus fleet of thirteen engines, seven ladders, one rescue, one special operations unit, one state haz-mat unit, one state field communications unit, one scuba dive rescue unit, one air unit and one fireboat, under the direction of two district chiefs and one deputy chief.

The Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire occurred the night of December 3, 1999, at 6:13 pm. Six Worcester firefighters perished while looking for two homeless victims thought to be trapped in the blaze. The fire went to five alarms and took six days to bring under control. The six firefighters that lost their lives are known as the Worcester 6.

The WFD responded to a total of 28,891 incidents (1,384 fire and 27,507 non-fire) during 2011. In 2007, the fire department received a Class 2 rating from ISO.[39]

Fire station locations and apparatus

Engine Company Ladder Company Special Unit Command Unit Address
Engine 2, Engine 13 Ladder 3 Scuba 1 (Dive Unit), Scuba 2 (Fireboat) Car 4 (South District Chief) 180 Southbridge St.
Engine 3, Engine 16 Ladder 2 Car 2 (Deputy Chief), Car 3 (North District Chief) 141 Grove St.
Engine 4 Ladder 7 424 Park Ave.
Engine 5 Ladder 4 Special Operations Unit 1, Air Unit Car 10 (Special Ops. District Chief) 40 Webster St.
Engine 6, Engine 12 Ladder 1 Rescue 1 266 Franklin St.
Engine 7 State Haz-Mat. Unit 33 745 Grafton St.
Engine 8 19 Burncoat St.
Engine 9 1067 Pleasant St.
Engine 11 Ladder 6 438 W. Boylston St.
Engine 15 Ladder 5 State Field Comm. Unit 30 80 McKeon Rd.


Historically, Worcester's economic roots were tied to the Blackstone River, and in the beginning to the Blackstone Canal, which connected Worcester to the port of Providence, Rhode Island. Textiles, shoes, and finished clothing were some of the first industries in the city. A second wave of manufacturing facilities soon came on the scene to further develop Worcester into a manufacturing center. Wire and machinery were the strengths of this economic cycle. One of the leaders of this manufacturing wave was George F. Fuller, an inventor and philanthropist, who developed a heat-treating process crucial to developing steel strong enough to be used in train couplings and the first automobile crankshafts. His company, Wyman-Gordon, has been a leading manufacturer of machine parts. Charles Palmer, another innovator, received the first patent (1891) for a lunch wagon, or diner. He built his "fancy night cafes" and "night lunch wagons" in the Worcester area until 1901. After building a lunch wagon for himself in 1888, Thomas Buckley decided to manufacture lunch wagons in Worcester. Buckley was very successful and became known for his "White House Cafe" wagons. In 1906 Philip Duprey and Irving Stoddard established the Worcester Lunch Car Company, which shipped 'diners' all over the Eastern Seaboard. Worcester's Boulevard Diner, Parkway Diner, and Miss Worcester Diner are all examples of Worcester Lunch Car Company units, with the Miss Worcester being located across the street from the former factory. Worcester's largest Department store was Denholm & McKay founded in 1871. The store closed in 1973.

They were joined in early automobile manufacture by American Wheelock, which built compressed air-powered trucks at Worcester in 1904.[40]

In the 1930s a local merchant, Anthony "Spag" Borgatti, opened Spag's, a small hardware business, in nearby Shrewsbury. Credited with the invention of discount marketing, he stored his wares in old trailer trucks in order to avoid paying taxes. He was a local philanthropist. Every spring, Spag offered free tomato seedlings to his customers.

The David Clark Company pioneered aeronautical protective equipment beginning in 1941, ranging from anti-gravity suits to space suits. Innovations include full-pressure suits for X-15 test pilots flying to record speeds and altitudes and the spacesuit worn by all Apollo astronauts on lunar missions. The company produces the suits worn by modern space shuttle astronauts.

Morgan Construction, a manufacturer of steel rolling mills, has its headquarters in Worcester. Wright Line, a manufacturer of consoles and other workstations for 911/emergency operations centers, server enclosures and racks for data centers, office and computer lab furniture, is also headquartered in the city. Saint-Gobain has a substantial presence in Worcester following its 1990 purchase of Norton Abrasives, a 100+ year old manufacturer of abrasives, ceramics, and specialty materials. Polar Beverages, the largest independent soft-drink bottler in the United States, is also located in the city.

Today, Worcester has a diversified economy. The biotech park adjacent to the University of Massachusetts Medical School is host to many innovative companies, including Advanced Cell Technology, which focuses on the development of effective methods to generate replacement cells from stem cells, and Abbott Laboratories, a leading pharmaceutical research and manufacturing firm.

In the financial sector, Hanover Insurance maintains its national headquarters in the city. A subsidiary of Unum (formerly UnumProvident), the Paul Revere Life Insurance Company, is also headquartered in Worcester as is the Harleysville Worcester Insurance Company, the oldest insurance company based in Massachusetts.

The Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology located in nearby Shrewsbury is best known for the development of the oral contraceptive pill (1951) and for pioneering research on in vitro fertilization. The first American conceived by this method (1981), Elizabeth Jordan Carr, lived in nearby Westminster.

In the area of small business retailing, Worcester is home to the notable popular culture emporium That's Entertainment (est. 1980), which in 1997 was one of three comic book stores worldwide that received a "Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award" from Comic-Con International: San Diego. The award, named for comic book creator Will Eisner, recognizes "an individual retailer who has done an outstanding job of supporting the comics art medium both in the community and within the industry at large".[41][42]

The Worcester Center Galleria opened on July 29, 1971.[43] In 1994, Worcester Center Associates sold the Galleria to New England Development which slowly shut down the remaining stores with plans to revitalize the mall.[44] On October 29, 1994, the Galleria reopened as the Worcester Common Fashion Outlets.[45] As business dwindled, Berkeley Investments, along with its capital partner, Starwood Capital of Greenwich, Connecticut announced that they would buy the Worcester Common Outlets on June 22, 2004.[46] Store leases were not renewed and the mall closed for good in April 2006.[47] The mall was vacant and had not been demolished until September 13, 2010, when demolition of portions of the former mall started. On May 18, 2011, visible exterior demolition began.

Polar Beverages, founded in 1882, is headquartered in Worcester. It runs two bottling plants in the city, where it bottles its own line of soft drinks as well as several major national brands.

In 2010,[48] the median household income was $61,212. Median income for the family was $76,485. The per capita income was $29,316. About 7.7% of families and 10.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.1% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.

Top employers

According to the City's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[49] the top ten employers in the city are:

# Employer # of employees
1 UMass Memorial Health Care 13,764
2 University of Massachusetts Medical School 5,678
3 City of Worcester 5,128
4 Saint Vincent Hospital 2,386
5 Hanover Insurance 1,850
6 Saint-Gobain 1,807
7 Fallon Clinic 1,801
8 Polar Beverages 1,400
9 College of the Holy Cross 1,107
10 Quinsigamond Community College 900


Primary and secondary education

Worcester's public schools educate more than 23,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.[50] The system consists of 33 elementary schools, 4 middle schools, 7 high schools,[51] and 13 other learning centers such as magnet schools, alternative schools, and special education schools. The city's public school system also administers an adult education component called "Night Life", and operates a Public-access television cable TV station on channel 11.

The Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science was founded in 1992 as a public secondary school located at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Twenty-one private and parochial schools are also found throughout Worcester, including the city's oldest educational institution, Worcester Academy, founded in 1834, and Bancroft School, founded in 1900.

The most known public schools include North High School, South High School, Doherty High School, and Burncoat High School.

Higher education

Worcester is home to several institutes of higher education.

  • Clark University, founded in 1887, is the first graduate school in the country. It is noted for strengths in psychology and geography. Well-known professors include Albert A. Michelson, who won the first American Nobel Prize in 1902 for his measurement of light, Robert Goddard, a pioneer of the space age, and G. Stanley Hall, the founder of organized psychology as a science and profession, the father of the child study movement, and the founder of the American Psychological Association. Clark offers the only program in the country leading to a Ph.D. in Holocaust History and Genocide Studies. During Sigmund Freud's single trip to the United States, he spoke only at Clark University.
  • Assumption College, the fourth oldest Roman Catholic college in New England, was founded in 1904. At 175 acres (0.71 km2), it has the largest campus in Worcester.
  • Becker College is a private college with campuses in Worcester and Leicester, Massachusetts. It was founded in Leicester, Massachusetts, in 1784 as Leicester Academy. The Worcester campus was founded in 1887, and the two campuses merged into Becker College in 1977. Becker's video game design program has consistently been ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. and Canada.[54]

An early higher education institution, the Oread Institute, closed in 1934.

Many of these institutions participate in the Colleges of Worcester Consortium. This independent, non-profit collegiate association includes academic institutions in Worcester and other communities in Worcester County, such as Anna Maria College in neighboring Paxton. It operates and facilitates cooperation among the colleges and universities. One example is its inter-college shuttle bus and student cross registration.

Other programs

Worcester is the home of Dynamy, the oldest student residential internship program in the United States.[55] The organization was founded in 1969 and provides internships to young adults during a Gap year, helping them mature, become self-sufficient, and choose a vocation.


Museums and cultural centers

Worcester is home to several noteworthy libraries and museums, including:

Performing arts centers and arenas are abundant in the city. They include:

  • the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, Worcester's venue for Broadway shows, concerts, and nationally recognized performers, located at the site of the old Poli Palace Theatre on Main Street;[59]
  • the Worcester Palladium, on Main Street, a venue attracting many musicians and performers from around the world;
  • the Worcester Memorial Auditorium, a 1930's neoclassical-style arena and auditorium. It sees few events at present, however.

The Worcester County Poetry Association fosters the poetic tradition by sponsoring readings by national and local poets, celebrating Bloomsday, and holding conferences and literary tours of Worcester. Local poets have competed successfully in the National Poetry Slam.

The Worcester Center for Crafts, founded in 1856 as the Worcester Employment Society, provides professional-level craft studies to the Worcester community. The Craft Center's original purpose was to foster economic empowerment by teaching immigrants the skills needed to create and sell crafts. Today, the Worcester Center for Crafts offers craft education in weaving, metalwork, woodwork, enameling, jewelry-making, and other crafts, and seeks to promote an appreciation for fine craft.

Annual events

  • The Worcester Music Festival is the oldest music festival in the United States. This festival is presented by Music Worcester, Inc., which also presents the Mass Jazz Festival.[60]
  • stART on the Street is a large street art festival celebrating local art and culture which takes place on the 3rd Sunday in September on Park Avenue between Highland and Pleasant Streets".[61] This is hosted by the Central MA Arts Assembly.
  • The Asian Festival of Worcester is a large annual festival which takes place on the last Sunday in June each year from 12:00pm to 6:00pm.[62] This event is hosted by the South East Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts and is a collaboration of performances, food, and cultural tables from the diverse Asian communities located all over Massachusetts.
  • The New England Metal and Hardcore Festival is usually held in mid to late April at the Palladium. It has run annually since 1999.
  • Rock and Shock, a horror convention and heavy metal concert, is held at the Palladium and DCU Center Convention Center each October.
  • Canal Fest occurs every fall in the City's Canal District.
  • Worcester First Night is the name of the city's New Years Eve celebration.
  • Worcester County St. Patrick's Parade - one of Massachusetts largest parades. Worcester is also the home of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Div. 36, located on Temple Street, right by the Blackstone Canal.
  • The New England Summer Nationals is a large motorcycle and muscle car event held in Worcester.

Popular music

In 1963, a WPI-based folk trio called the Wanderers recorded one album for Strand Records. This was done under the name Minute Men to avoid confusion with another existing recording group. The trio also recorded one single for Swan Records under the name College Boys.

Also in 1963, WPI-based rock band the Blue Echoes recorded a local hit single on their own Bristol label. This was picked up and released nationally by the Lawn subsidiary of Swan Records. The group later recorded two more singles on the local BEP label, one of which was a regional hit.

In September 1981, the Rolling Stones played an unscheduled performance at the nightclub Sir Morgan's Cove (later renamed The Lucky Dog) before embarking on their national tour that year.[63] Billed as "Blue Monday with The Cockroaches", the Stones played before a packed house of 350 people who had been given tickets in a promotion by WAAF Radio that day.

One of Rammstein's performances in the Family Values Tour ended with lead singer Till Lindemann and keyboardist Christian "Flake" Lorenz being arrested due to the controversial performance of "Bück dich" during a concert on June 5, 1999, in Worcester. They were each fined $200 and spent the night in jail.

Wormtown, a nickname for Worcester, was coined by WCUW DJ Lenny Saarinen, about 1978. Saarinen joked that Wormtown would be a fitting name for Worcester as it was a dead town. Later he took on the moniker of LB Worm, the Mayor of Wormtown. At first, the term referred to the local underground punk rock subculture. Later it became used by a few to refer to the city itself.[64][65][66]


Main article: Sports in Worcester

Worcester was home to Marshall Walter ("Major") Taylor, an African American cyclist who won the world one-mile (1.6 km) track cycling championship in 1899. Taylor’s legacy is being the second black world champion in any sport. Taylor was nicknamed the Worcester Whirlwind by the local papers.

Lake Quinsigamond is home to the Eastern Sprints, a premier rowing event in the United States. Competitive rowing teams first came to Lake Quinsigamond in 1857. Finding the long, narrow lake ideal for such crew meets, avid rowers established boating clubs on the lake's shores, the first being the Quinsigamond Boating Club. More boating clubs and races followed, and soon many colleges (local, national, and international) held regattas, such as the Eastern Sprints, on the lake. Beginning in 1895, local high schools held crew races on the lake. In 1952, the lake played host to the National Olympic rowing trials.

In 2002, the Jesse Burkett Little League all-stars team went all the way to the Little League World Series. They made it to the US final before losing to Owensboro, Kentucky. Jesse Burkett covers the West Side area of Worcester, along with Ted Williams Little League.

The city is home to the American Hockey League team Worcester Sharks, which plays at the DCU Center as a developmental team for the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks. The AHL was formerly represented by the Worcester IceCats from 1994 to 2005. The IceCats were chiefly affiliated with the St. Louis Blues.

The city’s former professional baseball team, the Worcester Tornadoes, started in 2005 and is a member of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball League. The team played at the Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross and was not affiliated with any major league team. The team's owner ran into financial difficulties, and the team disbanded after the 2012 season. The New England Surge, a member of the Continental Indoor Football League, played their home games in the DCU Center in their two years of existence, 2007 and 2008. Candlepin bowling was invented in Worcester in 1880 by Justin White, an area bowling alley owner.

Golf's Ryder Cup's first official tournament was played at the Worcester Country Club in 1927. The course also hosted the U.S. Open in 1925, and the U.S. Women's Open in 1960.

Worcester’s colleges have long histories and many notable achievements in collegiate sports. The College of the Holy Cross represents NCAA Division 1 sports in Worcester. The other colleges and Universities in Worcester correspond with division II and III. The Holy Cross Crusaders won the NCAA men's basketball champions in 1947 and NIT men's basketball champions in 1954, led by future NBA hall-of-famers and Boston Celtic legends Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn.


The Unitarian-Universalist Church of Worcester was founded in 1841. Worcester's Greek Orthodox Cathedral, St. Spyridon, was founded in 1924.

Worcester is home to a dedicated Jewish population, who attend five synagogues, including Reform congregation Temple Emanuel Sinai, Congregation Beth Israel, a Conservative synagogue founded in 1924,[67] and Orthodox Congregation Tifereth Israel - Sons of Jacob (Chabad), home of Yeshiva Achei Tmimim Academy. Beth Israel and its rabbi were the subject of the book And They Shall be My People: An American Rabbi and His Congregation by Paul Wilkes.


The Worcester Telegram & Gazette is Worcester's only daily newspaper. The paper, known locally as "the Telegram" or "the T and G", is wholly owned by The New York Times Company. WCTR, channel 3, is Worcester's local news television station, and WUNI-TV, channel 27, is the only major over-the-air broadcast television station in Worcester. Radio stations based in Worcester include WCHC, WCUW, WSRS, WTAG, WWFX, WICN and WXLO. WCCA-TV Channel 13 provides Community Cable-Access Television as well as a live stream of the channel on their website.



Worcester is served by several interstate highways. Interstate 290 connects central Worcester to Interstate 495, I-90 in nearby Auburn, and I-395. I-190 links Worcester to MA 2 and the cities of Fitchburg and Leominster in northern Worcester County. I-90 can also be reached from a new Massachusetts Route 146 connector.

Worcester is also served by several smaller Massachusetts state highways. Route 9 links the city to its eastern and western suburbs, Shrewsbury and Leicester. Route 9 runs almost the entire length of the state, connecting Boston and Worcester with Pittsfield, near the New York state border. Route 12 was the primary route north to Leominster and Fitchburg until the completion of I-190. Route 12 also connected Worcester to Webster before I-395 was completed. It still serves as an alternate, local route. Route 146, the Worcester-Providence Turnpike, connects the city with the similar city of Providence, Rhode Island. Route 20 touches the southernmost tip of Worcester near the Massachusetts Turnpike. U.S. 20 is a coast-to-coast route connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and is the longest road in the United States.[68]

Worcester is the headquarters of the Providence and Worcester, a Class II railroad operating throughout much of southern New England. Worcester is also the western terminus of the Framingham/Worcester commuter rail line run by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Union Station serves as the hub for commuter railway traffic. Built in 1911, the station has been restored to its original grace and splendor, reopening to full operation in 2000. It also serves as an Amtrak stop, serving the Lake Shore Limited from Boston to Chicago. In October 2008 the MBTA added 5 new trains to the Framingham/Worcester line as part of a plan to add 20 or more trains from Worcester to Boston and also to buy the track from CSX Transportation.[69] Train passengers may also connect to additional services such as the Vermonter line in Springfield.

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority, or WRTA, manages the municipal bus system. Buses operate intracity as well as connect Worcester to surrounding central Massachusetts communities. The WRTA also operates a shuttle bus between member institutions of the Colleges of Worcester Consortium. Worcester is also served by Peter Pan Bus Lines and Greyhound Bus Lines, which operate out of Union Station.

The Worcester Regional Airport, owned and operated by Massport lies at the top of Tatnuck Hill, Worcester's highest. The airport consists of one 7,000 ft (2,100 m) runway and a $15.7 million terminal built to attract airlines and passengers. The airport held numerous airlines from the 1950s through the 1990s, but it has encountered years of spotty commercial flights and disloyal air carriers. On September 4, 2008, Direct Air announced it would begin serving Worcester to Orlando, Florida, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Punta Gorda, Florida, in the spring of 2009. On Tuesday March 13, 2012, Direct Air canceled its entire charter program (including service to Worcester) due to financial reasons, leaving the passenger terminal at Worcester Regional Airport empty once again.[70] Jet Blue announced in March that it will begin daily service from ORH to Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando, Florida beginning in November 2013.


The Worcester State Insane Asylum Hospital (1833) was the first hospital in the United States established to treat mental illnesses.

Worcester is home to the University of Massachusetts Medical School, ranked fourth in primary care education among America’s 125 medical schools in the 2006 U.S. News & World Report annual guide "America’s Best Graduate Schools".[53] The school is closely affiliated with UMass Memorial Health Care, the clinical partner of the medical school, which has expanded its locations all over Central Massachusetts. St. Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center in the downtown area rounds out Worcester's primary care facilities. Reliant Medical Group, formerly Fallon Clinic, is the largest private multi-specialty group in central Massachusetts with over 30 different specialties. It is affiliated with St. Vincent's Hospital in downtown Worcester. Reliant Medical Group was the creator of Fallon Community Health Plan, a now independent HMO based in Worcester, and one of the largest health maintenance organizations (HMOs) in the state.

Utilities and public services

Worcester has a municipally owned water supply. Sewage disposal services are provided by the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District, which services Worcester as well as some surrounding communities. National Grid USA is the exclusive distributor of electric power to the city, though due to deregulation, customers now have a choice of electric generation companies. Natural gas is distributed by NSTAR Gas; only commercial and industrial customers may choose an alternate natural gas supplier. Verizon, successor to New England Telephone, NYNEX, and Bell Atlantic, is the primary wired telephone service provider for the area. Phone service is also available from various national wireless companies. Cable television is available from Charter Communications, with Broadband Internet access also provided, while a variety of DSL providers and resellers are able to provide broadband Internet over Verizon-owned phone lines.

The Worcester Fire Department maintains ten fire stations throughout the city and operates an apparatus fleet of 13 engines, 7 ladders, one rescue, one dive water rescue, and one special operations unit out of two divisions, the North Division and the South Division. The Department is staffed by over 400 full-time firefighters and responds to over 30,000 emergency calls annually.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are provided by UMass Memorial Medical Center under contract with the City. Originally operated by Worcester City Hospital and later by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, "Worcester EMS" is a career agency that operates exclusively at the advanced life support (ALS) level, with two paramedics staffing each ambulance. UMass Memorial EMS maintains two community EMS stations and operates a fleet of 18 ambulances, as well as a special-operations trailer, several other support vehicles, and a bike team. The agency responds to over 32,000 calls for medical assistance annually. UMass Memorial EMS also operates the EMS Communications Center which is a secondary PSAP and provides emergency medical dispatch (EMD) services to Worcester and other communities.

Sister cities

Worcester has the following sister cities:

See also


^ a: The US Census estimated that Worcester surpassed Providence in 2006 by 199 people. Though this is well within the margin of error, List of United States cities by population uses the 2008 estimates for purposes of ranking. The New England article, however, ranks by 2000 Census, which places Providence as second largest. In the 2010 Census, Worcester's roughly 181,000 residents surpassed Providence's roughly 178,000.


Further reading

  • Wall & Gray. 1871 .
  • From Bondage to Belonging: The Worcester Slave Narratives, B. Eugene McCarthy & Thomas L. Doughton, editors [2].

New Bedford. These 1871 maps of the Counties and Cities are useful to see the roads and rail lines.

  • Beers,D.G. 1872 Atlas of Essex County 1872 Essex County Plate 7.

External links

  • Worcester official website
  • Worcester Public Library
  • Worcester Historical Museum
  • Preservation Worcester
  • Official Worcester visitors website
  • Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Worcester Regional Research Bureau
  • Worcester Public Schools official website
  • Colleges of Worcester Consortium
  • Worcester Business Directory
  • 91.3FM WCUW - Worcester's Community Radio Station
  • UMass Memorial's EMS Service for the City of Worcester

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