Worcester, MA (WOR)
Built for the Boston and Albany Railroad, the station features soaring twin white marble towers. Following a period of decline, the building was restored and unveiled with a gala ball in 1999.
2 Washington Square
Worcester Union Station
Worcester, MA 01604
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 6,152
- Facility Ownership: Worcester Redevelopment Authority
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Worcester
- Platform Ownership: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
- Track Ownership: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The French-Renaissance styled Worcester Union Station was originally completed in 1911 for the Boston and Albany Railroad (B&A), but it was also used by the New York, New Haven and Hartford and the Boston and Maine railroads. Built as part of a grade separation project, it replaced an earlier station from 1875 known for its 212-foot high clock tower and massive masonry arches over the train shed.
The new Union Station, designed by Philadelphia architects Watson and Huckel, was considered the most beautiful building in Massachusetts when completed. It has been compared to Union Station in Washington, D.C. for the grandeur of its interior spaces. The station featured an elliptical stained glass skylight in the main hall and solid birch benches, as well as marble and terra cotta finishes. Its soaring 175-foot high twin white marble towers and cream colored exterior contributed to its distinctive character. In 1926, structural instability caused by the vibration of the trains caused the original towers to be taken down. At its peak, the station served 140 trains a day.
In the latter part of the 20th century, the Worcester station fell into disrepair as the passenger routes that stopped there declined in frequency. It was closed and boarded up in 1972, and Amtrak subsequently built and used a small brick structure east of the station. By 1981, its barrel-vaulted main waiting room had fallen into ruin, with the elliptical stained-glass skylights missing and only the exposed framework remaining. Interiors were littered with fallen plaster and beams, even as the entrance still marked the names of the railroads that it once served.
In 1992, the non-profit 250 member Union Station Alliance formed and began the process of acquiring funding for restoring the station. The Worcester Redevelopment Authority (WRA), formed by the city of Worcester and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, purchased the station in 1994. By 1996 design plans for the restoration had begun. Public interest in linking station development to nearby Green Island neighborhood development was also expressed at that time. In 1998, the WRA spearheaded the $32.2 million renovation, and a partnership between the Union Station Alliance, Loheed Design Partnership and Oscar Turner Real Estate responded to the call for development proposals. The project architects were Finegold Alexander & Associates, Inc.
By late 1999, the renovations were sufficiently complete to celebrate with a gala ball in which the public could see that the inside restoration was very close to the original, with the return of the stained glass ceiling and marble floor in the main hall. The towers were rebuilt, but using modern steel sheathed in molded fiberglass that would better stand both vibration and weather than authentic materials, as well as reducing cost. These towers, like the originals, are purely decorative. There were other modernizations in materials to add stability and strength with Plexiglas and molded fiberglass. However, real red oak, stained mahogany trim and marble floors were used in the interiors, and new glazed terracotta was installed to replace damaged and missing exterior tiles. The station reopened to passengers in July 2000.
A 500-car garage adjacent to the station was completed in July 2008 for an additional $7 million, and bus ports were added on the Worcester Center Boulevard side of the station. A roundabout in front of the station was finished in 2009 to enhance access to the building and better connect it to Shrewsbury Street and the Canal District. The station’s redevelopment has enabled a redevelopment strategy for Washington Square.
The station is now an intermodal facility, providing intercity bus line connections as well as Amtrak and Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority commuter rail connections on the Framingham/Worcester line. The station also offers free Wi-Fi access. The station’s Grand Hall is available for events, and retail, business offices and a restaurant are also housed in the facility.
In May 2013, local, state and federal officials gathered for the dedication of the new Worcester Union Station Bus Hub constructed on a parking lot immediately southwest of the train station. Designed by Wendel Duchsherer Architects and Engineers of Amherst, N.Y., the multistory building features bus slips, an enclosed passenger waiting area, covered bike racks, retail spaces and offices for the Worcester Regional Transportation Authority. The architects also incorporated environmentally sustainable materials and design solutions such as photovoltaic panels that generate electricity. The Federal Transit Administration contributed $15.9 million towards the $16.3 million project, and the state covered the remainder.
The area that would become Worcester on the Blackstone River was originally occupied by the Pakachoag tribe of the Nipmuc nation of Native Americans, as it was a favorite fishing and hunting spot, for which they called it Quinsigamond, “fishing place for pickerel.” English settlers came in both 1673, and 1684, but both original settlements were destroyed in conflicts during King Phillip’s War and later Queen Anne’s War. The third settlement dates from 1713, and the name change as well. Worcester, named for a historic English city, was chartered as a town in 1722 and as a city in 1848.
During the American Revolutionary War, Worcester served as a munitions depot for the Patriot side, and thus was targeted by Loyalist general Thomas Gage; this strike was averted and the Loyalists moved on to Lexington. On July 14, 1776, Isaiah Thomas, intercepting the mail packet from Philadelphia to Boston, made the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in New England in front of Worcester’s City Hall.
During the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, Worcester became known for innovation in commerce, industry and education. Ichabod Washburn of Worcester developed an extrusion process for wire, and his company, Washburn & Moen (1831), became known as the company that barbed-wire-fenced the American west. The monkey wrench was invented in Worcester in 1840; and in 1856, physician Russel Howes invented the first envelope-folding machine. Esther Howland designed and manufactured the first Valentine Day cards in 1847. The three-decker, a form of affordable housing common in the 19th century, was innovated in Worcester as well. Charles Palmer of Worcester received his patent for “fancy night cafes” and “night lunch wagons”—the familiar American diners—in 1891; they had been manufactured in Worcester since in 1888. Worcester also claims to be the home of the first ball point pens and typewriters.
Today, Worcester has a diversified economy, having moved on from its industrial roots. The largest employer is the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Biotechnology, finance and insurance also feature in this economy. Mechanics Hall, a Renaissance Revival concert hall on the National Register of Historic Places, is a world-renowned musical venue often sought for recordings. The Hanover Theater for the Performing Arts is the city’s venue for Broadway shows, concert, and nationally recognized performers. The Worcester Music Festival is said to be the oldest in the United States, having begun in 1858; the organization now presents a variety of concerts. Less well-known, perhaps, is that Worcester resident Harvey Ball designed the first smiley face in 1963.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this station, which is served by two daily trains.
- 300 Short Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Elevator Accessible
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- High Platform
- Pay Phones