The Enigma Of Bancroft Tower

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In the middle of Worcester, Massachusetts lies a remarkable oddity. A “lite” castle or tower as it is refered to sits in the middle of a park. The only way to describe the structure is that you imagine a castle and then imagine it 2d. It has very little depth and mimics a Hollywood prop castle. The unique history with which is attached to it is really quite interesting as well.

The tower was built in 1900 to honor George Bancroft (1800-1891), he was Secretary of the Navy,Founder of the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Minister to Great Britain and Germany. Quite an accomplished man. This was to be his legacy. A tower that when the true “tower” was open afforded a 360 deg. view of Worcester. This memorial was built by his friend and admirer Stephen Salisbury III. Thanks to the City Of  Worcester Parks And Public Works Website they offer a quite inclusive history.

“The Bancroft Tower was built by public benefactor Stephen Salisbury III, who bequeathed it to the Worcester Art Museum, which deeded it to the Parks Department in 1912.  Salisbury intended the feudal-like castle to be a recreational oasis. Its spiral staircases, fireplace chambers, stone benches, and parapets were frequently the scene of picnics and social outings. The summit has a 360-degree view of the city,  greatly enhanced by a climb to the lookout tower. A locator map in the stone walkway helps to identify the distant hills. George Bancroft was a politician, statesman, and writer. His list of achievements is exceedingly long, ranging from cultivator of the American Beauty Rose and eulogist at Abraham Lincoln’s funeral, to Secretary of the Navy (founder of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis) and author of a scholarly ten-volume history of America. But, Stephen Salisbury III built the memorial to Bancroft because Bancroft and Salisbury’s father had been childhood friends. A plaque marks Bancroft’s birthplace just below the park on Salisbury Street.

Honorable Stephen Salisbury III became a member of the Parks Commission in 1887.  Mr. Salisbury owned a great deal of land in the northern part of the city and was always eager to improve that section. He was involved in the donation and development of a plot of land on the south side of Salisbury pond soon to be named Institute Park. Initially Stephen Salisbury set aside 20 acres of land along Massachusetts Avenue which included Bancroft Hill.

In 1900, he erected a tower on the summit of this hill to honor George Bancroft, the famous historian whose birthplace was just below on Salisbury Street.  The tower is 56 feet high and is constructed of boulders, cobblestones, and is trimmed with a rock-faced granite.  It looks like a miniature feudal castle.  The construction cost was about $15,000.  Stephen Salisbury opened it to the public during this time. Some of the finest views in the City could be seen from this tower.  It is named on the National Register of Historic Places.   When Mr. Salisbury died, this property was bequeathed to the Worcester Art Museum who in turn presented it to the City in 1912.”

The true enigma may be actually the stories of hauntings and the marks carved in stone placed in the ground the “supposedly” pointing to the seven hills of Worcester. The lines actually dont point to the hills and are quite confusing. Many believe they are actually ley lines across the earth that intersect at the point of the tower. One can only believe that if someone took the time to carve them in stones they must represent something. But what?


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5 Responses

  1. I was quite interested in this structure when you first brought it to my attention..and after reading this it makes me wanna investigate the area myself.

    thanks for posting!

  2. So interesting to read the history of the tower. I lived near the tower as a child and played extensively in the area. The tower was sometimes a scary for kids because vagrants could be seen in the area. The tower held tremendous mystery and fascination for us. However we weren’t able to get in because the doors at the bottom were locked. The entry areas reeked of urine and empty liquor bottles could be seen in the vicinity. Maybe it’s been cleaned up now … my recollections were from the late 1950’s and early 60’s.

    • In fact, it was open to the public at some point after the 60s until sometime in the 80s. I was lucky enough to walk around in there, but not lucky enough to remember it well (I was 3 at the time) other than the urine smell in the stairwell and some structures on top of the tower. The Parks department closed it more or less permanently shortly after that due to the filth, litter, and worries about getting sued for any accidents that might happen. It’s supposedly open some halloweens as a haunted house (a rumor I can’t confirm) and has been opened for some Shakespearean productions (just the actors going inside).

  3. These towers look awesome. These should be put in 3D sometimes as this would be another great thing.

  4. I too remember going with my father to Bancroft Tower in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and also remember the smell of urine. I used to call it my castle. My grandmother used to live approximately one mile away on Powers Court, and when we would visit her, we would walk to the Tower and go up to the top. I remember being able to see the whole town from up there. Don’t remember too much more, as we moved away when I was 12. I really miss the old days….

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