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Worcester,Mass - Places of the Past, Bancroft Tower
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Neil H Donahue - Report this comment
My Grandfather helped on the stonework in the building of Bancroft Tower. I once found his initials carved in the cement work years ago an have never been able to recall what landing of stairways I was on when I found it. I marked it with a tootsie roll wraper, my first and only litter of my life. He also was the caretaker of East Park,(now known as Cristoforo Columbo) when he died in 1927.His name was Thomas J. Donahue, he was also a member of the Ancient Order Of Hibernians, Division 35. Next time your at the former East Park look at the lions and you will see that they are not a matching pair. One lions tail is facing Shrewsbury St and the other lions Tail is unseen facing the park. Horse and sled were I believe used to relocate these lions from where I forget. It was either from an estate or near Union Station, my memory of story fading.
Pete Taylor - Report this comment
I remember my dad taking me there in the 40's. I climbed all over the twin towers but the tall tower on the left was blocked off with a steel bar door and locked. As I grew older it was a wonderful place to take your girl in the evening to look at the city lights. It got the nickname "Firestone Lane" because "that's where the rubber meets the road".
michael reidy - Report this comment
Mr Donahue is right. It was my understanding that the East Park lions came from the old Union Depot. I haven't ever succeeded it spotting them in any pictures, however. Like Mr Tayor, I also remember climbing Bancroft Tower many times. The top round tower was open until an air raid siren was put up there in the mid to late 1950s. On a visit in the 1980s, I found the siren gone and the rouund tower open on that occasion. Bancroft Tower was a great place to watch Sputnik in 1957, and it was once called a 'monument to Worcester's parking industry.'
Sam Tramontana - Report this comment
I remember going here in the early to mid 80's and i rember going to the top of the tall tower. This was a great party place in and around.
Chip Buell - Report this comment
I have never lived in Worcester, but my parents were both raised there and thus I spent many wonderful days there while visiting family and old friends during my youth in the 1950's. I believe that I first climbed Bancroft Tower probably around Thanksgiving time of 1952 or 1953. It made such and impresson on my young mind at the time that I never forgot the sight. While still young I played and climbed all over the tower with like minded chuldren of my parents friends and family but I haven't been back there for perhaps 40 years. I do recall the additon of the civil defense siren which most certainly put the hiatus on the mid-evil chivalry once imagined by a very young knight in shining armour while playing in the park. I'm very glad to hear that it was removed so latter day knights can carry on the tradition of slaying dragons and what ever evil may be hiding in the tower.
I think that Bancroft Tower is haunted. I say this not because I've seen ghosts there but because usually when I'm at the top of Bancroft Hill, I experience intense pain. Of course, this may also be just because I'm usually in the middle of a WPI Crew workout when I'm at the top of the hill. We run up and down the hill to get in some extra workouts.
James Farris - Report this comment
I remember going to the tower when I was in my teens and early 20S back in 1977-1981, It had the best view of the city lights at night.I believe I learned how to french kiss on a cold winter night with the tower in the rear view mirror of my 76 Granada...I now live in the Cleveland Ohio area, And often think of the old towers wondering if they are still standing. Worcester was a great place to grow up! James Farris age 42
Chuck Hintlian - Report this comment
In the 40's we would take a picnic lunch and I would throw toy soldiers with parachutes off the tower. In the 50's I broke my arm racing my bike down the hill. In the 60's I used to park there with my girlfriend. Went back there in the 70's and the gates were locked, the place was covered in grafitti, and there was broken glass all around. Times change.
I remember climing all those stairs, just to see a great view of Worcester and the seven hills.. I only wish it would be open again for everyone to enjoy what I saw when I was younger.
I lived next to this tower from 1968 to 1976, then we moved to Northboro. At that point there were too many sordid characters hanging out there - so we moved to the suburbs. I used to know every nook and cranny of that place. My Dad used to go up there with binoculars to inspect the roof of our house. I later went to WPI, and would go there with friends for the view on clear days. A unique place.
Richard Paige - Report this comment
My good friend Howard lived within walking distance of Bancroft Tower, and as youngsters in Worcester, in the very early 1960's, we used to play there a few times a week in the summers. The City blocked off the stairs with a gate around this time, but we managed to still get access to the towers by climbing the south wall to the lowest window, and "sqeezing" through. Getting back out through this same window proved to be more challenging, since you either were skinny enough to grab on to the lower rock or you just sort of "shot out like a canonball if your rear end wasn't thin my friend Howard's. I brought my 5 year old back home to see this over the summer of 2003, and she was just as impressed with it's grandeur as I was in my youth.
These days-access to bancroft tower is quite limited. For the agile though, access can be gained by climbing up the wall on the back left portion of the tower, into a window with no bars. The view form the top is worth the effort, especially during the fall foliage
Elizabeth Ford - Report this comment
When I was little my father would take me to Bancroft Tower all the time, I really wish the city would let you go up to the top because it is such a beautiful sight of the city.
ive developed quite in interest for this place after reading about it just a few days ago. is this a place id get arrested if i were found there?
Thomas Malboeuf - Report this comment
I remember going to bancroft tower to go parking with an old girlfriend a long time ago and always wondered what was Bancroft Tower used for? What was it's purpose besides a place to see the city lights from?
Michael McGuire - Report this comment
Bancroft Towers was and always will be a very special place to me. I now live in Georgia and have been to many places, nowhere as cool as the towers. Got over fear of hieghts sitting on the edge if the top left tower for 6 solid hrs. one night in 1971 on Black Beauties. Use to come from Clinton/Leominster many time a month from 1969-73, for our parties! Visited again w/ wife/daughter this may,2005
I have great memories of the tower in the 50's. Great Memorable place to go parking. Met the love of my life there in "54. We are still an item.
In the fifties and sixties Bancroft Tower was a big part of my life. I grew up in the shadow of the Tower on Institute road. I spent many days of my youth playing in the nearby woods and exploring all the nooks and cranies of the tower itself. It was a rite of passage for all of us who lived close by to try and scale the walls and to reach the highest point possible without actually falling. There were many dares and don'ts at this time. Often, in the summer it was a great place for watching the fireworks from Greenhill Park. The top of the Tower itself was sometimes inaccessible because of the air-raid siren positioned at the top, but if one was lucky enough to find the top levels open, then the views of the city were spectacular. The Tower was not a place to go at night unless you had a group of friends who wanted to be scared, or you wanted to learn about the facts of life. For the most part I think it was safe and mostly fantasy and imagination that gave the place a special kind folklore charactization. All the memories I have of the Tower ar all very positive and bring a smile to my face except the last one. Back in the early eighties I took my wife and three kids up to the tower for a pizza picnic after a dental appointment someone had in Worcester. We lived out of town and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to show the kids where dad grew up. We sat on the wall eating our lunch when my wife noticed two men up in the Tower doing things that shouldn't be wittnessed by adults neve mind kids. Promptly, we packed up and left. This was my last visit to the Tower. I hope things have gotten better. George Bancroft was a true intellectual and certainly deserved this honor. Ed S
john michael kane - Report this comment
My first memory of Bancroft Tower was in my very early or pre-grade school years. I think I was about 6 or 7 years old and my sister who is about 10 years older than me had brought me up to the tower in her 60s beetle bug. I remember exploring the castle and the grounds. This was during the so called hippy era, and there seemed to be more young people around us enjoying the park and living as they did back then. I alway's think of this experience from time to time. I'm glad I was able to enjoy it.
Marie Roy McGrain - Report this comment
A relative sent me this website indicating that a Neil H. Donahue wrote that his grandfather Thomas worked as a mason on Bancroft Tower. My grandfather, Cornelius H. Donahue, was foreman for the Stephen Salisbury Estate and directed the erection of Bancroft Tower, which was erected in memory of the Bancroft family of Worcester. I have a picture of Bancroft Tower just after its completion in 1900 showing my grandfather and his crew. Maybe Neil could pick out his grandfather in the picture. Sounds like we must be long lost cousins! According to my geneaology, my grandfather was born in County Kerry Ireland in 1863 and had a brother Thomas. His parents were Thomas and Mary Reardon Donahue. Hoping to hear from you.
Marie Roy McGrain - Report this comment
I read Neil H. Donahue's comment on Bancroft Tower and contacted him to tell him I have a picture of Bancroft Tower with my grandfather, Cornelius H. Donahue and his crew of workmen as they completed building the tower in 1900. We discovered we are cousins!
I remember going there as a teen as well. I was always afraid of the height, but I loved the view of the lights when I got up there. There was nothing ever so breathtaking that the top of the towers. I would love to see the city, reopen it, for tourists, and for the residents in the area thqat grew up going there. It really is a wonderful place.
In the 1960s, my friends from Lee Street School and I would play "army" in Bancroft Tower and in the woods on the slope between Bancroft Tower and Park Ave. We kept our prisoners of war in the single room in the base of the north tower, opposite the stairwell. The POW room had a fireplace. The entrance gate to the stairwell in the south tower seemed to be locked more in the early 1960s than the late 1960s. When the gate was open and you stepped into the darkness of the stairwell, it took a moment for your nose to become accustomed to the stench of urine. Halfway up was the long "great room" which had a fireplace and straddled the north and south towers. The first stairwell ended three quarters of the way up and left you standing in daylight looking up at the two turrets. It was a few more steps up to the lower turret, and in a different direction it was a few steps up to the base of the upper turret. At the base of the upper turret was another gate, sometimes locked. The final flight of stairs to the top of the upper turret was a metal, spiral staircase. A wooden base supported the air raid siren, and we made a game of touching the siren. Large trees to the north of Bancroft Tower dropped nuts we used as battle ammunition. Old, stone grist-wheels served as park benches. We were masters of camouflage and would sneak up on romantic couples. We would drink from the water tap that stood next to one of the mini-turrets near the parking area and pick flowers for Mom. We raced our bicycles downhill and around curves all the way home.
I grew up on Bancroft Tower Road and spent many happy hours at the tower and playing in the surrounding woods. We watched Spudnik from the tower and 4th of July fireworks. I remember when it was hit by lightening which produced the big black spot on the front.A neighbor had the key when it was first locked up and he locked and unlocked it every day. I think the city started locking it when they attached an air raid sirene to the top. Fortunately the sirene is gone and the tower is being cared for by the neighborhood association.
Phil- October 31, 2007 - Report this comment
1975-80 It used to be a great place to take a break from all night studies to watch the sun come up. Unfortunately, once it got warm it stunk from all the ___________. It was locked the last time I was there.
Mike Munzert- November 02, 2007 - Report this comment
I used to go to the Tower in the mid 70s. I used to walk up into the tower and look out at the city. I remember it always stunk with that old urine smell, but it was still cool to me to go up inside and look around. I stopped going there after "rough" crowds began to hang around. I remember one day a young guy I met there was bragging how he and his friends threw a dog off the top of the tower. Then he asked me if I had any money he could borrow. That's the last time I went there. It's a very different place and I hope it has cleaned up.
tay- April 22, 2008 - Report this comment
well i9 went there today and it was ocked i want to enjoy the scene but i cant cause its locked they should open it
ZIM- September 04, 2008 - Report this comment
I went there 9/1/08 It was great but yes locked still clean and quiet there was a guy walking his dog and a woman with her little girl on a bike. I think the rough crowd days are gone for now. they had some ametuer theater up there a few weeks ago it was in the paper I wonder if they opened it for that, any one know who has the key?
Peg - November 2008- November 30, 2008 - Report this comment
Drove up there to show my son and for me to see the towers again. It's been a little over 20 years since I've been up there. It was raining so we didn't get out, also there was a cop car sitting in the parking area.
AJ- January 03, 2009 - Report this comment
The only time I remember being in the tower was when I was about 3 years old (1981). It had that horrible urine smell, but I didn't really care: it was a HUGE castle! (Everything was huge to me back then . . .) I walked up the spiral stairs to the hall that crossed the towers. I think we walked down that hall to the other tower and up another flight of stairs to the roof. It was a windy day to begin with and twice as worse once we were that high. My brother and I were a handful, admittedly, so between that and the wind, my father wouldn't let us climb the high tower. Considering I was 3, I know my memory of the roof has to be very skewed by now. Regardless of whether it existed or not, I swear I remember standing on a mini-turret up there, and my brother wanted to climb an exposed and incomplete staircase. About five years ago, when I was in the area, I *really* wanted to see inside the tower again and relive one of my oldest memories. To my dismay, it was locked tight. My uncle, who still lives in Worcester, said it's been that way since the early '80s except for occasional theater performances. I wish Worcester would allow public access again, even if it were just one weekend a year and cost an admission fee.
Alyssa :]- January 06, 2009 - Report this comment
My boyfriend took me to this tower earlier this evening...the view was soo pretty of the city lights...i could have stayed there all night just talking. The castle itself had an eerie feel-probly because it was dark out, but it was soo cool. This place-being there with my boyfriend-had a romantic feel to it. Definatley a place i want to visit again :]
Amelia- January 12, 2009 - Report this comment
i felt fresh teh death when i was there.
Bob J- January 15, 2009 - Report this comment
I lived on Ormand Street, off Highland Street which is about 2 miles from Bancroft Tower. During the summer in the mid-to late 50s a few of us young kids would have our moms pack a lunch and we would ride our bikes to the Tower. We would spend the good part of the day hanging our there. Most times the entry door was lock, but you could climb up to the first window opening and squeeze through. Even back then it had a strong urine spell, but it didn't hamper the fun we had. While visiting family a couple of months ago (Sep 2008) my brother and were talking about the it and on the spur of the moment we drive up to a visit. The entry door was locked, it still had a strong smell of urine, and one of the turrets had about 6-8 young teenagers that appeared to be drinking. A mixture of both boys and girls. They appeared to be VRY young, but then again I'm getting pretty old :). We were not bothered by them nor were did we have the slightest fear of them. Nothing but good childhood memory about Bancroft Tower!
Jim K- March 11, 2009 - Report this comment
I was a boy in Worcester in the 1950's and lived near Bancroft Tower. There were hundreds of kids (baby boomers) in the neighborhood and we would take sides in battles. It seems the defenders would always win. The tower was usually locked but the lowest window on the tower's west side was easy to climb to and as kids we had no trouble squeezing between the bars. A few years later we found that a kite carried to the top was easily flown because of its height. As a teen I frequently parked there with my girlfriend along with many other kids. You had to get there early on Friday and Saturday nights or there would not be a parking space available. The limit was probably about 100 - 150 vehicles. I sincerely hope that future generations are able to enjoy the tower and grounds as much as I did.
beba- March 25, 2009 - Report this comment
I visited the bancroft tower for the first time and it was amazing. though i could not go inside, it was absolotley beautiful and gave a great view of the city. though it is locked, i plan to find a way into the tower, of course not by my self. i was thinking maybe go through one of the opened windows because the doors are looked. even though, the tower is starting to look more like a haunted house. maybe i will do some cleaning and fix the tower up next time i visit. lol
unknown- March 25, 2009 - Report this comment
i visited the bancroft tower last saturday and it was amazing. even though i didnt see inside i loved it. it gives a beautiful view of the city and i think im going to find a way in there one day. the view is also very romantic!!!!! maybe next time i visit ill climb a window or something and go in
Tom O'Connor - Seattle- April 11, 2009 - Report this comment
Franny Mahoney and I, with his little brother in tow, were in the 5th grade and bored. So we dared each other to pull the fire alarm on Hamilton St. Franny had the guts or stupidity to yank the lever. We laughed, then panicked and ran as fast as possible to the Bancroft Tower to hide. Well the neighbors soon told the police where we were. I'll never forget the feeling of being cornered by the cops. Oops!
steve- June 17, 2009 - Report this comment
never forget being there with MPR
tom warner- July 08, 2009 - Report this comment
five years ago i went to the tower and consummated my marriage with new wife Liat. surely a night i will remember for eternity.
Donna- September 04, 2010 - Report this comment
Guido and me and lovely kissing and "charlie" pefume and star earrings. I had just graduated high school. I so hope Jay is doing great. Really I do.
Rudy- May 12, 2012 - Report this comment
Trivia - Do you remember the ABC's of Worcester parking "make-out" places? A. Worcester Airport B. Bancroft Tower C:?
Dave- August 01, 2012 - Report this comment
So many stories here remind me of my childhood going to Bancroft Tower in the early 80's. Wow kids were going up there in the 50's. Our group of kids would do the leave in the morning and be home at supper. We get on our bikes from the William St area, and like other kids play army it was "our" fort. The views area amazing. The big thrill was to all race down the winding road to Mass Ave to Park Ave.   Now that I have kids, they will never have summers like kids did back then you can't let them out of your sight. Some of my best memories as a kid are at places like this, having good old fun and not doing anything stupid and not getting into trouble. 
Chucky Daddy- November 14, 2012 - Report this comment
I had never known of this place before but I brought A girl up here the other night. Let's just saw it was more than favorable. Great place to bring a girl on a warm night and lay on a blanket on the common area around the tower... *panty dropper*
Charlie- May 20, 2014 - Report this comment
I grew up on Lee Street during the 50's and 60's and spent lots of time playing in the woods surrounding Bancroft Tower as well as in the Tower itself. One day a few friends of mine and I decided that there was buried treasure to be found somewhere in the area. So, armed with a "treasure map" we set out to find some. We kept going from landmark to landmark and eventually we found ourselves in Bancroft Tower's large room, the one containing a fireplace. I declared that the treasure must be hidden in the fireplace. I took a hammer out of my bag and banged the inner wall of the fireplace. Chips of concrete flew along with dust when, much to my surprise, I heard the distinct "ting" sound of metal hitting stone. Amidst the debris I discovered an Indian head penny (I believe its date was 1901). I was beside myself with joy. I had found the treasure! It was one of my fondest keepsakes until my younger brother Pete grabbed it off my bookshelf one day so he could buy some penny candy at Sam's (a tiny Mom & Pop store in the neighborhood). A true story and much "treasured" memory. Years later I heard that many stone masons had the habit of placing a coin minted in the year the project was completed within their work.
Lori Cowee- May 05, 2015 - Report this comment
Like others who have left comments, I also grew up near Bancroft Tower and attended Lee Street School. At that time, 1968-1970 the tower was still a safe place for me and my friends to explore and was still a pretty spot. Over the years the place has deteriorated and is not a safe place for chidlren to be on their own. I hope at some point, the city realizes they have a small treasure and will replace the towers to their original beauty.
Janice Krinsky- May 01, 2018 - Report this comment
I grew up in a house on Institute Rd in the 60s and 70s. I was taken by my mom the first time I went into the tower. It was open, but the room across from the stairs was blocked off for years by a large iron gate. My parents forbade me to play there as they didn't think it was safe, but of course I would sneak up there now and then with neighborhood pals. So many kids back then, several in almost every house. My kids didn't get to experience anything even close to what it was like to always have kids around to play with, and to be free to roam around until you either heard your own dinner bell ring or the street lights came on. Bancroft Tower was magical even though the urine smell was gross.

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