The shell will remain, but Worcester Memorial Auditorium will be gutted and remade as the courthouse project reshapes North Main Street.


By Andrew O'Connor



The oldest portion of the present Worcester County Courthouse dates back to the 19th century and looks it. The adjacent early-20th-Century courthouse’s massive columns give it a classical air, as if it is a prominent component of a real, big city landscape. But that’s the romance. Now, imagine the reality. Think what it takes to wire a building with more than 100 years on it for the Internet, or to heat and air-condition the thing.

The answer: A new 360,000-square-foot courthouse on the block of Main, Thomas, Commercial and Central streets that is currently at the 25-percent design stage. The new building will house the Superior Court, Worcester Central District Court, and Housing Court.  The old courthouse will continue to house the Probate Court and the Registry of Deeds. Plans are still up in the air as far as what will happen to the newer courthouse, facing Harvard Street, the one built in the 1950s and connected to the older portion. It might be torn down or it might be renovated.

Definitely being torn down is the Gilman building on Main Street. With its two nightclub tenants, this is one of the few sources of downtown night life — one that will be totally lost.

There is also that enormous structure to the right of the present courthouse, the one that looks like one of  the WPA’s bigger ambitions. The Worcester Auditorium, built after 15 years of political struggle as a memorial to Worcester’s war veterans (and for “the use and benefit of the people of the City”), is in preparation to be ripped up and remade. Instead of a grand host to concerts and commencements, the main hall will be sliced and diced to make room for courtrooms for juvenile court. The Auditorium, its façade made grand by eight 40-foot, fluted, Doric columns and five large bronze doors, will become a courthouse for juvenile delinquents.

To some, it seems disrespectful. The Auditorium was built to memorialize young local men and women who fought and died in war. As the late Chief Justice Arthur P. Rugg put it, in words then cut into the side of the building, “to honor the services in war of her sons and daughters and to nourish in peace their spirits of sacrifice, a grateful city erected this building.”

To others, it seems the wrong move. Register of Deeds Anthony Vigliotti, for example,  contended  from the beginning that Juvenile Court should be moved to the third and fourth floors of the existing courthouse so that his own offices could be relocated to the auditorium building, where there would be plenty of space. Last year, he told the Telegram & Gazette, “The state does screwy things,’’ which seems to say it all.

The Worcester way

During Worcester Mayor Pehr Holmes’ inaugural address in 1917, he said, “I believe that Worcester needs an auditorium. That is undoubtedly one of the next largest activities toward which public sentiment should direct itself.”

While he was speaking, the Great War was raging over in Europe, a conflict in which 355 soldiers from Worcester would be killed. On November 18, 1918, a week after the signing of the Armistice, a commission was set up to plan construction of a grand memorial, a civic auditorium, to honor the dead and the city of their birth. Worcester was growing and needed such a venue. And it was the right thing to do.

Well, it was Worcester, so ground was not broken and the cornerstone laid until 1932. Why did it take so long? Hey, why is it taking so long to develop Union Station? In this town, some things never change.

The better question is, how did they finally pull it together? The answer is that Worcester’s most prominent citizens, people with names like Stoddard, Jeppson, Whittall, and Higgins, got embarrassed over the longstanding argument in City Hall over where to put the thing. A committee was formed, the present site was privately purchased, and it was given to the city — with the condition that construction begin within a year or the gift was forfeit.

So it did. Worcester spent the week of September 26 to 30, 1933, celebrating and dedicating its new, imposing structure.

Now, in 2002, it sits. It has been almost five years since a performance was held there. The stirring mural in Memorial Hall lies hidden away. And even though most city citizens have memories of important events they have seen at Memorial Auditorium, nobody has come forward to champion saving it for its original purpose - not even the usual building-huggers.

“We at Preservation Worcester felt that it was a practical solution that the juvenile court go into the Auditorium,” says James Igoe, executive director of Historic Massachusetts Inc. and former director of Preservation Worcester. “It was a trade-off and at the time, the best alternative. They could do something with the roof and windows that were in need of repair. The re-use might bring some stabilization. And it wasn’t going to change the [external] memorial look. We were also concerned with people who were advocating to demolish it because it wasn’t being used.  Plus, all this was going to be done with state money.”

A portion of the mural in the Auditorium’s Memorial Hall painted by Leon Kroll between 1938 and 1942. The figures are life-size.

David Leach, the new executive director of Preservation Worcester, says the full extent of the building’s remaking has been relatively unknown.  “We actually weren’t aware it was happening,” he says, adding, “I’ve only been here a month. It’s happened quietly, a little under the radar. It’s definitely one of the city’s treasures.”

Sheriff Michael Flynn, who runs some of the operations now housed there, is furious over plans for the Auditorium. “First of all, I did not put us in there and I wouldn’t mind if they kicked our asses out of there tomorrow morning,” he says. “They ought to kick our asses out and kick the Juvenile Court out of there. That’s a veterans’ memorial from World War I and the city should be ashamed of itself to let that go. We don’t belong there and neither does the court. That should be held in respect for the veterans. That should be kept as a memory of World War I and all the other wars. I think this is the worst misuse of that building I can think of. I’m a veteran of World War II and I am just fed up. We keep forgetting. Now, I know it takes money. But we wouldn’t have a great country like this if it wasn’t for those in the wars.”

Flynn goes so far as to offer the inmates in his charge for washing the mural. His feelings have been strong since the first day of the plans, but other factors held sway.

Michael Traynor, deputy city solicitor, explains it this way:  “Generally,  it became too expensive to operate the building. We weren’t able to bring in enough entertainment acts and users to offset the cost of the building for a least a couple of years. SMG, who manages the Centrum, managed the Auditorium for several years, and it was a losing proposition every year. Ran in the red. It just got to the point where they couldn’t make a go of it. We were just throwing good money after bad trying to keep it operating as an entertainment venue.”

SMG, or Spectator Management Group, Inc., also helps run the successful Lowell Auditorium and Tsongas Arena, also in Lowell. Peter Lally, marketing director for the Lowell Auditorium, says that the two performance centers work in the same town together because they hold different types of shows. The Tsongas Arena has an audience capacity of 6,000 to 7,000. The Lowell Auditorium seats just under 3,000. Here, we have the 3,580-seat Auditorium and the Centrum Center, with a capacity of 14,780. You’d think the two would be perfectly complementary.

Lally says there’s another factor: The city of Lowell works very well with SMG and that has made all the difference.

By contrast, Worcester has not been as aggressive in bringing ceremonies and events to the Auditorium. Ask Becker College, which in 1998 planned to hold graduation ceremonies there. With 11 days to go, it was told by the city to find another place to hold its graduation. Officials of Becker, which had held its graduations at the Auditorium since 1935, were not happy. But that’s our fair city.

         — A. O’C.

No matter. The simple fact is that this cash-strapped city, one that seems to have a shorter memory than it did when the memorial was built, will transform the building into a clearinghouse for mostly young men and women who steal cars and sell drugs — along with their lawyers, judges, and keepers.

The need for a new courthouse is a real one. Lawyers, judges, and court employees are sick of trying to deal with cramped quarters and other problems with the present courthouse. As attorney J. Gavin Reardon says, “The courthouse is inadequate. It’s hardest on staff, court officers, and judges. It’s not large enough. The heating and air conditioning don’t always work. It’s an old and worn-down building. Trying a case in the summer is hard because the jury is burning up.”

Relief is coming, albeit slowly. The $145 million project to build a new courthouse on the block of 201-249 Main Street is under way. According to state Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) spokesman Kevin Flanigan, there is still more than a year’s worth of design left to do. (DCAM, which operates like the Commonwealth’s real estate agent, manages $200 million annually in new construction and renovation projects, as well as redevelopment of more than 3,000 acres of surplus state property). The construction should begin in the late summer of 2003 and finish in early 2006.

Worcester City Manager Thomas Hoover says that DCAM is controlling the construction and design with the Boston firm of Shepley Bulfinch Richardson Abbott, which isn’t ready to discuss the project (or reveal a rendering of any proposed design). A schematic design is anticipated by July, when it will be shown to the public. “We typically do things in three stages, “ says Flanigan. “We do a study, design, and then we actually bid. The design work is under contract. We have an architectural firm working on that. Once the design is completed then we have a set of plans and specifications that we can actually put on the streets and have general contractors bid on. And that’s what we’ll do”

Small details of the plans have already been disclosed. The intention right now is to place the front door right on Main Street. Inside, there will be 22 holding cells, including single-cells and group-holding cells for male and female prisoners; space for non-judicial assistants; rooms for alternative mediation-type conferences; a law library; hearing rooms; a grand jury room; and space for the district attorney. All of that is standard for a courthouse.

What has also been standard at the old courthouse and is definitely planned for the new one is a lack of any kind of ample parking. Worcester City Manager Thomas Hoover says there will be some interior parking available for the judges. Everybody else (or at least, anyone without police stickers or a government vehicle) will have to fend for themselves and find a parking spot somewhere downtown.

The design is subject to review by a design board that includes Hoover, District Attorney John Conte, two members of Preservation Worcester, and Mark Love, head of the Chamber of Commerce (which had opposed using the present site for the new courthouse). The committee met on April 12 and May 1. It has another meeting tentatively scheduled for May 29.

Being on the board and being the district attorney, Conte is able to shed a little more light on the project than has been discussed before. “Of course, you’re going to have facilities for victim/witness, space for the sheriff, you’re also going to have some administrative offices for the district attorney’s office,” he says. “You’re also going to have entry assistance for the public.”

Hoover mentions other priorities. “My main concern has always been the exterior of the courthouse,” the city manager says. “What they do with the interior is up to the judges and the courts and everything. But the exterior, I certainly would like to see it being compatible with the urban landscape. Size, height. We’ve got a couple of buildings downtown that aren’t people-friendly, like the AT&T building and the police station. I’d like to see more glass, even though this has to be a secure building. It has to be welcoming because it’s a public building and I’d like to see something that stands out or works well with the sidewalk. Some glass in the building. Some windows. What I’ve seen so far, they seem to be accommodating all of that. So, I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve seen so far.” 

David Leach, executive director of Preservation Worcester, says the design board is hoping the new facility will be built to fit well within the 19th-Century cityscape of North Main Street. The courthouse will be an important presence, even an anchor. It should feel accessible and manageable to individuals.

He reveals that the architects have presented the committee with a spectrum of designs, ranging from classical to modern and all the variations in between. The building will probably be constructed of stone or brick and will look something like other prominent civic buildings on Main Street. Part of the building will come up to the street, but the front door will be pulled back from the road. Landscaping will include trees. A pediment might be placed on top to echo Mechanics Hall. “The exterior will reflect the gravitas, if you will, of what’s going on inside,” he says.

Leach admits that this design process is in the very early stages and it is still unknown what each proposed design would cost to realize. In the end, as with the Auditorium, that’s what will decide everything.

 As Hoover mentions, security is incredibly important. The actual manner in which the design board and architects will deal with this is still unclear. “Security is something that we’re always mindful of, and certainly since Sept. 11,” Flanigan says. “This courthouse, in terms of surveillance and controlling entryways and things like that, will be state-of-the art.”

In the past 10 years, there has arisen a new school of architecture with a different spin on security, one likely to be incorporated into the design of the new courthouse. The strategy calls for different circulation patterns to be established for each of the different populations that will pass through. The public, judges and staff, and detainees, each have their own traffic patterns through the building, each with unique points of access to and through the courthouse.

The proposed new courthouse started to become reality in July 1998, when the state Legislature adopted a $730 million bond bill that included $125 million for the Worcester facility. Of course, that was then, so the budget for the courthouse has since risen to $145 million. Flanigan stresses that because this is a capital budget-funded project; the money won’t be threatened by other considerations, even in this time of budget crisis.

In November 1999, the state selected what was called the “Shwachman site” or the “Gilman Block,” between Main, Thomas, Central, and Commercial streets, as the location of the new courthouse.

The site was owned by Philip Shwachman, the local businessman who had developed Brockelman’s on Main Street (a.k.a. the Worcester Market building), into state offices some years before. DCAM took the 2.7-acre property by eminent domain in May, 2001.

As to the current status of Schwachman’s claims, “We settled the lawsuit that challenged their ability to take the property and that was the subject of a final agreement for judgement,” says his lawyer, David Lurie. “He had sued DCAM — along with other taxpayers — saying that they didn’t have authority to take the property and they had not complied with the appropriate environmental and historical protection laws. That case has been settled. The state has the land. But the eminent domain piece, a potential lawsuit against the state to recover what the property is really worth, has not been filed. You’ve got three years to file it. That is something that Mr. Shwachman will be pursuing very aggressively. He feels the state took the property for far less than it’s worth and will be looking for a jury to award it true fair market value, when the time comes.”

Early reports said that the state was willing to pay $6.5 to $7 million, while Mr. Shwachman sought $34 million. The property was assesses at nearly $1.3 million in 2001. One of the buildings that will be demolished is the four-story brick building, the Gilman building located at 213 Main St., that is listed on the national and state registers of historic places.  “They’ve reached an agreement with the Mass. Historic Commission on the procedures that they would follow to document its historic value and to incorporate certain architectural elements from it in the new building,” says Lurie.

 At the same time, the city is also planning to tear up the inside of the 1933 Auditorium, a move that has been highly controversial to those who know what is planned. (See sidebar, page 13.)

There are those who think this is a great idea. “The building has sat fallow for so many years,” says City Manager Hoover. “So, with the new use of the building, we can assure its viability long into the future and protect the significance of the veterans’ memorial. That’s going to lead, hopefully, to the improvement of the exterior façade and the steps and things like that.”

There’s a plan to place the city’s veterans’ services offices in the Auditorium, just inside the bronze front doors, directly underneath Memorial Hall and the massive mural commemorating those from Worcester who died in war. Yet because the building will be stripped and remade in the image of juvenile court, we are probably losing the Auditorium forever; at least as far as a venue for civic events and entertainment is concerned. In its history, that’s meant everything from graduations to welcome-home ceremonies for local soldiers to performances by Jerry Seinfeld, Rodney Dangerfield, or Fr. Ralph DiOrio.

Again, some don’t mind. And surprisingly, that includes Pierce Gould, the veterans’ services agent for the city. He thinks that using the Auditorium for offices to help veterans is a wonderful idea. “It will enable us down the road to let the community come in to see the beautiful mural,” Gould says.

He’s happy that schoolchildren now have a chance to come in to Memorial Hall. Gould points out that that hall “absolutely positively will not be touched. The court won’t interfere. I’m excited that people are using it.”

Gould also buys into the company line that any use is good use to keep the Auditorium’s appearance up. “It’s a win-win situation. And I’m glad that it’s being used again,” he says.

  Juvenile Court Chief Justice Martha Grace says, “There isn’t any sense of a war memorial where we’ve been operating.” She’s talking about the basement, which currently holds the juvenile court in 27,000 square feet of space that was supposed to be much more temporary. The  lease with the city is good until July 2004. Negotiations are under way for another agreement, one that will allow a build-out of approximately 38,000 square feet on the first floor and the basement.

Hoover explains it this way: “A couple of years ago, we built-out the basement of the structure to accommodate the juvenile court, which used to be in a building that was standing on 75 Grove St, which has since been torn down. The accommodations that we gave them were a lot nicer than their former digs. But the long-range plans call for building out the first and second floor of the structure, which is the Auditorium itself. It would call for courtrooms on the first floor. Offices and courtrooms on the second floor, spanning a ceiling and a floor over the balconies that are in the current Auditorium.”

Deco grandeur: Looking toward the rear of the main hall in the Auditorium.

Today, walking through the Great Hall, which has a seating capacity of 3,508, is sobering. The Auditorium’s organ, celebrated as a proud civic achievement in and of itself,  is covered up (see sidebar, page 18) The fire curtain is lowered almost completely, hovering inches above the empty, 116-foot-long stage. “Right now, architects have been working on drawing up the plans to turn that center portion of the main hall into the juvenile court space,” says Deputy City Solicitor Michael Traynor. “Maybe four courtrooms. That’s almost like gutting the interior. Walls will be knocked down and moved. It will be totally rebuilt from the outside walls in. There will be a new ceiling for the courtroom. Balconies will be above the ceiling of the courtroom. That will just become dead space.”

The second floor now has 7,000 square feet of space occupied by the family and probate court administration offices and the probate and family information and technology department. There’s also a female and juvenile community corrections program. Worcester County Sheriff Michael Flynn runs both of the programs out of the space.

“They’re there already, but we’re formalizing a lease agreement that will take us up to 2005,” says Flanigan. “Long-term plans for this space are, they are looking at a full second-floor renovation. It’s a separate agreement but it’s going to be along a similar timeline as the other 10-year agreement in the other space. So, it can be done in the same general time frame. But that has yet to be fleshed out. We’re still working on exactly what the terms of that agreement will be. The other one is much further along. The exact scope of that renovation still needs to be determined. There are a lot of moving parts.”

The city is the landlord. The idea, according to Hoover, is for the lease to eventually cover the cost of operations and pay off the debt from the build-out.

The last major component is the Little Theater, which seats 675. The city is currently working with the state to keep it as an active theater or to RFP it as such. “Instead of mothballing it, our hope is that we can do that,” says Worcester Chief Development Officer Philip Niddrie. “Through our own funding and their funding or a combination of the two. It really depends on what happens in the front.” 

Either way, it’s the final hold-out for an actual ceremonial and entertainment venue in the building.

That leaves the current courthouse as the third major component, after the Auditorium and the new construction where the Gilman building stands, of a massive, legal-industry complex on Main Street. The building is actually two connected structures; the turn-of-the-20th Century building, the one that proudly and chillingly proclaims that “Obedience to law is liberty,” and the other side, the one facing Harvard Street, which was built in 1956.

Pipe dreams

The organ grinds to a halt

Sitting at the console, you feel like the Phantom of the Opera. With its banks of stops and knobs, its racks of foot pedals and rows of keyboards, you feel as though every sound in the universe is at your fingertips.

You lean into a chord and the heavens crack open, firing thunder and lightning overhead. The wall of pipes flanking the stage at left and right roar out, feeling like smoke and fire. A Bach cantata would be a cosmic experience.

The organ built into the cavernous hall of Worcester Memorial Auditorium was designed not only for epic concerts, but also for social, religious, patriotic, and civic functions. It need not simply shake the earth. It’s range is apt for other things, for the “Skater’s Waltz” or “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”   

You open your eyes and realize that the rapt audience you play to is only a dream. You stop and the sound of silence is deafening. “Hey, buddy,” the custodian shouts. “You ready? It’s time to go.” 

Custom-built in 1933 by the W.W. Kimball Co. of Chicago, the massive pipe organ at the Worcester Memorial Auditorium still sits in waiting. Unlike most large American concert organs, battered and worn by misuse and neglect, the Auditorium’s Kimball is nearly pristine. Except for normal tuning and maintenance over 69 years, it has never been altered in any way. Now, as plans move forward for gutting the hall to make way for the Worcester Juvenile Court, the instrument’s future is in question.

The Auditorium organ is public property, built by the city for its citizens. Many critics view it as an outstanding example of such instruments on the East Coast. The thing is huge, with 6,719 pipes that reach 32 feet in height. The console has 186 knobs and tablets with 58 adjustable combinations. Built on an elevator platform that ascends from the basement, there are five divisions of sound — great organ, swell organ, choir organ, solo organ, and pedal organ. It took the experts who designed it two years of study to come up with specifications for an instrument which would fulfill requirements to meet the varied demands of the Worcester building.

  At the time, Kimball said this about the Worcester organ: “Tonally, it represents sane ideas in designing and voice which, while rooted in the best traditions of the past, are advanced and modern in every respect, yet far from radical. The tonal effects of this splendid organ will delight and interest both the organist and layman.”

In October 1933, the 74th Worcester Festival (now Music Worcester), was held in the Memorial Auditorium for the first time. A highlight of the program that night was the playing of “Dedicace,” a sonata written especially for the new Kimball organ.

Sixty-five years later, in 1998, City Manager Tom Hoover met with the ad hoc Kimball Organ Committee, which will decide how its grand purpose will be met in the future.  “That’s one thing that the city manager was very cognizant of in any of the plans for the auditorium — how to carefully preserve and take care of the organ in the best possible way,” says Jill Dagilis, one of Hoover’s assistant city managers. “It is a magnificent jewel in the organ industry. There are only a couple of them across the country of this magnitude.”

The committee assembled by Hoover includes an impressive list of local citizens, each with a vested interest in the organ, including those who have been responsible for oversight of the Auditorium, as well as members of Music Worcester, the American Guild of Organists, and the Worcester Cultural Commission, among others. “They suggested that with whatever build-out occurred, that the organ would stay in an encased condition,” says Dagilis; “that the organ would not be part of a build-out plan.”

 Estimates for simply storing the instrument run in the $150,000 range. Dagilis says to disassemble, pack, crate, move, and then reassemble the instrument would be a multi-million dollar proposition. “There’s been some sporadic interest over time from other communities, other organ enthusiasts,” she says. “We do investigate all options but the priority is that organ stays here in Worcester. [The committee] would like it to stay here. If another venue can be found, there would have to be some considerable work in fundraising to restore, move, and reinstall it.”

Because of its size, the organ can be housed only in certain venues. The Centrum, The Convention Centre, The Palladium, and even Union Station had all been considered. “The most likely venue currently is the Showcase Cinema building,” Dagilis says. “There has been some discussion. It really hasn’t gone any further than that.”

Like the Auditorium, the Showcase Cinema building is also a city treasure in transition. Paul Demoga is a lawyer in the city who is a stockholder in Palace Management, a group currently negotiating with the present owners to turn the building into a performing arts center. “If it will fit and we can find a place for it in the theater, we’d love to have it,” he says. “It could be used in organ recitals. We could avail ourselves of several dates just for organ programming. It could cost as much as $2 million to move it and set it up. That certainly wouldn’t be our responsibility. It’s not our plan to pay for it.”

The Showcase building, remembered by some as the old Poli’s, is owned by National Amusements, which has been trying to sell it for the past few years. “At this point we have a commitment from them to donate this theater to a not-for-profit corporation [a tax-exempt organization], which we plan on forming,” Demoge says. “They were looking for several hundred thousand for the building. I think they wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to be a movie theater [which might compete with Showcase North] and secondly, I think they wanted to do something good for the community.

“We plan on using this building for the performing arts, including traveling shows like Broadway plays, things like Miss Saigon and Les Miserables.”

But when Kimball built the organ at the Auditorium, it was specifically designed for that building, designed to be a glorious civic instrument that could accommodate a variety of services. Retired priest Father Willette remembers those glory days. Beginning in 1954, and for 22 years, he was the Diocesan Director of Liturgical Music. He played the organ, directed choirs, and organized religious events at the Auditorium for the Diocese. “If you sat in the chair and played as the organ console rises from the basement, it’s quite a sensation,” he says. “The console is on an elevator by itself. It’s part of the elevator of the very front of the orchestra pit. You could easily start playing down there and press a button and the organ just rises up. Virgil Fox used to love doing that. He was quite a showman. He loved playing that organ. When I was listening to it, I said, you know, I don’t hear it. I feel it.”

“In the days of Bishop Wright and Bishop Flanagan, we very often had functions at the Auditorium,” he says. “So, I got to know the organ very well. The organ was used more at that time as a background thing. You can almost make it sound like a circus calliope and also make it sound like a great entrance fit for a queen. I used it for religious performances.”

Willette knows it will be tough to set the thing up somewhere else. “You’ve got to realize that you don’t just move an organ like you move a piece of furniture or something like that,” he says. “It has to be completely rebuilt so that it will fit - not only in place but also tonally — as far as the way the music reverberates and so forth. It would probably cost twice as much to move it and rebuild it than it cost in the first place.

“Every pipe organ that is built is built specifically for the building in which it is built,” Willette says. “When they first started speaking about closing up the building and turning it into a temporary courthouse, I remember speaking to someone saying it seems a shame just to box the thing up.”

            — Chet Williamson

Each stage represented a huge leap in capacity from Worcester’s earlier courthouses. The first was built in 1734 on Court Hill, which is now State Street, the same site as the present courthouse.. That was only 36 feet long, 26 feet wide, and 13 feet high. A larger building replaced it in 1751. The third court house, which was called the “brick court house,” was built from 1801 to 1803. (Printer Isaiah Thomas laid the cornerstone.) From 1843 to 1844, part of a stone courthouse was built. There are portions of this courthouse still standing. In 1897, more land surrounding the area was purchased, the brick courthouse was taken down, and the “stone court house” was finished. That is the older section that stands today. 

The 1956 addition, badly needed, was built only after a 30-year struggle (seemingly the Worcester way, although it only took 15 years to site the Auditorium; see sidebar, page 13). The price tag was only $2 million, and we got what we paid for. The two courthouses always were awkward together, built in styles incompatible to the eye. These will continue to house probate court and the registry of deeds. Sorry, Tony. 

That may not be the final word, since Hoover has some ideas about those buildings. Like razing a piece to put in a parking lot. “Ultimately, I think the long-range plans have been to tear down the backside of the courthouse, what they call the 1950s addition, and keep the historical part,” he says. “Parking is sorely needed. There’s no money in place, to my understanding, to do the demolition of the backside. So, what DCAM and the state and the trial court have in mind for the future, you’d have to ask Conte.”

The D.A. remembers another possibility. “The original plan for the 1956 courthouse? It would be torn down and an annex would be put up in conjunction with the new courthouse. They weren’t very set plans,” says Conte.

  Conte also says that there are no estimates on how much any of this work, tearing it down versus keeping it for storage, would cost. “At this point, it’s probably going to be remodeled to a point, but not necessarily for court use,” he says. “I mean, there are a lot of things that are being kicked around. They need space for storage and they need a whole lot of other things.”

Conte is one of many with special feelings for the old courthouse. “Oh, yeah. There was never any question that it was going to be restored,” he says. “We all insisted on that. It’s a beautiful courthouse. The courtrooms are beautiful. But it needs a lot of work.”

Copyright ©  2002 Worcester Magazine 

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Last modified: Friday, May 10, 2002