History of the Helen G. Shaughnessy
The Helen G. Shaughnessy Administration Building opened its doors in January 1932 as Worcester State Teachers College—a new name and a new location for the institution originally christened the Worcester Normal School.
The Normal School, established in 1874 with the sole purpose of training public school teachers, had been an imposing Gothic structure at the summit of St. Ann’s Hill. As early as 1908, school and public officials began making the case for moving the school to a new site. Reasons for the desired move included a deteriorating neighborhood, the proximity of the county jail and insane asylum, crowded conditions (the building was designed to accommodate 200 students), and lack of acreage for future growth.
In 1928, after years of complaints about the old building, the city of Worcester purchased a 20-acre lot at Chandler and May Streets for $45,000 and donated it to the school. The seller was Worcester inventor and philanthropist George I. Rockwood. He later donated the remaining 35 acres of what had been Willow Farm, paving the way for future expansion.
The move to the large Colonial brick structure—built for a total cost of $365,000—took place during Christmas vacation in 1931. In January, 262 students became the first of many thousands who would enter the doors at 486 Chandler Street. Designed to accommodate 300 students, the new building featured spacious classrooms, a gymnasium, and a library on the fourth floor. The campus was rustic and retained elements of the old farm, including apple trees and a small pond.
More significant than the building itself was the new name of the school. In 1932, the Board of Education upgraded the status of state normal schools by changing their designation to teachers colleges. The move was an acknowledgment of the changes that had occurred in professional teacher education. Normal schools typically offered a two- or three-year course of study. By the time Worcester State Teachers College opened in 1932, all entering students were four-year college students.
Today, the Helen G. Shaughnessy Administration Building houses administrative offices as well as streamlined student services in an “academic mall.” Extensively renovated from 2007 to 2009, the building combines modern convenience and efficiency with much of the charm of the old Teachers College.