Worcester, Massachusetts is the second largest city in New England, with a population of over 181,000 people, making it second only to Boston. It is located in Central Massachusetts, approximately midway between Boston and Springfield, and is in Worcester County. Worcester’s neighbors include Auburn, Grafton, Holden, Leicester, Millbury, Paxton, Shrewsbury, and West Boylston.
Worcester covers over 38 square miles of land, and is the origin of the Blackstone River. The Blackstone Valley surrounding this river is an important historical industrial corridor. The Blackstone Canal connected this river, Worcester, and the surrounding towns to Providence and Atlantic Ocean, but has since fallen into disuse.
The city has two major ponds, Indian Lake and Lake Quinsigamond. These are popular destinations for recreational activities including rowing and boating. Worcester is characterized by rolling hills, with eleven named hills spanning the city.
Like much of Central Massachusetts, Worcester’s lands were first occupied by the Nipmuc Indians, and the first attempts at European settlement were driven back by King Philip’s Wars. Despite initial settlements beginning in 1674, permanent settlement did not occur until after 1713. It was incorporated as a town in 1722, named after Worcester, England, and became a city in 1848.
Worcester was a major manufacturing center throughout the 1800s and up through World War II. Shoes, textiles, wire, and machinery were just some of the many items produced here and transported via the Blackstone Canal and the Worcester and Boston Railroad. Worcester boasts a number of inventions, including Valentine cards, candlepin bowling, and the monkey wrench.
The local economy began to decline following the second World War, as the city lost its manufacturing base. However, with a variety of higher educational institutions, healthcare, and biotechnology moving to the city, the economy has seen a steady increase. City planners have begun planning a downtown revitalization to further increase tourism, retail, and residential opportunities.
Worcester is a hub for higher education with many well-respected colleges and universities located here. Some of these include:
Several of these schools belong to a consortium, allowing students to access services at the other institutions.
The focus on higher education in the city brings with it a large student population. As a college town, Worcester enjoys a vibrant arts scene and ample sporting events. With UMass Medical School ranking among the top 50 medical schools in the United States, Worcester-area residents also enjoy top-notch healthcare without the need to travel into Boston.
Worcester is one of the largest cities in New England, with a proud history and bright future. From its earliest days as a manufacturing and transportation hub, it has transformed itself to be a center for higher education and healthcare, drawing students and visitors from around the country to call this city home.