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10 Things You Need to Know about Worcester, MA

Known as 'The Woo,' this east coast gem is known as the "Heart of the Commonwealth," thanks to its easy access and welcoming community.

By Livability on December 12, 2022

Traffic moves in front of the Union Station in Worcester, MA.
Nathan Lambrecht

Worcester is the Central Massachusetts hub for education, health care, retail, entertainment and transportation. Worcester, the second-largest metro in Massachusetts, has an intriguing past and present that are helping to give it a bright future. Here are 10 interesting things to know about “The Woo”:

1. Heart of the Commonwealth

Worcester is known as the “Heart of the Commonwealth” because of its location near the geographic center of Massachusetts, and the heart is the city’s official symbol. Its ideal location puts Worcester a little over 40 miles west of Boston, 50 miles east of Springfield and about 40 miles northwest of Providence, Rhode Island.

Brews from Wormtown Brewery, which is in Worcester, MA.
Courtesy of Wormtown Brewery

2. We are Wormtown

Former Worcester radio disc jockey Leonard Saarinen went by the nickname L.B. Worm, and he gave Worcester the moniker “Wormtown” in the late 1970s when underground punk rock music was at its peak. The nickname lives on to this day, so much so that a local brewery named itself Wormtown Brewery after Saarinen’s inspiration.

3. This Will Make You Smile

Harvey Ball (1921-2001) was born and raised in Worcester, and he invented the smiley face in 1963. Ball was an artist hired to boost morale at State Mutual Life Assurance Co. He completed the drawing in 10 minutes. State Mutual compensated Ball with $45.

4. A Tool with a Historic Twist

Coes Wrench Co. was a 19th-century tool manufacturing company in Worcester credited with inventing the monkey wrench. Company owner Loring Coes invented the screw-type wrench, and his patent was registered on July 4, 1871.

Elm Park in Worcester, MA
Jackie Ricciardi

5. One of the Nation’s Oldest Parks

Elm Park in Worcester is one of the oldest public parks in the U.S., with the city purchasing 27 acres in 1854 to turn the property into a public park. Today, it spans 60 acres and is highlighted by a playground, walking paths and a pond crossed by two bridges.

6. Happy 300th!

Worcester (pronounced WU-str) was incorporated as a town 300 years ago in 1722, then as a city in 1848. It is named after the city of Worcester in the county of Worcestershire, England. The community observed its 300th birthday with a weekend celebration in June 2022. The events included a parade, 5k and family outing, along with a fireworks show at Polar Park and a Boston Pops show featuring Grammy-nominated singer Brian McKnight.

7. Build a Career Here

The region’s diverse roster of employers includes advanced manufacturing, life sciences, logistics and transportation, financial services, nonprofits, health care and education. The region has added more than 12,000 jobs since 2012. 

An employee of AbbVie Inc. works in the manufacturing center in Worcester, MA.
AbbVie Inc.

8. Booming Biotech Industry

The life sciences sector is alive and thriving in the Worcester region, which is home to more than 60 biotech companies. Anchored by the UMass Medical School and 12 colleges and universities with life sciences programs, the industry continues to grow in the Worcester region.

9. A Town Full of Love

For nearly 100 years, Worcester was the center of the nation’s commercial Valentine’s Day industry. In 1847, Worcester resident Esther Howland received a fancy love note from an English admirer, and that inspired her to design her own. It ultimately led to the George C. Whitney greeting card company, which eventually folded in 1942 due to World War II paper shortages.

Rowing, Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, MA.
Chelsea Ouellet/Discover Central MA

10. Enjoy the Outdoors

Worcester offers residents a number of outdoor gems, with more than 200 miles of trails on conservation land and five beaches, including Coes Pond, Bell Pond and Shore Park Beach. A gem in the region is Quinsigamond State Park.

Want to know more?

To learn more about the Worcester area, check out the latest edition of Livability Worcester, MA

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