Arab and Muslim Communities of Worcester
Regional Surveys

This collection documents the architecture of the Arab and Muslim communities of Worcester, Massachusetts, the second-largest city in the state. Worcester is located in Central Massachusetts, approximately 65 km (40 miles) west of Boston. The city has long been an attractive settlement area for immigrants to the United States, especially after the completion of the Blackstone Canal from Providence, RI to Worcester in 1828. Though the canal ceased operations in 1848, the city had already been connected by railways lines to Boston, Providence, Norwich (Connecticut), and Albany (New York). By the end of the 19th c., there were also connections to Portland, Maine and Nashua, NH. These, in turn, linked to rail and naval transportation that connected far and wide. 


Industrialization sped up rapidly after the end of the American Civil War freed up funds and labor for activities other than wartime production. Worcester was already a textile center, but it soon became a center for wood and metalwork, as well as a producer of industrial machinery. Worcester became home to a number of colleges, universities, and cultural centers such as theaters and museums. 


Immigrants of Irish, French, Swedish, Finnish, Lithuanian, Polish, Italian, Greek, Syrian, and Armenian descent all came to Worcester from the mid-19th century through the early 20th century. Indeed, the city remains an attractive place for immigrants, though more recently from Asia, Central and South America, and refugees from conflict zones around the world. As a result of this and other factors, the Muslim community has grown considerably since the late 20th century. This collection focuses on the impact that Arab (Christian and Muslim) and Muslim communities have had on the city’s development and architecture. 


It springs from a video project sponsored by the Al Musharaka Initiative of the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE) carried out in 2004-2006 for inclusion in the Arab Culture and Civilization Online Resource. It was inspired by the book Arab American Faces and Voices. The Origins of an Immigrant Community by Elizabeth Boosahda (August 15, 1926-October 24, 2017). She also served as our primary advisor and guide as we filmed churches of the Arab-American Community, as well as the Worcester Mosque, both at its previous location in a converted church, and at the site where the new mosque and school was being constructed.  


The collection is currently being updated for ARCHNET. It is dedicated to Elizabeth Boosahda, an independent scholar and activist, without whose assistance, it would not have been possible.  

Images & Videos