I am fascinated by Worcester’s growth from an agrarian county seat to an industrial powerhouse. This change upended the old social order. Unfortunately, nativism was a byproducts of the rapid influx of immigrants to the city. In the election of 1854 the strong anti-immigrant Know Nothing Party ran the table in Massachusetts. In the 20th century the KKK was not just a southern phenomenon, but found adherents in the north as well. WGBH produced a story on how the KKK rose and was violently defeated in a 1924 riot between the KKK and the Knights of Columbus at aptly named “Cultural Fairgrounds.” Worth a read/listen.
Check out the article I wrote for the Sun on Worcester’s trolley service. In 1900, you could get on a trolley or train to almost anywhere in New England. It would take you a while by our standards, but compared to foot or on horseback it must have seemed like modernity had arrived.
I ran across this 1935 advertisement for Walberg & Auge, and couldn’t resist sharing. Founded in 1903 by Barney Walberg, the company manufactured drums under their own mark as well as supplied harware for industry giants Gretsch, Rogers, Ludwig, and Slingerland. Walberg is credited with inventing the modern hi-hat stand and the shell mounted tom holder. Without his inventions modern music would sound very different. Like many of the companies from Worcester’s industrial past, Walberg & Auge made huge contributions, but is relatively unknown today. Luckily, there is a non-profit dedicated to preserving the Walberg legacy. They have a great gallery of vintage drums worth checking out.
It has been a couple of months since I wrote about the twin 1850 bombings of the mayor’s office and a local constable’s home, but this story stuck with me. We tend to think that politics today is a high stakes game, but we have little on the ruff-and-tumble world of the 19th century.
The article is also a reminder of just how much of the cities history has been obscured. I still can’t believe I didn’t know about it. Not that everything needs to be remembered (some things are dull even to me), but there are many events worthy of bringing into our dialogue with the past. How many books have been written by historians about alcohol and temperance in the US? I bet very few mention this violent confrontation between a free-soil temperance mayor and a firebrand newspaper editor.
The Memorial Auditorium needs to be reincorporated into the public space in Worcester. The art deco styling of the main auditorium, the murals and remembrance in memorial hall, and the intimacy of the Little Theater must be preserved.
The 6,719 pipe organ in the main auditorium blew me away. The Aud closed in 1997, so I jumped at the chance to attend Preservation Worcester’s Off-Limits tour. I truly hope our city leaders find a way to repurpose the building in a way that preserves its detail and grandeur. I have more pictures up on Flickr.
This month in the Worcester Sun I wrote about the old coal mine found along the East Side trail near Green Hill Park. I took this video during my hike out there for the article. The surface of the ledge is covered in lush green moss and the presence of running water is very relaxing. An amazing contrast to what the site was when it was an active mine.
Quick, name one object that comes to mind when you think of Worcester history?
Now go over to the Worcester History Museum site and nominate it for inclusion in the Worcester in 50 Objects exhibit opening this fall. I’m excited to be one of the community volunteers working on the project. We are looking for all types of objects (from the simple to the abstract) that tell the story of Worcester and its people.
The landscape Looking East from Denny Hill is one of my favorites in the Worcester Art Museum collection. Ralph Earl (painting in 1800) captured the graceful and open agricultural landscape that once covered much of Worcester County. It may seem counterintuitive, but Massachusetts has more trees today than it did in 1800.
At about 940 feet, Denny Hill looks down towards Worcester to the east. While the area is primarily wooded or built up with homes, there is an open vista at the summit that reveals a portion of the landscape that Earl painted in 1800. Without leaves blocking your view, winter is the best time of year to imagine the historical landscape in New England.
Cyanide. Arsenic. Asbestos. Coal tar.
All very nasty substances discovered in the ground at the future Worcester Regional Transit Authority maintenance garage on Quinsigamond Avenue.
My article from the Sun on the creation of Worcester’s manufactured gas infrastructure and its impact on development in the 19th century.
Some photos from Preservation Worcester’s recent Off Limits tour of Mission Chapel on Summer Street. Built by Ichabod Washburn for the Evangelical City Missionary Society in 1854, the building served as a church for German, Swedish, Armenian and French immigrants through the 1930’s. It was warehouse for tobacco and a mill supply store through the 1950’s. Serving lastly as the Second Baptist Church from 1960 to 1994. (Full gallery of photos)