Worcester Historic District
The Worcester Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The Worcester Historic District is the social and economic nucleus of Worcester, Otsego County, New York, a village small and rural in nature and which is located in a narrow farming valley at the junction of the Decatur Creek and Schenevus Creek.
The Worcester Historic District is viable and vital in the ongoing life of the community — the buildings are utilized fully for businesses, entertainment, and residences. The Worcester Historic District extends along the Main Street from the Weiting (the theater and library) to South Hill Road on the south, and from Cook Street to Decatur Street on the north.
Architecturally, the Worcester Historic District presents a continuity of late nineteenth century design with few twentieth century intrusions. The Worcester Historic District is composed partially of frame buildings whose street fronts are distinguished by false fronts or "boom town" facades. These facades present the viewer with a plethora of details and motifs in the design of cornices, frieze bands, window trim, etc.
The Wightman Building and the Charles Boorne Drug Store, both built by Sylvester Groat, carpenter, in the 1870's are illustrative of the style. The Wightman Building is one of the most spectacular in the Worcester Historic District. Built in 1876 by Sylvester Groat for Bennett Wightman, its "boom town" facade is especially imposing. The heavily bracketed cornice is broken in the center with an arched hood. The windows decorated with applied moldings on the frieze is several types of circular motifs. The Charles Boorne Drug Store, adjacent to the Wightman Building, is also a frame building possessing a highly decorative facade. Its design includes a heavy projecting cornice supported by primary and secondary brackets, applied moldings imitative of paneling on the frieze, and pedimented window lintels.
The Worcester Historic District also includes four brick buildings, two of which were built in 1884 — the Smith and Swartout Building and the Knapp Building.
The Smith and Swartout Building is a large 10-bay structure which houses three stores, one of which has always been a hardware store and contains what seems to be original counters and display shelves. This building has metal roof cresting, decorative finials and corbeled patterning in its brickwork. It presents a contrast both in mass and texture to adjacent buildings.
The William J. Sloan Store, at 95 Main Street, is one of the earliest buildings in the Worcester Historic District and has a mansard roof. The roof has shingles in decorative bands and pedimented dormers. The cornice is ornamented with paired brackets.
The Rowley-Sloan Residence at 127 Main Street is a happy combination of style and detail and is one of five residential buildings included in the Worcester Historic District. A mansard roof is combined with steeply pitched roofs. The gables are trimmed with sawn barge boards and the roof ridges with metal cresting. The heavy window trim and bracketed bay window are an added interest.
In addition to this nucleus of late nineteenth century styles, on the fringe of the Worcester Historic District are two early twentieth century structures which give the district an added dimension. The Weiting and The Bank, both brick structures, are restrained in detail and provide the village with a library, a theater, a bank, and rooms for the D.A.R. and the Women's Club. This later building in the Worcester Historic District is proof of the important function that the district plays in present community life.
The Worcester Historic District provides the observer with a well-preserved picture of late nineteenth century, small-town commercial center. The Worcester Historic District is illustrative of the effects that the coming of the railroad had on rural New York as well as the effects that the new tools, machines, and wood-working techniques of the Industrial Revolution had on building styles and construction in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
The small pockets of habitation which existed in the Worcester area in the years before 1850 gradually grew until the introduction of the railroad through the Schenevus Creek Valley in 1865 caused a virtual economic "boom." The area adjacent to the depot in Worcester, formerly a modest collection of homes and an inn, grew greatly during the next two decades.
The great amount of building which took place during such a limited period of time is a witness to the amount of activity engendered by the stimulated economy of the seventies and eighties. During this time span the commercial center housed a drug store, a jewelry and watch repair, the Bank of Worcester, the Worcester millinery shop, lawyer's office, tinsmith, a men's shirt factory, harness shop, and a blacksmith shop, to name a few.
Main Street, today, still possesses an unusual uniformity of design and style. The buildings are in scale with the world of the pedestrian, being but two stories in height. The frame and brick buildings, of which there are over twenty, provide interesting contrasts in mass, texture and outline.
The historic resources of this rural village are also significant because of their style. The majority of the buildings have heavily bracketed cornices and frieze bands decorated with applied moldings in various designs. Single, double, and triple windows are topped by a myriad of pediments and cornices, some of which are geometric and some in scrolled and foliated designs.
The buildings complement one another and their close proximity lends itself to pleasing comparisons and contrasts. With the exception of street-level show windows, alterations have been minimal and their integrity remains intact.
The future of the Worcester Historic District seems somewhat assured. Several owners of historic buildings in the Worcester Historic District set a precedent when they opted to restore two badly deteriorating buildings rather than to drastically remodel them. Public opinion was favorable toward this positive action and much interest has been engendered.
The appeal and the value of this somewhat modest district lies not in any pretensions to elegance or sophistication but in the truly representative picture that it presents of late nineteenth century, small-town, New York State.
Bacon, E.D. Otsego County: Geographical and Historical. Oneonta Herald; Oneonta, N.Y., 1902.
Doig, Arthur, Chrm. The Town of Worcester, Otsego County, N.Y. History Freeman's Journal; Cooperstown, 1952.
Ferguson, W. Fern. "Selected Works of W. Fern Ferguson." Unpublished works of the historian, East Worcester, N.Y. (In possession of the Worcester Historical Society - typewritten).
The Worcester Times and Schenevus Monitor. September 30, 1965.