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Institute Park

Institute ParkLocation: Park Avenue to Salisbury Street -
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Size/Land Area: 24.6 Acres.

Playground? No.

Ball Field? No.

Pool? No.

Institute Park Master Plan (2.9MB)


Institute Park is close to downtown Worcester just north of Highland Street. It is bordered by Salisbury Street on the south, Park Avenue on the west, Runford Avenue on the north, and Humboldt Avenue on the east.

For many years a handsome bridge connected the park with a small island in the pond. A replica of the Old Mill at Newport, RI, added to the attractiveness of the park, while tennis courts make it especially interesting to the younger generation. Worcester Polytechnic Institute lacked ample land accommodations in 1887 and Mr. Salisbury intended this park to supply a campus for the students at that institution (Salisbury was at that time a Trustee of the Institute and was later on the Board of Trustees as was his father before him). As time went on, however, many acres of land were added to the institutes holdings, hence the park was hardly needed for a students' playground.

Institute Pond, as it is usually called, or Salisbury's Pond, as the older generation knew it, is an artificial lake made by the dam thrown across Grove Street. Originally this pond was a mill pond, supplying power to the factory erected in 1834 by Stephen Salisbury II, for the growing wire business of Ichabod Washburn.

In 1912 the Trustees of the Worcester Art Museum gave the city 6.4 acres of land which was added to Institute Park. Tennis courts are located on the side of the park closest to W.P.I. There are also swings, seesaws, and a sandbox. In the summer, many concerts are played at the Sneiderman Pavilion band shell, sometimes drawing crowds in excess of 10,000.

In 1887, the Honorable Stephen Salisbury III sat on the newly formed Park Commission. In a communication to the Mayor dated June 20, 1887, Mr. Salisbury offered a tract of land on the south side of Salisbury Pond for a park. The gift was accepted and Mr. Salisbury undertook to lay out and grade the tract thus granted, the plans being prepared by Mr. Edward Winslow Lincoln of the Park Commission and Mr. Salisbury himself.

The land that Mr. Salisbury presented to the city included about 25 acres. It had been an ordinary farm field and pasture. It was transformed into an ideal city park, with its winding drives, its paths and its shade trees. No gardens were included in the development of plans nor flowering shrubs. Mr. Salisbury's idea being that flowers would prove a temptation to the visitors of the park. It was also his idea that the utmost freedom should be allowed visitors to roam at will over the grass, as well as on the roads and paths. All vehicles were to be excluded from the roads. Mr. Salisbury's theory as to the flowers has, however, been proved erroneous by long experience.

Stark and simple, the bookend columns at Institute Park are as enigmatic as the man who gave them to the city. Stephen Salisbury III was one of the affluent "urban aristocracy" that dominated the city's business, civic and cultural scene in the late 19th century.

The story is told that Salisbury was in Boston for business when he saw the wrecker's ball razing the venerable Tremont House, a hostelry of wide repute, built in 1823. Enamored of the classical Doric columns on the portico he arranged to buy two of them and had them shipped to Worcester. He had already given the land for Institute Park to the city with the provision that he be allowed to carry out his own designs for the new park. The gray granite columns were placed at opposite boundaries of the park where they have remained since 1895.

The rose-granite sphere at the top of one is a mystery. The public record is silent on the matter. No spheres are visible in period engravings of the Tremont House. There is no evidence to conclude that there were ever two of them.

Institute Park is one of Worcester's most beautiful parks. It harbors many tranquil moments by those wishing to get away from everyday city life. Lastly, Institute Park has three lighted tennis courts and the Sneiderman Pavilion, which hosts concerts throughout the summer.

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