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Archives: Exhibits

Worcester State University Archives and Special Collections

Worcester Postcards


This exhibit features historical  postcards from the Archives collection that show vanished landmarks from across the city of Worcester. Dating from c. 1900-1970, they include civic, religious, and commercial buildings that no longer exist.  

The images below correspond to the items on view. Linked to each is a Google Street View showing the same sites as they appear today. 

 On view through May, 2024. 




Row 1

Worcester Post Office.  Worcester’s old post office was built in 1897 on Main Street near Southbridge. Postal services had previously been housed in various multi-purpose buildings, but this structure was the first stand-alone post office for the city. As Worcester's population grew during the first decades of the 20th century, this Romanesque style building became inadequate. It was decommissioned and replaced by the Harold Donohue federal building in 1933.  View the same site today.

Old Union Station. Completed in 1875 near Washington Square, this building served Worcester’s busy rail lines for 36 years. In the early decades of the 20th century, increasing train congestion required the elevation of tracks and the construction of the current Union station to the west of this building in 1911. Portions of this building survived until the construction of Interstate 290 in the late 1950s.  View the same site today


Kenneth Burns Memorial Bridge. Spanning Lake Qunisigamond at Belmont Street, the bridge seen here was built in 1916 to serve the growing automobile traffic between Boston, Worcester and points west. While Belmont Street was designated as Route 9 in 1933, this route from Worcester to Boston dates back to 1810 when it was opened as Worcester Turnpike. Traffic in those early days crossed a floating bridge at this site, later replaced by a causeway. This modern concrete bridge served traffic for nearly 99 years, before being replaced by the current span in 2015. View the same site today.

Worcester Public LibraryThe Worcester Public Library occupied this complex of buildings on Elm Street just west of Main since 1861. By the 1920s, the facility was outdated but library patrons would have to wait nearly 40 additional years for a new building. Redevelopment of the Salem Square area in the early 1960s cleared space for the current library which opened in 1964. The Pearl-Elm garage now occupies this site. View the same site today.

YWCA. The Worcester YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) was founded in 1885 and constructed this spacious building at High and Chatham Streets in 1891. Early YWCA facilities contained exercise rooms and gyms, but also club rooms, cafeterias, and inexpensive boarding rooms for women. This facility expanded several times during the 20th century before its new headquarters opened on Salem Street in 1962. Vacant and outdated, this building was demolished for parking in 1964. Portions of the foundation walls can still be seen. View the same site today. 

Odd Fellows Home.  Opened in 1892 on Randolph Road, this institution served elderly and disabled members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) fraternal organization. In the era before social safety nets such as social security and Medicare, organizations like the IOOF served needy members by building hospitals and care homes. During the 20th century, elder care options expanded while membership in fraternal organizations declined, resulting in the closure of many of these institutions. The IOOF continues to care for the elderly at this site, but this historic building was sold and demolished by developers in 2014. View the same site today. 

St. Vincent’s Hospital  The massive St. Vincent’s Hospital complex on Vernon Hill was constructed in stages over 90 years from 1890s through to the 1980s. As health care changed over time, older structures became inadequate and were replaced with newer facilities. This building with its distinctive tower stood on Vernon Street and was one of the hospital's original buildings. St. Vincent’s hospital relocated its campus to a downtown location in 2000. View the same site today. 


Row 2

St. Ann's Church. This 1891 edifice once stood on Eastern Avenue as part of a complex of religious buildings including a rectory and a grade school. Seating more than 1000, it served a large Irish Catholic parish in the surrounding neighborhood. Its landmark spires, visible from trains at nearby Union Station, were destroyed in the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. As parishioners moved out of the area in the 1950s and 1960s, attendance declined and St. Ann’s merged with another church in 1968. The buildings were demolished in 1970, but fragments of its decorative retaining wall remain on Eastern Avenue. View the same site today. 

Notre Dame Church. Built in 1929, Notre Dame Des Canadiens church had been established in 1869 to serve Worcester’s population of French-speaking Catholics. After occupying two former protestant churches, the congregation constructed this landmark building at Salem Square in 1929. As with other churches near Worcester’s downtown, attendance declined in the years following World War II and the church was closed in 2007. In spite of efforts by historical preservation advocates, the building was demolished in 2018.  View the same site today. 


Old South ChurchDedicated in 1889, this structure stood on Main Street near Wellington and replaced an early church destroyed to make way for Worcester’s current city hall. It was used by the congregation until the early 1970s when dwindling membership led to a merger with another church. Fragments of the original façade remain behind modern construction. View the same site today. 


The First Baptist Church. This congregation was organized  in the early 1800s and met in different structures in and around Worcester’s downtown until this impressive building opened on Main Street and Ionic Avenue in 1907. In 1937 a lightning strike caused a fire that destroyed the building. The congregation sought out less congested locations to rebuild, settling on a site near Worcester Polytechnic’s campus. The current church building opened in 1939. View the same site today.

White City Amusement ParkFor 55 years, the White City Amusement Park entertained visitors from across Central Massachusetts. Named for the “fifty thousand” electric lights that illuminated it by night, the park was located on the eastern shore of Lake Quinsigamond in Shrewsbury, along the busy Boston Turnpike (Route 9) and adjacent trolley lines. Park visitors enjoyed various rides, including a roller coaster,, water attractions, concessions, and side shows. It closed for its final season in the fall of 1960 and was replaced by the White City Shopping Center. View the same site today. 

Norse Tower, Institute ParkThis folly was built in 1892 by Stephen Salisbury and stood near the southwest corner of Institute Park. Based on the mysterious Newport Tower (likely a colonial-era windmill) this structure was purely decorative and served as an attraction for park visitors. It stood until the mid-1950s when it was demolished due to structural problems. View the same site today. 


Row 3

Oread InstituteOpened in 1849 as one of the nation’s first colleges for women, the “castle” as it became known, served the institute until it closed in 1881. At the turn of the 20th century, it was home to a short-lived domestic science school before being abandoned. The dilapidated structure was razed in the mid-1930s and the site became Worcester’s Oread Castle Park. View the same site today. 


Eclectic Medical College/ Davis Hall, Worcester Academy. Standing near the intersection of Providence and Dorchester Streets, this structure was built as a medical college in the early 1850s, later serving as a girl’s academy and a civil war hospital before being purchased as the new home of Worcester Academy. Named for the school’s long-time board president, Isaac Davis, it served the campus for nearly 100 years. Outdated and in need of major repairs, it was demolished in 1964 and replaced by modern facilities. View the same site today.

Highland Military Academy. Founded in 1856 by Caleb Metcalf, a Yale graduate and long-time Worcester schoolmaster, this was just one of many small preparatory schools that once existed in Worcester. While its student body never exceed more than about 50, it drew attendees from across the United States. A famous student was Willie Grout of the 15th Massachusetts Infantry who would reportedly be the first Worcester soldier killed during the Civil War. The academy closed in 1912 as the upscale neighborhood on Salisbury Street just west of WPI's campus, was being developed. The site today is occupied by houses. View the same site today.

Classical/Commerce High School. Designed by the famous Boston architect, Henry Hobson Richardson, (Trinity Church, Boston) this structure opened in the early 1870s on Maple Terrace, replacing an early wooden school building on the same site. Built to house Classical High School, it became Commerce High in 1914 and grew into a complex that filled much of block. The construction of Burncoat and Doherty High Schools (1964, 1966) rendered this building obsolete and it was demolished in 1966 to make way for the Paul Revere Life Insurance Company building. View the same site today. 

Dix Street SchoolsOpened in 1867, the older of the two school buildings on Dix Street was typical of Worcester’s many 19th century brick school buildings. By the 1950s, however, it was rated as one of Worcester’s most outdated and was scheduled for replacement when it was destroyed by fire in January, 1968. Today, the neighborhood is served by the Elm Park school that opened in 1971. View the same site today. 

Rare Books Exhibit 

On view on the library's top floor is an exhibit of the oldest rare books in the collection. Included are several 18th-century items such as The Royal Standard English Dictionary published here in Worcester in 1797. Many of these books were donated by the estate of Robert Mullin ('53) while others were pulled from the library's circulation collections. On view through December, 2023.