A Snapshot of the Past: Celebrating Worcester’s 300th Anniversary

The Court House and second American Antiquarian Society building on Main Street, ca. 1905-1910.
Traffic at the intersection of Main Street, Front Street, and Pleasant Street, 2022

 

 

 

 

 

In 1900, Theodore Clemens Wohlbrück, a professional photographer from New Jersey, moved to Worcester and opened a small but successful photo studio on Main Street. Known for his city views and postcards, Wohlbrück left Worcester in 1910, but his photographs of the city remained. The collection, now housed at the American Antiquarian Society, contains over 180 glass plate negatives of views of businesses in downtown Worcester, City Hall and the Common, churches, houses, Memorial Hospital, and Lake Quinsigamond. A handful of images also capture President William Howard Taft’s visit to Worcester in April 1910. Browsing through the now-digitized collection,  I wondered how much the streets of Worcester have changed over the past one-hundred and twelve years. So, with camera in hand, I made it my mission to trace Wohlbrück’s footsteps and capture modern-day views of the city.

Pearl Street, looking toward Union Congregational Church ca. 1905-1910.
Pearl Street, 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

To the absolute delight of many Worcester drivers, I frequently found myself standing in the middle of a street trying to get the perfect angle to recreate Wohlbrück’s photographs. I couldn’t help but feel like I had travelled right back to Worcester ca. 1910 as I snapped away on my camera. Sure, there are a lot more cars now and a lot less horse drawn carriages and street cars, but surprisingly, a portion of the buildings are still standing, even if certain architectural features and the landscape around them have drastically changed. While walking around downtown Worcester, I also gained a huge appreciation for the time and effort that Wohlbrück put in to photographing the city. Whether Wohlbrück knew it or not, his photographs are priceless snapshots of history that give us a glimpse at the daily lives of Worcester residents – where they lived, where they worked, what they bought, and what they did for entertainment. And although the sidewalks are narrower and the stores on Main Street have changed, the heart of the city and its people are still there.

Soldiers marching down Main Street during a parade, ca. 1910.
Traffic on Main Street, 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

Join us at the American Antiquarian Society for an in-person public program on September 28th as we celebrate the 300th anniversary of Worcester! Visitors of all ages can drop in anytime between 5:30- 7:00 p.m. to view more photographs in the Wohlbrück Collection as well as other Worcester-themed collection material. Items will range from nineteenth century letters and diaries to colorful children’s games, valentines, newspapers, photographs, the Brown Family Collection, and much more. AAS curators and staff will also be there to chat with you about the items on display!

This program will be held in person at Antiquarian Hall, 185 Salisbury Street, Worcester, MA. COVID-19 vaccinations are required for all in person visitors, and we encourage you to arrive early to present your proof of vaccination. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and advanced registration is not required.

Read more about Wohlbrück at these links:

https://pastispresent.org/2020/good-sources/its-all-in-the-details-the-broadsides-of-photographer-theodore-c-wohlbruck/

https://pastispresent.org/2019/good-sources/a-new-aas-illustrated-inventory-the-wohlbruck-collection/ https://pastispresent.org/2012/good-sources/worcester-through-wohlbruck-or-an-introduction-to-photographic-resources-in-gigi/

https://pastispresent.org/2014/library-stuff/preservation-week-redux-saving-a-collection/

https://pastispresent.org/2010/good-sources/historic-photographs-and-the-sharp-memory-of-a-local/

Published by

Amanda Kondek

Programs Coordinator

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