Front entrances are important because first impressions are lasting. The Worcester Academy entrance with the Walker Hall and Abercrombie House framing the view of the quadrangle and the buildings beyond is impressive, but it was not the original view that first-time visitors originally had of the campus.
The first campus entrance atop Union Hill was a circular driveway in front of Davis Hall, a campus icon that was demolished in the early 1960s due to the poor condition of the structure. That did not change in 1887 when Daniel Webster Abercrombie moved his family out Davis Hall and into the house that now bears his name. The first front entrance of Abercrombie House faced Providence Street; a gate in the picket fence along Providence Street opened to a walkway that led to a porch that faced the street. In its design, it was similar to the other large homes on the street. It was not until 1890 and the completion of Walker Hall that the main entrance to the school was moved, highlighting Walker’s impressive doorway looming over Providence Street.
Three years after the completion of Walker Hall, the advent of a streetcar line to the top of Union Hill spurred changes to the campus. The trolleys had made it far easier to travel up the long Providence Street hill from the downtown factories. Now factory workers and their families could purchase cheap land and build the three-decker tenements atop Union Hill. Within a decade, the campus was surrounded by a neighborhood population comprised mainly of European immigrants. Tensions between the school and the neighborhood grew, especially because of the small boys who hung around the campus borders. The students referred to them as “muckers” and they were deemed a nuisance as they begged for food or else scooped up errant tennis balls, since tennis was hugely popular at that time.
It was for these reasons that in 1907 the campus entrance was changed in dramatic ways. The picket fence was replaced with an imposing brick wall with wrought iron fencing along the top. Simultaneously, a large addition was built onto Abercrombie House with the front of the house facing the circular driveway in front of Walker Hall. The result was that the house was no longer configured towards Providence Street.
Abercrombie House’s front porch and Walker Hall’s prominent doorway have framed the front entrance of the school for more than a century. The original entrance to Abercrombie House has had a lasting effect, however. When the City of Worcester put in place a numbering system for mail delivery, the house was designated as 81 Providence Street. Thus, the house’s address remains the legal address of Worcester Academy.