Norcross Brothers of Worcester, Massachusetts






"For nearly twenty years their enterprise and sagacity has been creating for them a place and rank as building contractors held by few and surpassed by no other in the United States. If there is such a thing as heredity of a calling, these brothers came naturally by their vocation.

Their father, Jesse Springer Norcross was a man of remarkable mechanical ability. Their mother, whose maiden name was Whitney, was a native of Grafton, Massachusetts. Jesse Norcross was kept busy among the woods of Maine, setting up sawmills. At an early age, however, by the death of their father, the sons were left dependent upon their own resources, and for a time the family was thrown upon the exertions of the oldest of these brothers. From the circumstances of itinerant calling of the father, James A. Norcross was born in Winslow, Maine on 24 March 1830 and Orlando W. Norcross in Clinton in the same state on 25 October 1839.

Through early self-dependence, the sons found their way to the calling of carpenters and builders, perusing their trade in the eastern part of this state, starting business together in Swampscott, Massachusetts in 1864, the association and its offerings at first affording nothing more than ordinary promise. But the beginnings of success were not far distant for in 1866 the Norcross Brothers were given the contract for building the Congregational Church at Leicester, Massachusetts an undertaking of most modest proportions in the test of their later business, yet it seems to have proven the golden key of success and the Norcross Brothers still cherish with warmest remembrance the kindness and aid of Leicester friends who gave them their first strong assistance on the way to fortune.

Worcester has begun a marked stage of improvements and the Norcross Brothers have found their opportunity. In the period between 1868 to 1870, they built the Crompton Block on Machine Street, the First Universalist Church and the noble Worcester High School building, the latter their first structure of like prominence and cost. A few seasons later, they built the beautiful All Saints Church in this city. Their reputation was by this time established. The story of their work since that time gives them a succession of building triumphs such as have in like numbers and prominence fallen to few American builders. We leave the mere list to be told most completely as will follow, but no mere enumeration can tell the whole story of such success as this. The painstaking skills, the diligence, the strength of will and purpose that not only make fortunate circumstances, but conquer them can only be imagined."



It was the exceeding good fortune of these brothers to have been, on suitable occasions, made associates with the late architect H.H. Richardson in some of the last works of that grandest of all masters and experts in stone as a material and their work will stand with his for generations to come as some of the best known in this country. This can be readily noted from the appended list that gives some of the best and most notable structures of that time in all classes for public use.

Norcross Brothers also built the Ames memorial Monument at Sherman, Wyoming Territory at a cost of $62,000. It has medallions of Oakes Ames and Oliver Ames on either side cut on the solid stone sixteen times life size. This monument is situated on the highest elevation of the Rocky Mountains crossed by the Union Pacific Railway.

The Norcross Brothers have filled a very important line of building constructions in the rail road structures of the best and most permanent class represented in the new passenger stations on the Boston and Albany, Old Colony and other railroads. These contracts have been executed in the best of all known building materials but very largely in the case of the more notable structures of the beautiful compact and grainless Brownstone, which was comparatively unknown when they began to employ it in about 1873. It is a material massive and not laminated and hence free from splitting and exploitation. Another material, a favourite with them and their patrons, is what they term the Worcester Granite, a fine pink stone from their quarries in Milford in Worcester County. Of the last material are being built the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the immense structure The Court House and Jail at Pittsburgh. The contracts of the Norcross Brothers in many instances are such as the skilful architect best loves, an all including affair that gives the finished building complete. To this end, no small share of their skill has been devoted to workmen and machinery that give to the interiors their own impress of perfection.

Some of the carved woodwork from their shops has been the envy of connoisseurs. There has been the art to summon to their aid the best forms of art in every department of architectural achievement and finish.




Copyright 2004, Philip Norcross Gross

For more information please contact me at  All this information is based on family stories, or documents listed in the References.  Official documentation is not common except for recent generations (1850 or later) and may not necessarily be referenced herein.