The Salisbury Gift: "A Wise Provision for the Future"

The bachelor scion of Worcester’s leading nineteenth-century family, Stephen Salisbury III was the benefactor behind Institute Park’s creation. In 1887, he made a gift to the city of the land that would comprise the park, and then he generously and dutifully funded the design and upkeep of the park until his death in 1905.

Reasons For Creation

Growing up Stephen Salisbury III witnessed the transformation of Worcester from a busy agricultural shire town to a burgeoning manufacturing city. As a real estate developer, his own father played a leading role in the city’s industrialization and the founding of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The younger Salisbury, however, worried that “Worcester … has lost much of the rural aspect which long after it became a city, gave a charm to the streets and continued to offer refreshments and cheer to its inhabitants.” As a beneficiary of his family’s great wealth, Stephen Salisbury III developed a keen sense of obligation to the community and shared his father’s philanthropic tendencies, so his gift of the park was in keeping with a family tradition of using their land and wealth to benefit the city.

At the time of the 1887 gift, Salisbury had already busied himself in the affairs of the city. He worked closely alongside Edward Winslow Lincoln as a Commission of Public Parks between 1884-1886 in conceiving a general system of urban leisure grounds for Worcester. Salisbury worried that with the advance of industrialization “the time is near at hand when most of our citizens can have the enjoyment of little of verdure…around their dwellings.” He especially wanted to ensure the creation of “smaller parks easily reached on foot” near the center of the city. Thus, his gift of approximately 18 acres secured for city’s growing population a green space easily accessible to those who labored in the wire, steel, and tool mills along Grove, Prescott, and Union Streets, who studied at the neighboring school of industrial science (WPI), and who increasingly built homes on the fringes of the old business district.

Stephen Salisbury III placed few restrictions on the gift. He gave it the name Institute Park in recognition of the school that his father provided with a donation of land. He reserved a right for WPI to erect a building within the boundaries of the park, a plan that never came to fruition. Further, he ensured that the pond would continue to provide power and water to nearby mills and that come winter that its ice would still be harvested to cool Worcester in the summer.

Beyond the gift of the land, Stephen Salisbury III also generously developed the park with amenities. After securing the services of the Worcester architectural firm of Earle & Fisher, he financed the construction of a stone tower, a bridge to picnic grounds on the pond’s island, three small pavilions, and a sanitarium. In 1895, Salisbury also salvaged the gray granite columns (which now stand at the Salisbury and Boynton Streets intersection) from Boston’s old Tremont House before they succumbed to the wrecking ball in 1895. He originally had them placed at the opposite boundaries of the park – one at the intersection of Rumford and Park Avenues and the other at the corner of Humboldt Avenue and Salisbury Street

Letter Of Gift

Stephen Salisbury III Letter of Gift to the city, June 21, 1887

The Letter of Gift that Stephen Salisbury III sent to the Mayor of Worcester about his donation of the land that would become Institute Park

Credits

Jordan Gold