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What is it like to live on Worcester’s West Side?

A flower-filled front yard on Worcester's West Side.
A flower-filled front yard on Worcester's West Side.(Joanne Rathe/ Globe Staff)
(David Butler/ Globe Staff)

“Worcester’s counterpart to the tony suburbs of Wellesley, Brookline, and Newton” is how a City of Worcester website describes the West Side. Indeed, the neighborhood is so pretty that a newcomer traveling through the city and ending up here might feel a bit like Dorothy: I don’t think I’m in Worcester anymore. Despite the distinctly suburban feel, yes, it is Worcester.

Lovers of old homes will salivate at the grand houses. In fact, Worcester has three historic districts, two on the West Side. The Massachusetts Avenue one, established in 1975, encompasses 21 properties covering roughly 14 acres. The neighboring Montvale Historic District includes 57 properties north of Salisbury Street, one of the main roadways on the West Side. Both historic districts predominately comprise turn-of-the-last-century homes of varied architectural styles.

While the homes are every bit as beautiful as similar ones closer to Boston, the prices are much lower. And though Worcester doesn't have everything Boston has to offer, it boasts the Worcester Art Museum, the American Antiquarian Society, Mechanics Hall, great hospitals, professional sports teams, ethnic markets, and restaurants galore, particularly on Shrewsbury Street, in the city's traditionally Italian neighborhood. Meanwhile, the second largest city in New England is undergoing a revival. (No, really, this time it's actually happening.) The $563 million CitySquare project in downtown Worcester is creating more than 2.2 million square feet of retail, medical, and residential space, as well as a more pedestrian-friendly street pattern.

"The Woo" is set to wow.

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By the numbers

$45

The amount that graphic artist Harvey R. Ball, a Worcester native, was paid to create the Smiley Face button as part of a employee morale campaign for a local insurance company in 1963.

10 minutes

The time it took him to draw it, according to the Worcester Historical
Museum . Others have claimed credit for it — and made a lot of money.

34,297

To date, the number of infected or at-risk trees cut down in Worcester and some neighboring towns to control infestations of Asian longhorned beetles. A local initiative recently celebrated the planting of 30,000 trees.

Runner-up

The best a Massachusetts team has ever done in the Little League World Series US final, achieved in 2002 by the West Side's Jesse Burkett Little League All-Stars and a team from Saugus the following year.

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Pros & Cons

Pro

Housing stock

Beautiful homes at comparatively low prices. On the West Side, a gorgeous 3,721-square-foot home on Lenox Street updated but with loads of old-house-details preserved, recently sold for $385,000.

Con

Image

Though it's known as the "Heart of the Commonwealth" (which is why the city seal and flag bear a heart), it's likely you've heard it referred to as the "armpit of Massachusetts." So, if you live here, you may have to put up with that anti-Worcester attitude. Call it the ignorance of the arrogant.

Pro

Parkland 

Elm Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In all, there are about 1,250 acres of parkland in Worcester.

Con

Trendiness

It's improving, but for a city with 10 colleges and universities (Clark University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the College of the Holy Cross among them), the hip factor is fairly low.

Painter works on home in Worcester’s West Side.
Painter works on home in Worcester’s West Side.(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
Crossing guard outside of Flagg Street School.
Crossing guard outside of Flagg Street School.(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
Bridge in Elm Park.
Bridge in Elm Park.(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
A playground in Elm Park.
A playground in Elm Park.(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
Drinks for two in mason jars for sale at the Corner Grille.
Drinks for two in mason jars for sale at the Corner Grille.(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
Fall colors reflect in Salisbury Pond at Institute Park across from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Fall colors reflect in Salisbury Pond at Institute Park across from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
Corner Grille at 806 Pleasant Street.
Corner Grille at 806 Pleasant Street.(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)

More coverage:

- The home your money buys on Worcester's West Side


Vanessa Parks is a freelance writer in Central Massachusetts. Send e-mail to Address@globe.com.