The town of Dartmouth was formed from so-called “common land” on June 8, 1664, and included the territory called Acushena, Ponagansett and Coakset. The bounds of the town were defined June 3, 1668. From this territory New Bedford was set off February 23, 1787. Therefore, New Bedford was founded as a town in 1787 and incorporated as a city in 1847.
First mayor Abraham Howland and the new city fathers were predominately Quakers. Followers of the religious teachings of Englishman, George Fox, the Quakers referred to themselves as the “Society of Friends” and “Children of the Light.” Their spiritual mission in life was to spread (diffuse) the “Inner Light of Christ” to all they encountered. So here they were, the Children of the Light, employed in the lighting industry, supplying whale oil to the entire world for lighting.
The town had grown since the economically difficult days of the American Revolution a decade earlier. With its well-protected deep harbor, by 1823 New Bedford had surpassed Nantucket in the number of whaling ships leaving its harbor each year and by 1840, with the arrival of the railroad and easier access to markets in New York and Boston, the port was the whaling capital of the world. New Bedford was for a time “the richest city in the world.”
This walking tour will begin at the Visitor Center for the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, just a couple of blocks from the waterfront of the “city that lit the world”...
New Bedford Institute of Savings (National Park Visitors Center)
33 William Street
The sandstone-faced building began life in 1853 as the New Bedford Institute of Savings. The Third District Court moved in to these quarters in 1896. The roofline is marked by a pediment. “THIRD DISTRICT COVRT OF BRISTOL” is carved into the second story in prominent letters. Today it serves as the Visitor Center for the National Park Service, entered on William Street through a granite balustraded porch.
STAND AT THE INTERSECTION OF 2ND STREET AND WILLIAM STREET.
Citizens National Bank
41 William Street
Originally built for the Citizens National Bank, circa 1877, this building now houses a popular downtown eatery called Freestone’s City Grill. The lower level of the building is encased in Sandstone blocks made from Longmeadow Freestone (hence the name of the restaurant). The Citizens National Bank name is carved into the stone above the front entrance of the building that shows Romanesque influences. The building was damaged by a fire in 1934, which destroyed the third floor. At the time was the home of the New Bedford Acushnet Cooperative Bank. It later became Haskel’s, a restaurant and bar, where in 1951, there was a second fire that scorched several interior wooden pillars in what is now the main dining room. That damage is still visible. After Haskel’s, it became the Pequod Lounge. Both Haskel’s and The Pequod enjoyed “colorful” local reputations. In 1978, the building was purchased by the current owners. During renovations, the new owners discovered much of the original mahogany woodwork hidden behind interior false walls and ceiling, and the original marble floors under asphalt tiles. After almost six months of renovations, the new owners restored the original woodwork and flooring as well as added many new interior features.
United States Custom House
37 North 2nd Street
Built between 1834 and 1836, this white granite Greek revival building continues to serve its original mission. It is the oldest continuously operating Custom House in the nation. Where whaling masters registered their ships and cargo more than a hundred years ago, today’s commercial fishing and cargo ships continue to log duties and tariffs. The building is still home to the New Bedford office of the U.S. Customs Service as well as offices of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Park Service. The first Post Office in New Bedford was originally located here. The front of the building features four large granite columns and classic portico. It was designed by Robert Mills, the architect of the Washington Monument and leader of the Greek Revival movement in the United States. The construction was authorized in 1832 by an Act of Congress and cost $31,740, including the land.
Andrew Robeson House
32 William Street
Built in 1821, this Federal-style mansion was the home of Andrew Robeson. Robeson had successful interests in whaling, banking, and printing and was featured in the 1851 book, Rich Men of Massachusetts. Originally, the mansion was in the center of the block on Second Street and had grounds and gardens that covered nearly two square blocks. In the winter of 1978, the 500-ton mansion was lifted off its foundation and moved inch-by-inch through a parking lot and onto William St. It was then moved down William St., literally scraping between the U.S. Custom House and the Citizens National Bank building. The building was turned 90 degrees and rested on its current foundation. In the middle of the move came the Blizzard of 1978. It took four months to move the building 400 feet.
TURN RIGHT ON 2ND STREET.
Benjamin Rodman Mansion
50 North Second Street
This Federal-style mansion was built between 1820 and 1821 by Benjamin Rodman, a founder of the New Bedford Institution for Savings (NBIS). The granite block mansion with quoined corners is an example of the simplicity of Quaker style and was the home of the Rodman family until 1872. By 1890, the mansion had been completely surrounded by storefronts and for a period of time it was used as a warehouse. The operators of the warehouse demolished the interior walls and opened a large hole in the granite front wall of the building. The mansion was reacquired by local ownership in 1965 and the exterior granite walls and windows were restored.
47-49 N. Second Street
A fine example of late19th century commercial architecture, this warehouse was erected in front of the Andrew Robeson mansion and housed an auction business selling everything from antique furniture to ships. The building was restored in the 1970s.
TURN RIGHT ON ELM STREET. TURN RIGHT ON N. WATER STREET.
Rodman Candle Works
72 N. Water Street
Originally built by Samuel Rodman around 1810 as a factory, this building housed one of the first spermacetti candle making operations in New Bedford. Spermacetti candles were made from whale oil and provided a high-quality, long lasting light source. The building is constructed of large wood beams and two-foot thick walls of granite rubble. The stucco exterior provides the illusion of granite block construction. The building was damaged in a 1960 fire and was abandoned for many years. In 1976, a private group, the Candleworks Associates, bought the building and restored it.
TURN LEFT ON RODMAN AND CROSS THE PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE TO THE WATERFRONT.
New Bedford Waterfront
In 1840-41, New Bedford’s whaling industry employed nearly 10,000 people and was capitalized at more than $12 million. All along the waterfront, maritime-related businesses thrived. Outfitters, shipyards for building and repairing whaling vessels, bakeshops, barrel makers, caulkers, carpenters, sail lofts, ropeworks, and whale oil refineries were active at the water’s edge. At the foot of Rodman Street, just north of where the overpass stands today, were the wharves of Parker, Howland, and Hazard. Jutting out into the harbor to the south were the wharves of other wealthy merchants such as Rotch, Taber, and Merrill. Today, the port of New Bedford is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet on the East Coast and consistently one of the top five ports in terms of dollar value of its catch in the United States.
WALK SOUTH THROUGH THE WATERFRONT DOCK AREA.
Bourne Counting House
One Merrill’s Wharf
Built between 1843 and 1847 by whaling vessel master Captain Edward Merrill, this large granite building once housed the counting rooms of whaling merchant Jonathan Bourne. Situated on the historic New Bedford waterfront, the building also served in making ship sails as the Durant Sail Loft. The room on the top-floor provides panoramic views of the New Bedford harbor.
RETURN TO STATE PIER AND CROSS THE PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE TO UNION STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
Union and N. Water streets
This Federal style structure was built circa 1820 by Charles and Seth Russell, Jr., two grandnephews of New Bedford’s founder, Joseph Russell, III. The Sundial Building is considered one of the six most important historical structures in New Bedford’s waterfront area. It gets its name from the sundial affixed to the Union St. face of the building, which even today provides accurate standard time. This sundial was used by whalers and mariners to set their nautical instruments and chronometers to “New Bedford Time.” Over the years, the building has housed a number of types of businesses, including a dry goods store, a clock manufacturing operation, law offices, a museum, and a fruit company. On January 18, 1977 there was an early-morning gas explosion in the tavern on the West side of the Sundial building. O’Malley’s Tavern and the newly-renovated Macomber-Sylvia building on the other side of the tavern were completely leveled by the blast. Although the Sundial Building survived the initial explosion, the resulting fire gutted the building. Although building inspectors recommended demolition then-Mayor John Markey persuaded the city inspectors to stabilize the building with minimal demolition to the roof and part of the walls.
TURN RIGHT ON N. WATER STREET.
Double Bank Building
Water and William Streets
At the heart of what was once the financial center of New Bedford, this Greek Revival building was built (1831-1835) to house two prominent banking institutions: Merchants Bank and Mechanics Bank. It was designed by Architect Russell Warren. The large structure features eight full height pillars and polished granite steps and facade. The two banks hired two different builders to construct the building. Due to a disagreement between the builders, there is a slight difference between the vertical slope of the left four columns and the right four columns. A few particularly large and beautiful old bluestone pavers stillgrace the front of the Double Bank building at the foot of William Street in the Historic District. New Bedford once boasted of 20 miles of bluestone sidewalks.
TURN LEFT ON WILLIAM STREET.
27 William Street
On September 12, 1997, the Corson Block was severely damaged by a fire. The fire destroyed the roof and most of the interior of the building. Constructed in several phases from 1878 to 1884 it is an extremely fine example of late nineteenth century commercial architecture, which visually anchors the corner of William and Bethel Streets. WHALE with assistance from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the Save America’s Treasures federal program and the City of New Bedford, restored the roof and exterior of the building.
TURN LEFT ON JOHNNY CAKE HILL.
New Bedford Whaling Museum
18 Johnny Cake Hill
The largest museum in America devoted to the history of American whaling and its greatest port. Paintings, prints, scrimshaw, art glass and the Lagoda, the world’s biggest ship model.
15 Johnny Cake Hill
For more than 140 years, the Mariner’s Home has provided a clean, comfortable place to stay for transient seamen who need shelter in the port of New Bedford. The Mariner’s Home is operated by the New Bedford Port Society, which charges only a nominal cost for a temporary stay. The Home is not open to the general public. The Federal-style mansion was originally the home of William Rotch, Jr., the grandson of Joseph Rotch, an early leader of New Bedford’s whaling industry. It was built circa 1787 on the corner of William and North Water Streets. In 1850, Sarah Rotch Arnold, the daughter of William Rotch, Jr., donated the mansion to the New Bedford Port Society to be a home for transient seamen. Sarah’s husband, James Arnold, paid to have the building moved to Johnny Cake Hill. The Home opened in 1857. James and Sarah Arnold were both active in the Port Society. James was an early President and Sarah was the first President of the ladies branch.
15 Johnny Cake Hill
Seamen’s Bethel was immortalized as the “Whaleman’s Chapel” by Herman Melville in his classic novel Moby Dick. Built between 1831 and 1832, the Bethel continues to this day as a house of prayer and standing memorial to those New Bedford whalemen, and now fishermen, who have lost their lives at sea. The Bethel was damaged by fire in 1866 and the repairs incorporated several changes to the original design to provide a more church-like appearance. The stairs were enclosed, a vestibule was added, and a tower was constructed. The interior seating was also reversed to face West instead of East. The reopening was in July of 1867.
TURN RIGHT ON UNION STREET.
New Bedford Institute of Savings
174 Union Street
This Neoclassical bank building dates to 1898. Today it is the home of the New Bedford Ocean Explorium.
TURN LEFT ON PURCHASE STREET.
684 Purchase Street
The Zeiterion Theater is Southeastern Massachusetts’ historic Theater for the Performing Arts. The Theater is a restored 1923 vaudeville house located in historic Downtown New Bedford and has a seating capacity of 1,267. The main chandelier was made in Czechoslovakia and has 6000 cut glass pieces and 240 lamps.
RETURN TO UNION STREET AND TURN LEFT.
715 Purchase Street
In 1898 the New Bedford Dry Goods Co. opened the Star Store downtown on the site of the former Knowles & Co. store with Asa A. Mills as its president. The store consisted of one floor and a basement (15,000 square feet in all) and employed fewer than 20 clerks. Business boomed from the get-go and the store steadily expanded into adjoining buildings and new additions. After 17 years of growing business in a growing city, the “new” Star Store -- rebuilt, refurbished and updated -- re-opened on March 17, 1915 with stock covering 150,000 square feet of floor space including four floors with a roof garden and a basement. Improvements included an air ventilation system to constantly circulate air throughout the store, 60 telephones including a phone booth on each floor as well as what was termed “an auto-call” system now known as an intercom. Gorin’s, a Boston-based department store chain bought the Star Store in 1969 but it never revived. By the 1990s the Star Store was emblematic of what had become a depressed and desolate city center. Once the hub of New Bedford’s bustling business district, the terra cotta façade of the long-dormant building had begun to crumble after years of neglect; thieves had stripped the building of the copper flashing that once lined the perimeter of the roof. The grand exterior has been restored and the building is now the home of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth’s College of Visual and Performing Arts.
First Unitarian Church
northeast corner of Union Street and County Street
Constructed between 1836 and 1838, the tall Early Gothic Revival First Unitarian Church facing onto Union Street was built with fortress-like walls and a tall, crenelated tower. In 1896 the Boston firm of Peabody and Steams constructed the Parish House, an addition to the rear. At the same time a beautiful mosaic composition by Tiffany and Company was added to the rear interior wall of the chancel.
TURN LEFT ON COUNTY STREET. WALK DOWN THE EAST SIDE OF THE STREET.
Grace Episcopal Church
422 County Street
Samuel Rodman, Jr.’s son, Civil War Captain Thomas Rotch Rodman, converted to the Episcopal faith and served on the vestry of the new Grace Church, located just south of his home in what was once the Rodman garden. Gifts of land and money from Ellen Rodman Hathaway and Susan Emlen Rodman, sisters of Thomas, enabled this solid Gothic church to be built in 1881. Its Gothic features reflect the popularity of medieval architecture, many forms of which were revived in the nineteenth century. The massing elements of granite and brown freestone grouped around the tall single tower give it a silhouette evocative of medieval Europe. The church hall to the rear was added in 1889-90 in an appropriate medieval style, though in this instance reflecting a more domestic appearance. The tall gables, dormers and steep roof are elements of English medieval dwellings of the fifteenth century. A devastating fire in 1987 nearly destroyed the church sanctuary, but successful restoration efforts have brought the interior back very close to its original appearance.
Ivory Bartlett House
416 County Street
At the corner of School Street at 416 County Street stands the red clapboard Ivory Bartlett, Jr. House. This house is a marvelous exercise in Victorian variety. The pendant brackets hanging from the eaves and the tall Italianate tower to the rear present an ever changing outline to the viewer. The detailing of the street facade roof line with its large elliptical arch in the center, as well as the tower, appear to have been adopted freely from an elevation of a much more grand design by Calvert Vaux which he published in his influential book Villas and Cottages in 1857, the same year as the construction of this house.
George Bartlett House
414 County Street
The George Bartlett House, with its Doric pilasters across the front, appears to be a late example of the Greek Revival style most popular almost thirty years earlier. The identical window design of both Bartlett houses, however, indicates they were built at the same time, probably by the same builder. Such conscious contrast is a hallmark of this Victorian period. The Bartlett brothers were whaling agents and owned Ivory Bartlett and Sons, a major outfitter of ships. Among the contracts awarded this company was the agreement to completely outfit the Stone Fleet, a flotilla of aged whaling ships which sailed to the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, in the Civil War in an attempt to blockade the port with sunken hulks. One of the later owners of the more conservative George Bartlett House was the whaling captain Humphrey Seabury who purchased it in 1868.
Samuel Rodman House
408 County Street
The Gothic style home which once commanded this whole block was built for the whaling merchant Samuel W. Rodman between 1841 and 1845. It appeared at the same time or shortly after A.J. Davis’ more famous Rotch Gothic Cottage on Irving Street and just after the Early Gothic Revival Unitarian Church nearby. The harsh stone sheathing of the Rodman House was softened somewhat by the tall pointed roof and verge board decoration (now removed). The rough exterior of this building is quite consistent with the reserve of its Quaker first resident, and may represent an attempt by Rodman to “stiffen” the inherent informality of the Gothic Cottage style.
J. Arthur Beauvais House
404 County Street
The house at 404 County Street was built by J. Arthur Beauvais after he purchased the site in 1883. Its shingle-above-brick fabric, the strongly projecting gables, the tower set into the angle of the northwest corner and the decorative use of shingles and moulded brick string course above the first floor windows reflect the best qualities of the Queen Anne style. The architect is unknown, but because its design is unique in the city, one suspects an out-of town builder may have been called in for this project. Beauvais was born in South Dartmouth in 1824 and came to New Bedford as a bookkeeper employed by his uncle, Barton Ricketson (see number 11). He rose to become a director of many of New Bedford’s industries. He was a founder and president of The Citizen’s National Bank and of the Weeden Manufacturing Company, makers of children’s toys, in the 1880s.
Andrew Gerrish, Jr. House
398 County Street
This exuberant Queen Anne residence is the Andrew Gerrish, Jr. House. The steep pitched roof, hooded dormers, and complex profile of this house reveals its allegiance to an American brand of the medieval picturesque also seen in the Marcia Parker House. This style was a favorite among builders of the 1880’s. However, it was far earlier, in 1825, that Gerrish built this house originally as a south-facing Federal style home. The structure was reoriented and completely redesigned in 1881 by Attorney and Mrs. Wendell H. Cobb. Little of the original structure remains today, save some structural details. The resultant Queen Anne residence is one of the most spectacular examples of its style in the city. In 1888, it passed into the hands of two sisters, Carrie O. and Sara E. Seabury, daughters of whaling agent Otis Seabury. Their heirs owned the house well into the 1930’s.
396 County Street
One of the most outstanding (and only remaining) examples of the elaborate gardens for which New Bedford was once known exists next to the house built in 1834 for William Rotch, Jr. at 396 County Street. The house was one of the first projects by a young house carpenter named Richard Upjohn, only recently arrived in the city from his home in England and soon to become one of America’s foremost architects. He had come to join his brother who had preceded him and was employed by the lumber merchant, contractor, and builder, Samuel Leonard as a draftsman. Owned over the years by only three families, this house bears the reputation of being one of the most beautifully preserved homes in New Bedford. The fine proportions of this Classical Revival house have been altered only by the addition of a belvedere and dormers on the roof, perhaps a contribution by Edward Cofffin Jones, a successful owner and outfitter of ships who purchased the house soon after the death of Rotch in 1850. It stands as supreme witness to the enormous success of the whaling merchants of New Bedford in the golden age of whaling between the War of 1812 and the Civil War.This house was William Rotch, Jr.’s third house, built for him when he was 83 years old. His earlier houses had been built in the heart of the bustling whaling port where his business interests commanded his attention. This graceful home was one of only four or five mansion houses on County Street at the time and bespoke a man of conservative tastes and regal air. Built of brick that was then covered with clapboards, it is suggested that Rotch wanted the solidity of a stone house without the pretense exhibited by the granite massiveness of his near neighbors. It still retains its grounds, greenhouses, and carriage house, as well as its Knot Garden, a design attributed to William Rotch, Jr.’s son-in-law, James Arnold. William Rotch, Jr., was another of those successful Nantucket ship owners who moved to New Bedford shortly after the American Revolution. It was his uncle, Francis Rotch, who owned a large interest in the ship Dartmouth, the ship emptied of its cargo in the famous Boston Tea Party. And soon after peace was signed (1783) it was William Rotch, Jr.’s ship, Bedford, which first flew the flag of the United States in an English port under peacetime conditions. Thus, in ships owned by this New Bedford family, one finds decisive connections with both the beginning and the end of the American War of Independence. The last owner was the oil merchant and financier Mark Duff, whose wife Beatrice was the last resident of the house. She contributed to its preservation when she sold the house to become New Bedford’s only house museum.
William Rotch Rodman Mansion
388 County Street
The William Rotch Rodman Mansion was designed by the Providence architect Russell Warren in 1833-1836. In this house the architect has considerably softened the harshness of his previous Greek Revival project, the Joseph Grinnell Mansion located across the street. The granite sheathing here has been left rough on the flanks but is smoother on the facade, consistent with the use of the more decorative Corinthian Order here. The dignity and grandeur of what was reputed to be one of the most expensive homes built in America in the 1830’s still remains. In the 1850’s, this house was the home of New Bedford’s first Mayor Abraham H. Howland and it has served many institutional uses in this century. It has been recently restored by private investors.
Captain Cornelius Howland House
380 County Street
The Captain Cornelius Howland House was built for master of the ship Lafayette, among others, in 1841-45. The Greek Revival detailing on a Federal style five-window facade is simple here in comparison to its loftier neighbors, but it serves to remind us of the conservative norm of most early nineteenth century architecture.
TURN LEFT ON RUSSELL STREET.
William Tallman Russell House
66 Russell Street
This marvelous Greek Revival house was built for William Tallman Russell House in 1819, the year of his marriage to Sylvia Grinnell. At that time this house was a smaller Federal style house. It was the only home on the block and lent its owner's name to the street. Russell was a whaling merchant with offices at Rotch’s Square at the foot of Rodman Street in the 1830s. The columned porch and an enlarged third floor were added in a remodeling along with Greek Revival interior detailing found throughout the house. The transitional nature of the building is evident, however, from the flared window lintels, a Federal style feature.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS ON RUSSELL STREET BACK TOWARDS COUNTY STREET.
Eliza Penniman York House
70 Russell Street
This large Stick style house with asymmetrically placed gables was built in 1889 in the name of Eliza Penniman York after the purchase of the lot from Samuel C. Hart. Her father was Captain Joseph H. Cornell who once commanded the Eliza, a whaling bark. He was an outstanding citizen of the city and later served in the Massachusetts State Legislature. In 1889, Eliza’s husband, George A. York, retired after twelve years of government service and founded a successful insurance and investment business in New Bedford. The Yorks lived here until 1923 when they moved to a home on Hawthorn Street. Characteristic of the Stick style are the exposed timbers which not only appear in the eastern gable, but overlie the first floor windows and underline the second floor. While these are not structural timbers themselves, they make reference to structural framing and therefore focus the viewer’s attention upon structure and away from pure ornament.
Joshua Richmond House
southeast corner of Russell Street and County Street
At the corner of County Street and Russell Street is the tall and boxy Joshua Richmond House, built for him in 1881, and added to in later years. Only the irregular plan of the late Victorian house remains today to give an indication of its original style. The original hipped roof has been altered by the addition of a third story and belvedere. However, the decorative moldings at the front and rear roof lines of the original house, the pairs of tall thin windows, the flared shingled window hoods, and the variety of shingle shapes on the second level (contrasting with the scored wood imitation stone on the first level) still betray the aesthetic of the popular Queen Anne style of the 1880’s embellished with many Eastlake details. Richmond describes himself in the City Directory as a merchant tailor doing business at 31 North Water Street in 1883.
CROSS COUNTY STREET AND TURN RIGHT, WALKING UP THE WEST SIDE.
379 County Street
One of the most historically significant homes in New Bedford is the Hon. Joseph Grinnell Mansion stands. Grinnell was one of the most astute men in New Bedford’s history. Born in this city, he moved to New York in 1810 and founded Fish, Grinnell and Company with his cousin, Captain Preserved Fish. This trading company prospered and Grinnell returned to New Bedford in 1825. This home was built for him in 1830 by architect Russell Warren. New Bedford possesses many excellent examples of this architect’s work largely due to Grinnell’s patronage. His house is characteristic of both the growing love of the archaeologically correct classical orders in the young American nation and the growing wealth of New Bedford citizens. The simplicity of this house in its square shape, its symmetrical plan and simple proportions hark back to the earlier Federal period. Yet the Doric columns (destroyed once by fire and recently restored) place it squarely among the Classical Revival buildings of Warren and others whose work so appropriately characterizes the ideals of the American democracy after the Revolutionary War. The third floor was added by a later Grinnell heir. The outer sheathing, a rusticated granite is a severity consistent with the Doric Order of the porch, was cut from the same Quincy quarry as Boston’s Bunker Hill Monument.
Mary Howland House
399 County Street
The Mary Howland House and the Barton Ricketson House next door were both built shortly after the initial owners purchased the lots from the heirs of William R Rotch in 1850. The entire block was once the estate of Gilbert Russell, son of the founder of the city, Joseph Russell. The Howland House was built in 1855 for Mary Howland. probably as an investment. It was purchased in 1856 by the merchant mariner Caleb B Anthony, Jr. whose family lived here for many years. It was originally sheathed in smooth boarded “shiplap” siding and was shingled only in recent years.
Barton Ricketson House
401 County Street
The brick Barton Ricketson House differs only in fabric from the Howland House. Both Italianate dwellings exhibit a two story, square plan with a belvedere and a central peak in the roof line of each side of the square. The varied treatment of the carpenter details of the porches and eave brackets attempt to break the monotony of formula. Yet it is evident that these two houses may have been built by the same architect/builder. Ricketson was a merchant and whaling agent who kept his counting room here at his home.
Gilbert Russell House
405 County Street
The house which once commanded this whole block stands at the head of Walnut Street at 405 County Street. It is perhaps the most spectacular of the County Street residences. A fine Federal style home stood on this site about 1805 owned by Gilbert Russell. That house however, disappeared as the result of thorough re-modeling by Dr. Edward Abbe, its owner from 1868 to 1897. The house combines Italianate paired brackets with the dramatic profile of a French mansard roof with an oriental upsweep which tops a porch with decorative peaked arches. It is magnificently energetic in its details and must have been a great delight to Victorians tor whom the adage “more is not enough” is certainly confirmed by this house. It recently housed a religious order, the Sisters of the Resurrection, which conducted a school here, but the house is now privately owned.
Benjamin Cummings House
411 County Street
Benjamin Cummings moved to County Street in 1855 after getting his financial start in South Dartmouth. He, like so many of his contemporaries, invested his profits in whaling and grew wealthy. In 1854, the bark Benjamin Cummings was launched from New Bedford bearing as its figurehead a full length portrait of its proud namesake. This whaling vessel was built by John Mashow, a ship builder of African-American descent, partner in the firm of Matthews, Mashow & Co. Benjamin Cumming’s home was built in 1854 by a local investor, Lehman Ashmead. The architect, as in so many cases in this period, is unknown. It is built in the Italianate style marked by paired brackets under the roof lines, sets of round-topped windows, and a shallow Mansard roof typical of the period.
Marcia Parker House
413 County Street
This many-faceted Queen Anne residence was built for Marcia Parker, the widow of Ward Parker, a whaling and coasting captain turned banker, between 1889 and 1892. Covered with details of decorative carpentry and leaded glass, its silhouette, bristling with faceted dormers, towers and gables, changes dramatically as one passes. The asymmetrical variety is a hallmark of the style.
northwest corner of Arnold Street and County Street
At the corner of County Street and Arnold Street are the Roosevelt Apartments built in 1926 for the Arnold Realty Corporation. The entry bay is marked by tall thin columns and other Adamesque details of the Federal period. It is typical of structures in the early years of this century which attempt to accommodate early American detailing to projects far larger in scale than their models. This is typical of the so-called American Renaissance in which patriotism, inspired by the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876, resulted in buildings eliciting an American Colonial reference.
James Arnold House
southwest corner of Union Street and County Street
The James Arnold House at the corner of Union Street was built in 1821 by the housewnght Dudley Davenport for Arnold, a native of Providence who became one of New Bedford’s leading citizens. This Federal style house has undergone many changes since its construction. Arnold is less well known for his choice of architecture than for his love of botanical beauty. He and his wife travelled to Europe many times seeking interesting trees and other plantings which would enrich their surroundings. He welcomed the citizens of New Bedford to visit his extensive gardens and they became a point of civic pride. When Herman Melville came to New Bedford in 1857 he made a point of touring these gardens, though he was only here for an afternoon visit. Upon James Arnold’s death, his $100,000 bequest to Harvard earmarked for botanical research, formed the cornerstone for one of Boston’s finest gardens, the Arnold Arboretum. Arnold’s original four-square home was “modernized” by his nephew, William J. Rotch, who inherited the property in 1869. He added the Mansard third story in the 1870’s perhaps to accommodate his large family. The dependencies on either side were added when the building became the property of the Wamsutta Club in 1919. The visitor will be interested to learn that this sedate private club was initially founded in 1866 to introduce the modern game of baseball to the aristocratic youth of the city.
Jireh Perry House
435 County Street
The house is typical of the architecturally conservative 1830s. Its five-window Federal style facade is adorned with well-proportioned Greek Revival elements such as the Doric columns of the porch and the Greek Key motif above the doorway. Jireh Perry was a merchant who moved into this brick structure in 1838. The house remained in his family until it was sold to the Wamsutta Club in the 1890s. Enlarged to the rear since, it now houses a Masonic temple
Bristol County Superior Court
441 County Street
The Bristol County Superior Court, with its unfluted Roman columns and tower fashioned after those of Christopher Wren and his many American imitators, boasts features which identify this structure with the transitional taste of 1828. It was completed in 1831. The court has been the sight of many trials of the past including the famous trial of Lizzie Borden. Daniel Webster argued a case here in 1843.
New Bedford High School
County Street, head of William Street
With a commanding the view down William Street to the waterfront below, is the building which was constructed in 1909 as the New Bedford High School. It replaced the large Greek Revival mansion of Charles W. Morgan, one of New Bedford’s best known Quaker whaling merchants whose namesake ship now lies at anchor at the Mystic, Connecticut, Mystic Seaport Museum. This location is also the original site of the farm house of Joseph Russell, New Bedford’s founder. The Beaux-Arts Classical High School is of yellow brick with contrasting limestone trim. The center projecting element, much like a Roman temple with Ionic columns, rises above triple arches. It is balanced by slightly projecting corner pavilions which are framed in paired pilasters. The building was designed by the Boston firm of Clough and Wardner after two designs by Samuel C. Hunt, a local architect, were variously accepted then rejected amid political squabbles between rival city politicians.
Lorum Snow House
451 County Street
North of the High School across Morgan Street is the impressive Italianate home of the wholesale dry goods merchant and whaling agent Loum Snow, built for him in 1852. The Renaissance loggia above the entrance is an elaborate feature rarely found in Italianate buildings in New Bedford. More typical of the style are the paired brackets under the peaked roof lines of all four sides of the house. The pairs of rounded windows, projecting hoods above the windows, and the full dentil course between bracketed pairs and under the window hoods create a rich texture of ornament found only in the best examples of this style.
Trinity Methodist Church
southwest corner of County and Elm streets
The Trinity Methodist Church has dominated the southwest corner of County and Elm Streets since its construction in 1858. It is a good example in brick of the Gothic Revival style, with its pointed openings and decorative Gothic tracery in windows and panels of the tower. The church was remodeled and expanded in 1924 when this congregation, then known as the County Street Methodist Church, was joined by two others to form the Trinity Church.
Captain Steven N. Potter
479 County Street
Across Elm Street is the home built for the master mariner Captain Steven N. Potter in 1843. This house presents a somewhat deceptive appearance, for its core is a fine Greek Revival home with transitional features such as the five window facade and six-over-six fenestration. However, this house has had many Neo-Georgian details added to it which at first glance seem so appropriate as to be original. The porch with Roman composite capitals would never be found on a house of the 1840s, nor would the broken pediment of the center dormer with its Georgian windows. The dormer and the octagonal belvedere are also flanked by pilasters of Neo-Georgian form. These additions may have been added around 1900 by a later owner, John Duff, an important financial figure in the city. All in all this house with its additions is a remarkable example of the tenacity of Classical features in the American building tradition.
TURN RIGHT ON ELM STREET. TURN RIGHT ON 8TH STREET. TURN LEFT ON WILLIAM STREET.
First Baptist Church
149 William Street
Located adjacent to the Northwest corner of William and South Sixth Streets, it has been in continuous use for worship, education and service to the community since 1829. The congregation began in 1813. An excellent example of Federal/Greek-Revival style with white clapboards and classical trim and built with timber frame construction, the space within the 3-story building includes a 400-person sanctuary with choir loft and balcony. Its spire is the middle of the three shown on the City Seal of 1847 and it is the only one on the City Seal still standing. The steeple served as a navigational aid for mariners returning to the harbor. The origins of Robert’s Rules of Order are based on a text written by Captain Henry Martin Robert, a trustee of the congregation (1862-1865). Capt. Robert was inspired to write his text (1876) after having difficulty maintaining order at a church meeting focused on the defense needs of the harbor.
Bristol County Registry of Deeds25 N. 6th Street
This Neoclassical government building features yellow bricks wrapped in stone corner quoins and a Corinthian-columned entranceway.
133 William Street
This Neoclassical brick and brownstone originally housed both the city offices and the public library. The cornerstone was laid in 1856. The building was enlarged in 1886 and again in 1906. The central elevator, installed in 1906, is the oldest operating elevator in the country. While the building still operates as the seat of city government, the library was moved across the street to its current location in 1910.
outside the New Bedford Public Library, 613 Pleasant St.
This statue pays tribute to the whalemen who dared to challenge the world’s oceans in search of whales. The large bronze and granite statue depicts a harpooner poised at the bow of a whaleboat. The inscription, "A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat," provides a glimpse into the dangers and courage required to crew aboard a whaleship. Dedicated on June 20th, 1913, the statue was gift to the city by William W. Crapo and sculpted by Bela Pratt. New Bedford’s oldest living whaling master (at the time), Captain George O. Baker, unveiled the statue before thousands of onlookers.
New Bedford Public Library
613 Pleasant Street, southwest corner of William Street
The second free public library in the nation was established by the city of New Bedford in 1852. From 1856 to 1910, the library was located on the second floor of what is now City Hall. The current building is a Greek and Egyptian Revival granite structure across the street from City Hall. The library houses a fine collection of historical and genealogical materials as well as one of the largest collection of whaling log books in the world. Lining the impressive marble staircases is a collection of historical plaques and photographs.
New Bedford Art Museum
608 Pleasant Street, southeast corner of William Street
Housed in the renovated Anthony J. Catojo, Jr. Building, this museum features displays of the City of New Bedford’s rich and historic art collection. The building was constructed in 1918 and was formerly known as the Vault Building. It was renamed in honor of the late city councillor Anthony J. Catojo, Jr. The museum features a collection of paintings by 19th and early 20th century New Bedford artists, including Albert Bierstadt, William Bradford, and Charles Henry Gifford. The museum also hosts exhibits by local and international artists displaying art in all media.
Merchant’s National Bank
northwest corner of William Street and Purchase Street
This is the fourth home of the bank, founded in 1825. It was built in 1914.
southeast corner of Purchase Street and William Street
A splash of Art Deco in New Bedford.
CONTINUE ON WILLIAM STREET TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT THE NATIONAL PARK VISITOR CENTER.