Shrewsbury is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Shrewsbury is an unusual New England town in that it was neither a mill town nor a farming village. Rather, it grew as a suburb to neighboring Worcester, Massachusetts from the start.
The Town of Shrewsbury, named for Shrewsbury, England, is a suburban community with an uneven and hilly terrain cut by a number of minor streams providing several small water power sites. Grants of land were made in what would eventually be the town beginning in 1664, with the 3,200 acre grant called Haynes Farm as the largest. Settlers came primarily from Sudbury and Marlborough and the first permanent settler was Gersham Wheelock in 1720. As a town, Shrewsbury was first settled in 1722 and officially incorporated in 1727.
Townspeople created an agricultural economy with apple orchards and by 1750 there were two stores and four taverns as well as several small industries in operation. The rapid fall of prices for agricultural goods, the shortage of hard currency and the general economic depression following the Revolutionary War produced disastrous conditions for colonists. Shays' Rebellion in 1786 sought to close the courts to prevent debt collections and the foreclosure of mortgages. Shrewsbury became a staging area for the rebellion and the encampment of the more than 400 insurgents, before the march on the Worcester Court House.
A leather industry began in 1786 in Shrewsbury and town farmers developed large cattle herds to support the manufacture of boots and shoes. This was followed by the establishment of gunsmithing operations in 1797 which produced rifles, shotguns and pistols and eventually cutlery. Luther Goddard began in 1809 by making brass clocks and then established a small watch factory employing a few skilled Swiss and English watchmakers. Lumbering created sawmills and they in turn drew chair and cabinet makers, plow and wagon builders.
The development of streetcar routes in the 19th century spurred the growth of single-family housing in town and a summer resort population on Lake Quinsigamond became consumers of the market garden produce grown by town farmers. As Shrewsbury's industry was killed off by the lack of large waterpower sites and the tardy arrival of the railroad, its role as a suburb of Worcester grew more important. The town's population doubled from 1915 to 1940 as continued streetcar suburb growth brought more modern settlers into the community. Other modern developments included an increased number of lakeside cottages, ethnic clubs and recreational areas on the lake. The economy of modern Shrewsbury has been described as depending on agriculture, the resort industry and the providing of recreation and food for the population of Worcester.
- (Source: Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (pdf) and Narrative supplied by community and based on information provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission)
Registered Historic Places
Shrewsbury is home to three Nationally Registered Historic Places:
- The Gen. Artemas Ward Homestead on Main Street
- The Joseph Lothrop House, which was located at 208 Turnpike Road where Blockbuster Video stands today
- The Shrewsbury Historic District, in the town center which includes parts of Church Road, Main Street, Prospect Street, Boylston Street, and Grafton Street
Famous residents and natives
- Artemas Ward (1727 - 1800), American Major General in the Revolutionary War and often characterized as the runner-up for George Washington's post. He was, in fact, the first commander of the Continental Army, before being relieved by Washington. The Artemas Ward Homestead is a museum preserved by Harvard University. Located at 786 Main Street in Shrewsbury, it is open to the public for limited hours during the summer months.
- Ralph Earl (1751 - 1801), American painter known for his portrait of Roger Sherman, as well as being one of the first American landscape artists.
- Levi Pease - The "father of mail stages in this country." Organizer and proprietor of the first stagecoach lines in the U.S.. Also the first contractor for carrying U.S. Mail.
- Quintin J. Cristy - inventor of dry gas
- Lillian Asplund (1906 – 2006), one of the last living survivors of the Titanic shipwreck.
- Min Chueh Chang (1908 - 1991), co-inventor of the birth control pill and in-vitro fertilization.
- Robert Allan Ridley Parker (b. 1936), director of the NASA Management Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
- Gregory McDonald (b. 1937), author of the "Fletch" series of novels.
- Craig C. Mello (b. 1960), Nobelist in medicine for 2006
- Mike Birbiglia (b. 1978), stand-up comedian.
- Catherine Brunell (b. 1975), Broadway Actress
- The now-defunct Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, the renowned research facility where the birth control pill was first developed. The campus is now the Hoagland-Pincus Conference Center of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
- The now-defunct Spag's, the original all-purpose store, which predated Costco, Walmart and other similar outlets. Noted for its unorthodox inventory and discount prices, Spag's succumbed to the competition of the modern megastore and was acquired in 2002 by Building 19. The location became Spags 19, and in 2004 the store was converted to Building 19's format (it is now just another Building 19 location).
- The now-defunct White City amusement park.
- Maxtor Corporation, maker of computer hard drives, which was acquired by Seagate Technology in May 2006.
Shrewsbury is a suburb of both Boston and Worcester, about 50 minutes from Boston and 15 minutes to downtown Worcester.
Shrewsbury is bordered on the West by Worcester, separated by Lake Quinsigamond. To the North is Boylston and Interstate 290. The South side is bounded by Grafton with the Mass Pike just beyond. Northborough and Westborough are to the East.
As of the census˛ of 2000, there were 31,640 people, 12,366 households, and 8,693 families residing in the town. The population density was 589.3/km˛ (1,526.3/mi˛). There were 12,696 housing units at an average density of 236.5/km˛ (612.4/mi˛). The racial makeup of the town was 89.12% White, 1.45% African American, 0.12% Native American, 7.61% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.69% from other races, and 1.00% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.59% of the population.
There were 12,366 households out of which 34.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.1% were married couples living together, 7.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.7% were non-families. 25.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.09.
In the town the population was spread out with 25.6% under the age of 18, 5.0% from 18 to 24, 33.4% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 94.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.4 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $64,237, and the median income for a family was $77,674. Males had a median income of $56,259 versus $37,129 for females. The per capita income for the town was $31,570. About 3.3% of families and 4.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.6% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.
Shrewsbury is governed in the traditional New England style. Municipal elections are held on the first Tuesday in May.
Legislative Branch: Representative Town Meeting.