Found on State Street in North Adams: A key to the city ... of Worcester

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NORTH ADAMS — Police have recovered an honorary key to the city.

The city of Worcester, that is.

The key was turned into police Monday by a citizen who discovered it on State Street near the Key West Lounge, according to North Adams Police, who are still trying to locate its owner, Lt. Jason Wood said.

It's unclear to whom the key was originally issued or who its current owner may be, and North Adams Police posted a photograph of the key and a request for help in finding its owner to the department's Facebook page Tuesday evening.

The key, roughly six inches long, is ornate and golden, bearing the city's name and culminating in a large "W."

The handle of the key is in the shape of a heart, which William Wallace, executive director of the Worcester Historical Museum, said honors the city's slogan as the "heart of the commonwealth."

It appears, based on its case, to be issued by the city of Worcester under Mayor Andrew B. Holmstrom, who served between 1950 and 1953, according to the city clerk's office.

Police declined a request from The Eagle to view the key, citing "chain of custody" protocols.

Worcester's City Hall does not keep historical records of honorary keys handed out by the city's mayors.

Assistant City Clerk AJ Pottle said that while honorary keys are sometimes given formally during City Council meetings — which would be recorded in official minutes — "that isn't always the case."


"We are kind of limited, the main reason of that being that mayors give keys to the city in all different ways," Pottle said. "He could've gone to an anniversary party, or a firefighters union party, anything along those lines."

The honorary key program was launched in 1924 by then-mayor Michael O'Hara.

"He had 500 made in 1924, and by as late as 1929, when he was still the mayor, he had only given away half of them," Wallace said.

They were handed out to visiting dignitaries, like Prince Bertil of Sweden, and local heroes.

"It was kind of a big deal," Wallace said. "They were originally given away on rare occasions, then the material and box changes over time of course with new mayors, and they become plastic and the mayors add their names."

Eventually, they were presented on a plaque, not in a box.

But current Mayor Joseph M. Petty, in a nod to the city's history, had given out two types of honorary keys — one mounted on a plaque, or a second that's a replica of the type found in North Adams this week, according to his office.

"The tradition is very much alive and well almost 100 years later," Wallace said.

But Petty's office does not have records regarding honorary keys stretching back to the 1950s and there is no way to track who may have owned the key found in North Adams.

Whatever its origin, Wallace doubts the key holds much monetary value.

"There's not a trip to Acapulco in the meltdown fee," Wallace said.

A similar key to the city of Worcester, said to have been issued by Mayor John C. Mohoney between 1932 and 1935, is currently listed for sale on eBay.

It has, thus far, received no bids.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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