“THE HEART OF THE COMMONWEALTH” – EXPLORATIONS AT “THE WOO” – 12 FEBRUARY 2022

That title may get you to read further. Six weeks into the new year, and I drove about 140 miles on 12 February – more miles than I have driven in two months. Yes, I have stayed home and safe, but continue to explore, and learn via books and electrons. A month ago I gave an overdue report on the Blackstone River Valley in Massachusetts, but that and my interest in Isaiah Thomas, and other things led to my getting out to Worcester, Massachusetts for some initial investigations. First wanting to learn more of the city, which like Rome is built on seven hills, I started at the Worcester Historical Society, here at the second largest city in Massachusetts and also in New England. Population 206,000 – you know any community over 4,000 give me the shakes.

Often considered the seat of American industrial revolution, and the home to many famous Americans, the area is rich in history. It was the opening of the Blackstone Canal and the arrival of the railroad that changed the area from farming to an industrial center bringing in new workers and traditions from afar. At the historical society you are first routed into the industrial exhibit to get a focus on that flavor.

just some brief background on these two panels that you can click for a larger image

first below is a fascinating stove made in Worcester. In the center of the lower crossbar is a hole that can be used to heat a kettle of water

you should know that I enjoy old diners. The Worcester Lunch Car Company manufactured diners here from 1906 to 1957, and I sat at the counter at this display.

an enlargement of that image you see on the wall above the original panel “Diner Deluxe”

I have an affinity for all things Isaiah Thomas, the patriot and printer. Sadly his home was razed in 1923, but here is a shingle and some nails that were saved, along with some items made of “coffin wood.” Thomas died in 1831, and his grave moved to Rural Cemetery sometime after it opened in 1838. My guess is that these items were made of wood from his original coffin.

Another thing I have always had a curiosity about is old amusement parks. On the east side of Worcester is Lake Quinsigamond (still have to see that). And at the turn of the century there was an amusement park built there – THE WHITE CITY. You would find parks built all over the country with the same name coming after the nickname for the 1892-93 Columbian World’s Fair and Exposition in Chicago.

Now, here is the “pièce de résistance” of this post, and the one thing that you will probably remember – Worcester, Massachusetts, is the birthplace of the SMILEY FACE. And, in a small room in the museum, here is everything you need to know, and must know for that next conversation at the bar.

and, a slideshow of details

Clark University was founded in Worcester in 1887. My great-grandfather, considered the Father of Anthopology, taught at Clark from 1888 until 1892. He was the adviser for the first Ph.D. in anthropology which was granted at Clark in 1891. A course still offered –  Global Ethnographies in the 21st Century – in its description states, “…It also analyzes traditional ethnographies and ethnographic methods of the founding pioneers, including the work of the famous Clark University ethnographer Franz Boas.” If you wish – here is a nice bio and photo. In my uncle’s biography of Franz Boas is this image of my great-grandparents in front of the triple-decker (an interesting building type seen all around the city) where they boarded on the first floor – address 210 Beacon St. My grand-father, Ernst, was born in Worcester in 1891.

Checking street views on Google Maps, it appeared 210 was gone, so when I arrived in front of 212, it was not a surprise the building was gone. Replacing many triple deckers around the area are duplexes, and to the left of 212 Beacon Street are now two such duplexes – 204 and 202 – after a small opening.

I next wanted to revisit Union Station. Was last there exploring in April, 2011, when I met David and family in the area. I thought I could have lunch there, but alas a lovely station without any services. I am getting too old for all the “new ways.” Insert parking ticket here, credit card here or cash. Four attempts machine would not take my card, spit the cash back out. I push button for attendant. A voice comes on, “try again.” No luck, Voice then says try machine at exit. Once I find way to exit the machine is out of order. Turning around to go back to other machines I see a policeman coming. I jump out to ask for help. Sadly car was still in drive. I jumped in before my car hit a car and the wall. Telling me to “focus” the nice fellow opened the gate and let me out. I saved $4. Well, enjoy my pictures of Union Station, Worcester. I visited with the T conductors waiting to return to Boston.

Failing in getting something to eat, I was off to the Salisbury Mansion for a tour. Built in 1772 by the first of three Salisbury generations who were instrumental in the establishment of Worcester into the industrial center it became. Well worth the visit, and I had a personal tour by an extremely competent docent.

these two panels outside the home detail some of the family’s contributions. I learned more earlier at the historical museum.

Also on my list for the day was the Worcester Art Museum. My legs were giving out, and I did only a brief visit, but this is why I have a North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) level membership at Old Sturbridge Village (OSV). My $18 entrance was free with my NARM membership – this now the third museum I have visited with my OSV benefit, and you do not mind not being able to “do it all.” I only saw a fraction of the exhibit halls, hitting the lower level and some ancient civilization exhibits.

I mentioned Isaiah Thomas earlier. You need to learn about him. In 1812 he established the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. Yes, on my list for a visit (currently closed with COVID) and I need to do research there, but at least I was able to see the building which was endowed by Salisbury money. I cannot wait to visit.

Well, pelvis hurting, missed lunch busy exploring, it was after 3 PM, so I thought let me head to the 1761 Old Mill Restaurant in Westminster for a late lunch or early dinner. Did eat there once with David and family, and you would never know it is right off Route 2. A bucolic spot, great flowing water, many rooms, and extremely popular. But due to the size the kitchen must be pretty institutional. My salmon was good, but nothing special. Glad I stopped, but don’t have to again. Nice setting as you can see below.

I am so glad I got out again, and initiated explorations in this area that will lead to further travels. So close, so easy for day trips, or overnights. I cannot wait for better weather.

Thanks for getting this far, and do get out and explore and learn. Stay safe and well, as always, luv, RAY

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4 Responses to “THE HEART OF THE COMMONWEALTH” – EXPLORATIONS AT “THE WOO” – 12 FEBRUARY 2022

  1. Betty says:

    I’m glad to read you’ve been able to get out and exploring again!
    Nice biography of your great-grandfather, Franz!. Quite a forward thinker for his time; we could use more people like him!
    The Industrial Age is a fascinating time, so much to learn and so many pieces of a puzzle to put together once you visit and learn about places and people.

  2. George Lush says:

    Ray, I enjoyed your post on Worcester. I was surprised to see your explorations did not include the Higgins Armory Museum, so I did some research. I was sad to see it closed in 2013 and is now a wedding reception venue. I visited there years ago and was agog at the fabulous collection. I learned a medieval suit of armor was a custom made affair and could cost the equivalent of several hundred thousand dollars in today’s money. Really wealthy knights might have as many as 3 suits of armor: one ceremonial, one for jousting tournaments, and one for battle. I just completed a road trip along historic Route 66 in Arizona, from Kingman to Winslow (complete with Burma Shave signs.) Visited impressive pueblo ruins at Wupatki National Monument and cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument. Never stop exploring, George

    • Ray Boas says:

      Hi George, Fortunately I too got to visit the armory in its original location, and was dismayed to learn of its closing – BUT – the collection has been moved in the Worcester Art Museum. I did not on this trip go to the main galleries of the collection, but in several galleries downstairs pieces from the collection have been worked in as appropriate. All is not lost. When I go back to see the main rooms of the collection, I hope the settings are the same as in the original building. I will report on that. Love your Route 66 trip — maybe someday I will make it. Stay safe and well, yours, RAY

      >

  3. Vicki Gohl says:

    Who knew Worcester had such a beautiful trains station? I love “ a poem in stone”
    Thanks Ray – always a pleasure
    Vicki Gohl

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