Robert Antonelli, Jr.
Location: Lake Avenue to Hamilton Street -
Size/Land Area: 78.2 Acres.
Ball Field? Yes.
Lake Park is Worcester's third largest municipal park. It is located directly across from Lake Quinsigamond. It houses a state of the art baseball field (Tivnan Field).
Lake Park is largely rural and is dissected by Hamilton Street. At the north it is bordered by Nonquit Street, at the east it is lined by Lake Avenue and on the south and west it is bordered by Coburn Avenue. In the summer of 1884 (before the vote on the Park Act) Horace H. Bigelow and Edward L. Davis donated 110 acres to the city to establish a park on the shores of Lake Quinsigamond. There is no specific evidence of the motives of either man, but in a general way such gestures of civic generosity reinforced a paternalist social structure, which gave dominant roles to men like Davis and Bigelow, both of whom were heavily involved in local manufacturing, business and politics. In addition, some manufacturers and businessmen believed that parks would actually reshape the public behavior of their employees.
Hence, Parks Commissioner Edward Winslow Lincoln, in accepting the gift of Lake Park, noted the commission's duty "to see that it is made to promote popular enjoyment; to develop a taste for the beauties of nature; and to refine and soften, by cultivating, humanity itself." But such increased refinement might do more than just lessen internal conflict. To many, civic beauty and civic growth were inextricably linked, since a properly arranged city might attract new business. "It will not do," Lincoln wrote, comparing Worcester parks to those in New York and Chicago, "to lag in the rear and fall behind our rivals in the race for supremacy."
For Bigelow, the donation of Lake Park may have gone beyond civic boosterism. As the proprietor of several lakeside amusement enterprises, the operator of the Worcester and Shrewsbury Railroad (the only transportation line to the lake), the owner of extensive lakeside property and the builder of Lake View cottages, he stood to benefit from growing public use of Lake Quinsigamond. In his annual Parks Reports, Commissioner Lincoln had pointed out that real estate values of land adjoining public parks had skyrocketed in other cities. Indeed, Lincoln whose family had extensive landholdings in the area around Elm Park, may have benefited from the "greening" of the city's parks. Whether or not real estate speculation promoted Bigelow's gift, he seems to have gained financially from his generosity. Between 1870 and 1890 weekend attendance at the lake jumped from 100 to about 20,000 people per day. In addition, in the two years following his donation, land parcels on the eastern shore of the lake reportedly shot up in value from $35 to $500 per acre.
Before the city accepted Lake Park - more than 20 years after it was offered by the Davis family - Lincoln had written thousands of words about the benefits of a "Water-Park" near Lake Quinsigamond. When 110 acres were finally part of the city's holdings in 1884, improvements were immediately scheduled. A rural carriage drive - The Circuit - was planned to traverse "The Holy Terror" (a double culvert over a swamp) "The Ford" (over the brook), and the "Twin Sisters" (a notable cleft boulder).
A pleasant glade for outdoor parties was created and a deep well located with the help of a divining rod, a well "cold enough to chill the oleomargarine for any church excursion," bragged Lincoln.
Swimming was not part of the plan. When bath houses were proposed for the park, Lincoln raised a fuss, making it clear that public bathing "in breech-cloth or tights" was for the poor or immodest. The Parks Commission, he explained, has a "...definite assignment...to put a polish upon the face of the earth and NOT to scrub the scruff from its inhabitants."
The public enthusiasm for parks sparked by the gift of Lake Park further ensured the almost unanimous approval - 5,094 to 181 - of the Parks Act in the fall 1884 election. With this mandate and continued prodding from Eastsiders, the newly established Parks Commission developed a comprehensive park plan, which it unveiled in the fall of 1886.
In 1956, 27.12 acres were taken by the State for the development of Lake Quinsigamond, leaving a total of 75.6 acres of non-waterfront property for the City of Worcester public use.