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Green Hill Park

Green Hill ParkLocation: Belmont Street to Skyline Drive -
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Size/Land Area: 482.4 Acres.

Playground? Yes.

Ball Field? Yes.

Pool? No.

Green Hill Park is Worcester's largest municipal park. It is over 480 acres and houses a number of activities and facilities. It contains two ponds, a zoo, picnic grove, playground, little league field, golf course, and handball courts. It is also host to the Worcester Parks, Recreation and Cemetery administrative office.

Green Hill Park is located atop one of Worcester's seven main hills. It is bordered on the north by I290, on the south by Route 9 (Belmont Street), on the west by Channing, Uxbridge and Denmar Streets (parallel to Lincoln Street), and to the east by Skyline Drive. Nearly 267 years ago the permanent settler to inhabit the hilly terrain of what is now Worcester's Green Hill Park began clearing a modest elevated site for his dwelling. An Englishman named Aaron Adams, one of the proprietors of the initial land grant, was the first of many generations to plan and manage the landscape of the park environs. Over the years, the Adams family, the Green Family, and the City of Worcester have managed the land, transforming the hills of Worcester to farmland, to a country estate and finally to a unique public park offering Worcester residents recreational opportunities that are rare in the urban setting.

In 1713 a group of settlers purchased eight square miles of hunting grounds, including the present parkland, from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Aaron Adams of Sudbury, England was one of those settlers, and in the next five years he acquired two tracts of land totaling eighty-one acres. Adams built the first structure on the land in 1714, and established a farm on the northern section of Millstone Hill. Twenty years later more than a hundred acres adjacent to the farm was purchased for the town of Worcester's use as a quarry. By 1750, the only other addition to the land was seven acres bought at auction by Adam's brother Thomas, who then owned the farm.

In 1754, Dr. Thomas Green purchased from Thomas Adams about 180 acres. This land, with later additions, became known as "Stormont" or "Green Hill". His son, Dr. John Green inherited the land, and in 1757 he built the first Green family homestead.

By 1782, the Green landholdings had doubled to include the southern half of Millstone Hill. Upon John Green's death, the land went to his children, and in 1812, to one son in particular, William Elijah Green. John Green's children had significantly expanded and improved their landholding, having added fifty acres of the Crawford farm to the northeast of Millstone Hill and forming a small pond in the Bear Brook wetland (Green Hill pond is presently on this site). William continued to increase the size of the property by buying the northern half of Millstone Hill including the quarry, through a court decision determined that the public could still mine quarry stone there.

In 1848 William's son Andrew was given the family land, which then totaled 287 acres. Andrew Green was responsible for consolidating the family holdings by purchasing the remainder of the adjacent Crawford farm and discharging the family debts; he increased the size of the land by 312 acres to bring the total acreage of the land to more than twice its size 50 years before. It was during this period that the Greens' landholding was transformed from a country farm to a large estate. From his early life on the Worcester farm and later residence and deep commitment to the beautification of New York City, Andrew H. Green grew to be an eminent supporter of landscape gardening. In 1857, he became Commissioner of Central Park. His life was dedicated to improving the city dweller's quality of life through the development of parks and cultural institutions. This interest naturally was extended to his family estate and as his wealth increased, the grounds were enlarged and beautifully landscaped for the enjoyment of the Green family and their guests.

Andrew Green's influential life in New York brought him in contact with many people and places throughout the country. As gifts for his assistance and/ or hospitality, unusual ornamental trees and stone pieces were brought to the estate and placed on the grounds where they could be viewed and enjoyed. In 1850 Andrew Green divided in two (side by side) the original Family Homestead building, and built a new "mansion" in between, making 42 rooms in all. While farming was still pursued, grounds near the mansion were carefully planted and maintained as a rolling landscaped lawn sloping toward the lake waters.

In 1872, Andrew Green's brother Martin, who was trained as a civil engineer, came to reside at the estate as its manager. At the encouragement of his brother and on the merits of his professional background, he undertook many engineering and landscaping projects throughout the estate. Martin Green's decision in 1878 to dam the Bear Brook valley and form an extensive water body, present day Green Hill Pond, greatly altered the character of the valley. The pond provided pleasing vistas and opportunities for leisure and recreation where lawns, tree groves, and rocky outcroppings touched the shoreline.

Andrew Green died in 1903 and left his estate of 549 acres to five nieces and nephews, who in turn sold the parkland to the City of Worcester, contributing $50,000 towards a purchase price of $104,000. By this purchase, the City of Worcester acquired a large and unique park resource which has since provided recreational opportunities for many generations of city residents.

Of the seventy-four years of public ownership, the City actively and creatively used the Green Hill resource for many varied recreational programs and built new facilities. Some of the facilitates included a toboggan run beginning at Crown Hill, an eighteen hole golf course and clubhouse, a community zoo, boating and swimming on Green Hill Pond, a memorial grove of sugar maples to honor World War I dead, a city street tree nursery, various ball fields and courts, improvements at the Holland Recreation area including an archery range, skating rink, field house and casting pool, and a health course with a series of exercise stations.

Unique to this park, up until 1957 when it was demolished, was the Green family mansion. This structure housed a community wildlife museum and contained a number of rooms which were utilized for local meetings and other activities benefiting the public as a whole. Eventually, after fifty-two years of public use, the wooden mansion was torn down; vandalism, damage from the hurricane of 1948, and high maintenance costs contributed to this decision.

The integrity of the park has remained fairly intact over the seventy-four years since it was sold to the city. Two intrusions exist that present direct conflicts with the pastoral nature of the park experience. The most notable is the presence of the Massachusetts Air National Guard Armory. In 1957, 7.24 acres of the highest land, at Millstone Hill, was transferred to the State.

The other controversial land use was the takeover by I290. In 1967, 4.47 acres of the park was dedicated to the highway, which was to link Worcester with east-west transportation corridors. This severed the Holland Recreation Area from the body of Green Hill Park, destroying its swimming pool and relegating the land to a neighborhood park.

For many years, after its usefulness had passed, the quarry on Millstone Hill was a problem that continually plagued the City officials. Clandestine dumping of refuse materials frequently occurred in the quarry cavity during the '40's and '50's. In the middle '60's, the City of Worcester used the quarry as a dump for building material refuse which was periodically burned, creating a pollution hazard in the northeastern section of the community. As neighborhood complaints grew more intense and State air pollution became more restrictive, the quarry dumping was suspended. The quarry site was again reopened in 1971 as a sanitary landfill managed by the City. In 1973 the landfill was completed, the site was graded and re-vegetated. This open grassy surface is now a park asset, available for use as an informal sports field.

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