Why Worcester is not a capital city

MCAD Building
MCAD building – in Boston

By Gordon Davis

During the late 18th century and the early 19th century the capitals of several Atlantic states moved from port cities to inland locations.

This did not happen in Massachusetts, and Worcester did not become the capital of the Baystate.

There are several reasons for this non event: The first is that the farmers of Massachusetts never were able to become significantly influential in the Commonwealth’s business. The farmers were reduced to being essentially outlaws with the failure of Shay’s Rebellion.

A second reason for Worcester not becoming the state capital is that most of the movements of state capitals inland were to locations easily accessible from the port cities by water or rail. Hartford was connected to New Haven by the Connecticut River, Albany to New York by the Hudson River.

Worcester was connected by river canal and by rail to Providence. During the 19th century it was easier to get to Providence from Worcester than it was to get to Boston from Worcester. Worcester and points west were outside of Boston’s concerns. There was no need for State offices outside of Boston.

The big change came with the Massachusetts Turnpike. Worcester leaders were happy that Boston stayed out of their affairs. The Turnpike was, to some extent, the quickening of Worcester becoming a part of Boston and the reduction of the Worcester bosses’ influence.

The old timers in the unions I have spoken with say that the reason the Massachusetts Turnpike was for decades never in Worcester was because our city leaders wanted to keep the General Motor assembly plant from being located on Airport Hill. The Auto Workers Union during 20th Century was the most progressive or left large union in the country.

The Worcester leaders won this battle, and General Motors built the assembly plant in Framingham. The backward thinking leaders of that Worcester still affect our city today. Negatively. There is no turnpike connection to the Worcester Airport.

With the improvement of passenger rail service to Worcester and the opening of the Route 146 Turnpike connection, and Route I190 to the twin cities of Leominster-Fitchburg there is a new wheel and spoke of the so called hub of Boston. In many ways Worcester is more of a hub as it has highways going east.

The material conditions are such that the Commonwealth could begin to consolidate State buildings and State jobs into the Worcester area.

The infrastructure exists!

For most people in Massachusetts, including Metro West, North Shore, South Shore, Connecticut Valley and Western Massachusetts, it is easier to get to Worcester that it is to get to downtown Boston.

Of course, there is no way the Capital of Massachusetts will move out of Boston nor the Capitol from the Statehouse. The political and historical impediments are just too great.

However, the sale of underutilized or obsolete State-owned buildings in Boston might be a windfall for the Commonwealth. The construction of more efficient building in the Worcester area might be a money saver and a way to relieve the congested traffic issues of Boston.

Looking to the future, something along these lines will have to be done. It makes sense to start thinking about them sooner rather than later, Worcester!