Where once the Institute Park boathouse stood, Worcester folks and nearby WPI students can now enjoy music at the Levenson Concert Stage.

The park itself, as well as the pond, were the creations of Worcester industrialist Stephen Salisbury III, who donated the land (originally farmland) close to what was then called the Worcester Free Institute of Industrial Science – now Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

It was also close to Grove Street’s Washburn and Moen North Works, a typical Worcester contrast. The park was not just for students at the college, but also for the workers at the factory to enjoy themselves.

Salisbury not only donated the original 18 acres of the park, but also built the improvements, which included the boathouse, some gazebos, trails around the pond, a tower (called the Norse Tower) that was a replica of a windmill in Rhode Island, a bridge to an island in the pond and a bandstand.

Today, instead of the bandstand, the park enjoys the state-of-the-art Levenson Concert Shell, named for Worcester maestro Harry Levenson and his wife Madelyn, who started the tradition of offering free concerts in the park in 1951.

Of Salisbury’s improvements, few remain, including the Tremont Columns (salvaged from the Tremont Hotel in Boston by Salisbury and erected in the park, formerly at different sites).

Salisbury’s civic-mindedness lives on: a group called the Friends of Institute Park is focused on addressing the challenges the park faces today, including the sediment choking the pond, where once oars dipped in the water added to the sweet sounds of a summer day.

- Melissa McKeon, Correspondent

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