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I’ve been taking a course called “Night Photography” at the Worcester Art Museum from photographer Norm Eggert, and our assignment on Wednesday night was to transport our cameras and our tripods to Shrewsbury Street, the “Restaurant Row” of Worcester, MA. and take pictures.
We who live in Worcester get rather sensitive when outsiders refer to our city as “Wormtown” and call it a “sleepy industrial backwater” long past its prime.
But on Wednesday, Shrewsbury Street was humming with life on a balmy summer night. It was more like a street in Europe. People were sitting at tables on the sidewalk, deep in conversation, with not a cell phone or I-pad in sight. Cars rolled by with music blasting, kids hung out in Cristoforo Colombo Park, everyone was friendly and no one was afraid.
The Boulevard Diner is the Queen of Worcester’s famed diners (all manufactured right here by the Worcester Lunch Car & Carriage Company between 1906 and 1957.) It was at the Boulevard that Madonna and her entourage ordered a hearty spaghetti dinner after a performance nearby.
On Shrewsbury Street, as you can see, there are plenty of places to get a drink—many of them resembling the friendly neighborhood bar in Cheers where everybody knows your name.
And there are elegant restaurants with valet parking and cuisines from every corner of the world.
At the end of Shrewsbury Street is a large rotary where the restored Union Station stands, looking just as it did when it welcomed thousands of immigrants to the factories of Worcester, in search of their American dream. Finished in 1911, it was called “A poem in stone,” and considered one of New England’s primary architectural treasures. But in 1963 the last passenger train pulled out and for more than 20 years the huge building was deserted and deteriorating, huddled in the shadow of the wrecking ball. The twin towers had been removed in 1926 because they were weakened and in danger of falling.
The city managed to restore Union Station to its former glory with the help of alumni of WPI--Worcester Polytechnic Institute. who created new towers out of fiberglass. It re-opened in 2000, once again a major transportation hub.
On Wednesday night as I approached Union Station, half a dozen fire engines screamed by, and then a huge pack of motorcyclists descended—there were dozens—reminding me of the furies in the film “Les Mouches.” I watched the traffic circulate in front of Union Station, with its new mascot—a statue of Christopher Columbus-- overlooking the scene. Eventually it was time to walk back up Shrewsbury Street, to find a place for dinner and perhaps raise a toast to Worcester’s slow but steady renaissance.