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Hadwen Arboretum – Neglected in Worcester? (Updated, November 6, 2010 and March 29, 2011))

(Update March 29, 2011.  There are some new developments going on at the Hadwen that you can read about here. )

(Update November 6, 2010.  This blog post is being updated in response to some very helpful information provided by Greg Doerschler, which you can find in the comments section below.) The Hadwen Arboretum is a small (I’m guessing four to six acres) stand of urban forest that sits at the intersection of Lovell and May St.’s, not far from downtown Worcester.  It’s a lovely spot and I’ve had the opportunity to walk it many times.

It’s a spot that’s obviously been used by the community for many years as a playground and a place of reflection.  The huge beech, oak and maple trees lend themselves well to climbing and play.  Initials carved into the bark suggest that play there was not confined to pre-adolescents.

It is, however, difficult to get good information on the Hadwen.  It is owned by Clark University but there’s little mention of the property on their web site, other than that is is currently being used as site for composting of landscape waste (not a bad thing in and of itself) and a community garden, which does present as a welcome site.

I had read about the Hadwen first in a book I discussed several months back by Evelyn Herwitz, Trees at Risk.  Obadiah Hadwen bequeathed the land to Clark in 1907.  A very civic minded gentleman Hadwen was involved with the Parks Commission.  Perhaps more importantly, he was a farmer of trees and on his eighteen acre property on Lovell St. in Worcester he raised a variety of trees brought there from around the globe including magnolias, siberian maples and black walnut trees from Japan

You can find a report on the property, created by what I believe was a student group or student project, here . As the unnamed authors of the report…CORRECTION:  This valuable report was created by Mr. Greg Doerschler and I’m very grateful for his communications in the comments section below. Note that this story is still unfolding, thankfully. The report confirms Evelyn Herwitz’ report that the University has been at a loss as to what to do with the property, though they have made a commitment to keep it.  Mr. Doerschler’s document also includes a very interesting map that plots the location of the tremendous variety of tree life there, or at least there as of 1978.  Species include Oak, Beech, maple, hemlock and birch as one might imagine, but also horse chestnut trees and magnolia trees as well. (American chestnut trees of course have all but disappeared from the eastern United States, due to disease.  I wasn’t clear whether or not the horse chestnut, which is European in origin, was also vulnerable to asian chestnut blight, the culprit in this case.  Nevertheless, the horse chestnut still presents an interesting and somewhat rare site, to my eyes.)

But it is not hard to find signs of neglect at the Hadwen, as the local species and native ground cover overwhelm the forest.

Trees compete for light and nutrients.

The winners come to dominate, and the losers pass on.

Hadwen’s bequest was “to be forever kept for the purpose of educating students in agricultural, historical and arboreal knowledge scientific and practical.  I adopt this course with the purpose in view of preserving the trees and plants growing thereon, being a portion of my life work, shall be preserved as an Arboretum, and an object lesson to assist students in the education of the science and art of arboriculture and improving the landscape.”  (From Hadwen Arboretum Historical Notes, page 1.)

We are reminded in touring this lovely but fragile spot that it doesn’t work for humans to walk away from the natural environment.  Hadwen created this environment, in collaboration with nature.  Once we have intervened in the environment, we’re in the game in perpetuity in many instances, unless we intend to encourage a piece of land to become “wild lands.” (More about that in an upcoming blog.)  Here we have an example of the legacy of a man, his personal vision, and its interaction with an environment.  While the property is owned by the University it has clearly been in the custody of the community for many many years.  The citizens are stakeholders in this business too, and speaking as one of those citizens, I’d like to see this lovely spot maintained for future generations.  That will, however, require some work.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sandra #

    Lovely and so close to home. Thanks.

    November 3, 2010
  2. I compiled the “Hadwen Arboretum Historical Notes” document cited in this entry in August, 2006, using sources found in Clark University’s Goddard Library special collections. The accompanying tree map was a replication of the hand drawn map from the 1978 student report mentioned in the notes. The notes were compiled simply as talking points for a student tour of the Arboretum which Clark’s Outing Club had organized (thus the lack of citations), but they have subsequently taken on a certain life of their own. Currently, a group of Clark students has shown renewed interest in restoring the Arboretum and controlling invasive species from further spread (particularly Japanese Knotweed and Mustard Garlic), though the initiative is still in its infancy.

    November 6, 2010
    • jameshuntphotography #

      Thank you Mr. Doerschler for this most helpful information. First I will update my blog to give you the citation for the Historical Notes. They are quite a valuable document. Thanks also for the update regarding student interest in the Hadwen. It’s a tremendous resource and I would think could make for some very impactful student projects. Let me know if I can be of help.

      November 6, 2010
  3. Christopher Pineau #

    I live on Fairfield street a few block away from this hidden treasure. I moved to Worcester June of 2010 and stumbled upon the Hadwen that summer. I have always wanted to make a contribute whether it be improving the trails or pruning some of the old champion trees that reside there. I have been an Arborist for many years and I enjoy lending my time to the trees and the community. If there are any projects coming up or if there is someone I can contact to create my own project please let me know. I have been talking with a few students at Clark who are planning to do some work there some time this spring.

    I also work for the Department of Conservation and Recreation in Worcester specifically for the Reforestation program. We have been awarded 4.5 million dollar through the ARRA funds from the Fed’s so if you want some trees planted that is a possibility seeing as the Arboretum is located in the quarantine zone. If you would like more information please feel free to contact me.

    Thank you for creating this page for the people who appreciate the Hadwen Arboretum.

    March 12, 2011
    • jameshuntphotography #

      I’m glad you found the post to be of interest. It is a wonderful spot. Your work sounds very interesting. I was prompted by your comment to search for more information and see it has to do with recovery from the Asian Longhorn Beetle infestation. Clark University actually owns the property though as I said, it’s become sort of a neighborhood gem. You might consider contacting their facilities people to see if they’d be interested in working with you. I do believe that some trees in the Arboretum received preventive treatment for the Beetle, though I don’t know if any trees were taken there. Thanks for your comment.

      March 12, 2011
  4. Elizabeth Redlich #

    I am a student at Clark University who is organizing a Trail Day for april 2nd in the Hadwin Arboretum. I am also actually working with greg and chris. I am in the midst of creating an event page on facebook for the event and was wondering if i could use one of your beautiful fall photos for the image.

    Also if you would like to participate or be involved in the trail day please feel free to ask for more information.

    March 18, 2011
  5. jameshuntphotography #


    That is great news. I’d be happy to offer a photo. I would need to send you a different copy though, so let me know which one you’d like and I’ll send it along. I’d also very much like to come to the Trail Day, so please send along the info. Perhaps I can take a few pictures and update the blog. I’m so happy that your team is pushing ahead on this. Thanks.

    James Hunt

    March 19, 2011
  6. George McDonald #

    I grew up almost across the street from Hadwin in the 1950’s and early 60’s. I have fond memories of walking and sledding in the winter on this property.

    April 4, 2012
    • jameshuntphotography #

      Hi George

      You’re the second person from the neighborhood this week to comment. I think about growing up near a park like that in the 50’s and 60’s, must have been a little kids paradise. Thanks for stopping by.


      April 14, 2012
  7. Hi James,

    I found your site when searching for more information on Hadwen Arboretum. I’m working on a project to bring some attention to Worcester’s many parks called Dancers in the Parks ( I thought you might be interested given your interest in Worcester’s natural spaces.

    Nice work, and you may have pushed me over the edge concerning converting once of my older camera bodies to IR!

    Thanks, and best wishes.

    -Mike Nyman

    April 12, 2012
    • jameshuntphotography #

      Hi Mike
      Thanks for stopping by. I love your work, and unless you object, I’m going to post your blog in my blog roll and mention it in one of my next blogs. Your work with flash and the models, not surprisingly given your wedding experiences, is really superb. I love the interaction of people and parks. That is of course one of the main reasons we have them! IR is very addictive. I’m about to have another camera converted, a better one. Don’t seem to be able to help myself. Thanks again.

      April 14, 2012
      • That would be great, James. And thanks for the kind words.

        April 20, 2012
  8. I grew up across the street on May Street and spent much of my childhood exploring, sliding, or making forts in the woods. I always knew it as Norcross Woods. You might even find my initials carved into a tree here and there. This was back in the 50’s and 60’s.

    April 14, 2012
    • jameshuntphotography #

      That’s great. Glad you stopped by the blog. I love the fact that you can see the “neighborhood” mingling with the nature there. It’s a real urban treat!

      April 14, 2012
  9. Jay Hargest #

    I lived in the Hadwen house at 209 Lovell Street in the late 1950’s when it was used for Clark U. faculty housing and could provide some interesting stories/history if you are interested. Your photos are fantastic and bring back some fond memories! HJH

    February 7, 2017
    • Hi

      Thanks so much for your kind words and for the insights. I would love to hear more. You can e-mail me at james at I no longer live in that area but get into the city on a regular basis.

      Thanks again.


      February 10, 2017

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  1. Trail Day at Hadwen Arboretum | Worcester
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