Let’s talk trailblazers. With this specific trail, you’ll get to know the disruptors, heroes, inventors, artists and visionaries whose ingenuity shaped Worcester. Here, we break it down by namesake and the subsequent location each name is well known by.  

Major Taylor & the Major Taylor Museum   

In 1899, Worcester’s Major Taylor rose to unprecedented fame when he became the world’s first Black cycling champion. His amazing story is told in vintage photographs, graphic arts and memorabilia at the Major Taylor Museum inside the Courthouse Lofts. Taylor lived in Worcester at the peak of his career, where he was famously known as the “Worcester Whirlwind”—breaking scores of international cycling records.   

Salisbury Mansion

Photo courtesy Salisbury Cultural District

The Salisbury Family & Mansion    

Throughout the Salisbury Cultural District, you’ll find many examples of the Salisbury family’s commitment to the community they loved, a generational contribution from the mid eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. You’ll learn more about this enterprising family with a stop at Salisbury Mansion, the home of Stephen Salisbury I. Stephen II proved exceptionally gifted in business, like his father. He built the original Northworks mill and leased it to Ichabod Washburn (see below for more on him). Further, he was a founder, benefactor and the first president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and an overseer of Harvard College. And Stephen III followed suit. He traveled extensively, became deeply interested in Central American culture, served on many boards, and presided over companies like the Worcester & Nashua Railroad Co. and the Worcester National Bank.  

Sarah Wyman Whitman 

The work going on at the Worcester Area Mission Society, or WAMSworks, is an inspiring chapter in the life of the landmark, once the home of the Central and United Congregational Churches. The stained-glass windows you see are the work of trailblazer Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842-1904). Championed by the era’s most innovative stained-glass artist, John La Farge, she founded Lily Glass Works and made stained-glass windows for churches and colleges in the Northeast. She also dedicated her energies to education, interior decoration and graphic artistry, a rare gem of her time.  

Robert Goddard & WPI 

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), one of the nation’s leading schools in science and engineering, has propelled the careers of many pioneers, including Worcester native Robert Goddard (1882-1945), who graduated from WPI in 1908 and became known as “the Father of Modern Rocketry.” While still a boy, he dreamed of going to the moon and in 1926, launched the first liquid-fueled rocket in the nearby town of Auburn.  

Antiquarian Society

Photo courtesy Salisbury Cultural District

Isaiah Thomas & the American Antiquarian Society 

The American Revolution was fueled, in large part, by the printed word, and the patriot printer, Isaiah Thomas, used the power of his press both to inform and inflame. When the British tried to disband Thomas’s printing press in 1775, he moved his operations from Boston to Worcester. Thomas then published the first eyewitness account of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in his newspaper that helped unite the 13 colonies and build a case for war against Great Britain. This newspaper was the first piece ever printed in Worcester.  

600 Armenian Trailblazers & the Armenian Church of Our Savior 

The story of the first Armenian Church in the Western Hemisphere—established in Worcester in 1891 —is a story of 600 Armenian trailblazers with a mission to erect a church but did not have enough money. They hatched a plan to mail letters soliciting donations to “Mr. John Armenian” in 20 U.S. cities with Armenian neighborhoods. Mailmen delivered the letters to the first Armenians they encountered, just as Worcester’s Armenians suspected. Worcester was one of the earliest places in America settled by Armenians drawn to the city by jobs at the mills.

Institute Park

Photo courtesy Salisbury Cultural District

Stephen Salisbury III & Institute Park 

This lush stretch of parkland lies in the heart of Salisbury Cultural District and is an ideal stop for either the Cultural or Trailblazers tours. Like so many gems here, Institute Park owes its existence to the Salisbury family. Stephen Salisbury III created this 18-acre park beside Worcester Polytechnic Institute for recreational use by students, residentsresidents, and workers at the nearby Washburn & Moen wire manufacturing factory. He later gave the park to the city of Worcester. 

Fanny Bullock Workman & Rural Cemetery  

As you take in the final resting places of many of the region’s leading citizens at the 40-aceacre Rural Cemetery, consider the world-class adventurer Fanny Bullock Workman (1859-1925) of Worcester. She helped break the British stranglehold on Himalayan Mountain climbing, set several women’s altitude records and climbed more mountains than any of her male peers. Along the way she advocated for women’s rights, including the vote. She was only the second American woman to address the Royal Geographical Society of London. 

Tuckerman Hall

Photo courtesy Salisbury Cultural District.

Josephine Wright Chapman & Tuckerman Hall 

Josephine Wright Chapman, one of the first female architects in this country, designed the Neo-Classical Tuckerman Hall. She sold her belongings to create a working fund and apprenticed with a noted Boston architect at a time when women were not welcomed into the architectural profession. She attained great stature and got high-profile work. In 1901, the Worcester Women’s Club set historic precedent by hiring Chapman. They needed a special place to work on women’s rights issues including the right to vote. Today, the Hall is a popular venue for all natures of events and celebrations, and the home of the Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra. 

Worcester Art Museum

Photo courtesy of the Worcester Art Museum.

Helen Bigelow Merriman & WAM 

Worcester Art Museum (WAM) was established in 1896 when a powerhouse team joined forces and resources. It is well known that the ambitious group included one of Worcester’s most generous benefactors and visionaries, Stephen Salisbury III. But key to the endeavor was painter and philanthropist Helen Bigelow Merriman (1844-1933). Sole heir to her father’s carpet fortune, Helen was also a writer and a passionate advocate for art education.  

Ichabod Washburn + Washburn & Moen Manufacturing Co.   

In partial attribution by Ichabod Washburn (1798-1868), Worcester was home to the world’s largest manufacturer of wire: Washburn & Moen Wire Co. The wire manufactured here was used for things like the ubiquitous hoop skirt, fencing and pianos. At 9, Washburn was a blacksmith’s apprentice. By 33 he had improved the quality, machinerymachinery, and production of wire. In fact, he is known as the father of the wire industry. 

Washburn was an abolitionist and champion of education, and supported the construction of some Worcester classics, including Mechanics Hall. One of his significant bequests established the first Memorial Hospital, the predecessor of today’s UMass Memorial healthcare giant. 

If you want to keep diving deeper, take a trip to the Salisbury Cultural District and follow the suggested trail here and be sure to read the descriptions in the app to learn all about the trailblazers.

Imported Image

Members of the Massachusetts Symphony perform at a summer concert entitled “Jazz in the Park:  Celebrating Great African-American Composers”

Don't forget to take a few minutes to explore all the events listed on the Discover Central Mass Event Calendar for more celebrations of trailblazers, past and present, in the Salisbury Cultural District and beyond. From the Massachusetts Symphony’s Jazz in the Park honoring great African American composers, to special events and innovative festivals like Touch Tomorrow at WPI, there are many trailblazing stories and experiences to celebrate in the heart of Worcester.