Monuments of Main Street Fitchburg
A downtown walking tour of Fitchburg's monuments and public art
The Upper Common was originally owned by the First Parish Church of Fitchburg. (Their 1837 building faces the head of the Common.) They deeded the land to the city in 1882. It is now preserved as the Upper Common Historic District. The city immediately began to improve the space into a verdant green space in a city that was otherwise crowded with factories, homes, and shops.
The Firefighters' Monument, 1852; Boy and Turtles Fountain by Herbert Adams, 1889; Bandstand, 1975; Rollstone Boulder, moved here 1931; "The Rock", visible on Rollstone Hill to south, since 1936; "Winged Victory", Herbert Adams, Sculptor, 1928; Memorial to the Korean and Vietnam wars, John Marshall and Hathaway Monuments, 1993; Arthur S. Longsjo, Jr. Memorial.
This historical building is named “The Phoenix” and it houses the Fitchburg Historical Society, a museum and library that preserves and celebrates the history of Fitchburg and central Massachusetts. The Phoenix Building is a beautifully decorated wood-framed brick office building originally designed for the Fitchburg Mutual Fire Insurance Company by Fitchburg architect Henry M. Francis, whose firm designed the majority of Fitchburg’s commercial, institutional and residential buildings between 1868 and 1943. The building was purchased and renovated by the Fitchburg Historical Society and opened its doors to the public as the Society’s new headquarters in 2012. Fitchburg has always been a center for industrial innovation and education. It never had only one industry or ethnic neighborhood: since its first textile factory in 1807, it has been a center for tools, engines, textiles, shoes, clothing, paper, publishing, railroads, railroad equipment, and many other kinds of industrial production. By 1900, the city was 75% foreign-born families, including immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Finland, Greece, England, French-speaking Canada, and eastern Europe. Later, it welcomed new citizens from Asia (especially the Hmong), South America (particularly Uruguay), central America and the Caribbean. In the 1800’s, Fitchburg housed a Massachusetts Normal School that is now Fitchburg State University. The Fitchburg Historical Society hosts changing temporary public exhibitions on history and also welcomes visitors to its research library.
Heading east on Main Street from the Upper Common to Monument Park, you will see a watering trough of the 1880's from the Fitchburg Historical Society that is now used for flower plantings by the Laurelwood Garden Club. Passing in front of the 1851 City Hall, renovated in 2020, you will pass in front of the Fitchburg Public Library, by architect Carl Koch. Opposite the public library is Monument Park, honoring the city's participation in the Civil War, and the Civil War Soldiers' monument by Boston sculptor Martin Milmore (1874).
The Fitchburg Public Library (FPL) is a striking work of modern architecture that includes two parts, both designed by Harvard-trained Bauhaus-influenced architect Carl Koch. The Youth Library was dedicated in September 1950. The children of Fitchburg had collected pennies to help support its construction, and Eleanor Roosevelt visited and admired the light-filled open plan building when she visited shortly before its completion. It was the first free-standing children's library in the U.S. The Wallace Public Library was dedicated in 1967, and was also designed by Carl Koch. It replaced an 1885 library that had also been funded by Rodney Wallace.
This intersection features a memorial to Mayor Alfred Woollacott, along with new public art by sculptor Nora Valdez, whose "The Immigrant" was commissioned and installed by the Fitchburg Art Museum in 2013, to honor Fitchburg's ongoing tradition of welcoming immigrants and providing them a home and community. Also located at this intersection is "Greetings from Fitchburg", painted in 2017. Further west from this square, on the side of the Arc building at 564 Main Street, you will find the mural, "That Was Fun, Let's Do More" by Massachusetts artist Caleb Neelon.
Mill Street has been made a pedestrian street. After renovations in 2019, a public plaza at the end of Mill Street, next to Boulder Drive, is functioning as a flexible space for public happenings and art. The decorative panels were made by Fitchburg artists and designers. Two blocks further east on Main Street, you will find the area originally known as Depot Square, when it faced Fitchburg's monumental Victorian train depot, taken down as part of urban renewal in 1961. In that area, the city has mounted a monument to 9/11, a policeman's monument, and a display of flags representing Fitchburg's ethnic diversity and civic life.
Moran Square is home to a striking granite building, long a home to shops and apartments. It is also where you will find Fitchburg's Spanish-American war monument, called "The Hiker", by renowned Boston artist Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson, first created in 1906. It is also home to an original Worcester Car diner, the Moran Square diner. Nearby, you will find a new portrait mural honoring Fitchburg industrialist, Iver Johnson.