New Bedford Pathways: Tour #4 Waterfront Historic District

The New Bedford Waterfront Historic District received its designation as a 40c Historic District in June of 1981. It encompasses the original ten-acre lot purchased by Joseph Rotch in 1785 from Joseph Russell’s farm to the "Ten Acre Plot.”

New Bedford Pathways: Tour #4 Waterfront Historic District

New Bedford, Massachusetts 02740, United States

Created By: New Bedford Preservation Society

Tour Information

Waterfront Historic District Walking Tour

The New Bedford Historic Commission states:

New Bedford began its rapid growth as a whaling port shortly after the town’s establishment in the early 1760s. By 1840, New Bedford had superseded Nantucket as the nation’s leader in the whaling industry and maintained that position until the growth of the petroleum industry. The discovery of oil in Pennsylvania in 1859 started the slow decline of the American whaling and ended on August 20, 1925 when the last whaling vessel returned to New Bedford.

The Waterfront Historic District received its designation as a 40c Historic District in June of 1981. It encompasses the original ten-acre lot purchased by Joseph Rotch in 1785 from Joseph Russell’s farm to the "Ten Acre Plot.” Joseph Rotch gave the area its namesake “Bedford Village.” It was the commercial hub of the early whaling industry. Many of the support businesses of the whaling industry that were in this area included coopers, ship chandlers, insurance brokers, candle house and oil factories. These buildings are representative of structures that would be found in the commercial district of a major New England seaport of that period. In addition to the primary buildings, the district contains good examples of smaller Federal and Greek Revival buildings with shops on the ground floor and living quarters above.

Tour Curated by: Jan Da Silva

Tour Produced by: Patricia Daughton

Photo credits:

Steve Gladstone

Spinner Publications

New Bedford Whaling Musuem

New Bedford Free Public Library

Patricia Daughton

This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

63 Union Street, The Sundial Building, 1820 Federal Style Built in 1820, the Sundial Building was constructed by Seth and Charles Russell. This Federal style brick building housed multiple dry-goods stores in the early years, as well as law... Read more
29 Union Street,  Benjamin Taber Building, 1792 Federal Style The Benjamin Taber Building was built in 1792 as a two-story double-house in the Federal style. Taber, a boat builder and block maker, bought the lot in 1765 from Gideon Mosher,... Read more
 82-86 Front Street, Seth Russell House, c. 1820-1860 Colonial Altered to Greek Revival Moved to this site in 1980, the circa 1765 Seth Russell House originally sat at 15 North Water Street. This 5-bay ,2 ½ story wood structure has a firs... Read more
    90 Front Street, Joseph Taber Building, c. 1825-1840 The Joseph Taber Building is a commercial structure composed of granite ashlar and built c. 1825-1840. This structure is an example of a simple, unadorned vernacular Federal style b... Read more
 98 Front Street, McCullough Building, c. 1820-1840 Constructed c. 1820-1840, this brick and rubble stone McCullough Building has seen many commercial uses. In 1864, it was purchased by John McCullough, who operated his ship's chandlery an... Read more
        13-17  Centre Street, Tallman Warehouse, c. 1790-1800, Federal Style One of the city's earliest extant buildings, this Federal brick warehouse at 13 Centre Street was constructed c. 1790-1800 by William Tallman, who purchase... Read more
 22 Centre Street, Caleb Spooner House, 1806 The Caleb Spooner House, located at 22 Centre Street, is representative of the Federal style. Built in 1806 on North Street, the Spooner House was moved into the Historic District and restored b... Read more
24 Centre Street, Henry Beetle House, 1804 Federal Style Built in 1804, Henry Beetle House is a half-house built in the Federal style. The pedimented entranceway and fluted pilasters are key characteristics of the style Born on Martha’s V... Read more
23 Centre Street John Harrison Building c. 1820* The John Harrison Building, composed of rubble granite faced with brick, was built shortly after an 1820 fire that burned most of this block on Centre Street. The land which this building sta... Read more
      25-27 Centre Street, William Maxfield, c. 1855* The gambrel roof on 25-27 Centre Street envelops two smaller structures built in the 1840s and 1855. The eastern half was purchased by William Maxfield, a painter and paint dealer, ... Read more
          26 Centre Street, Gilbert Russell Building, circa 1822, Federal Style* Built circa 1822 by Gilbert Russell, a birthright Quaker and prominent whaling merchant, the Russell Warehouse is a three-story Federal style brick com... Read more
    24 North Water Street, c. 1800 North Water Street once was New Bedford's "Wall Street.” Lined with shops, insurance agents, attorneys, banks, and brokers, North Water Street was the hub of the whaling port for merchants and business... Read more
     18 North Water Street, Captain Cornelius Howland, c. 1810 The Cornelius Howland Building is at 18 North Water Street, at the corner of Rose Alley, is  a circa 1810.  Howland bought the land in 1792, and it is possible that the bui... Read more
              33 North Water Street, Eben Hirst Building, c. 1822, Federal Style (Now incorporated into the Whaling Museum) The Eben Hirst Building at 33 North Water Street (now part of the Whaling Museum) was named for Eben P. H... Read more
       37 North Water Street, Rogers Building (now incorporated into the Whaling Museum) 1883-84, Victorian Style  The National Bank of Commerce erected this 2-story Renaissance Revival style building in 1883-1884 on the site of the ... Read more
 36 North Water Street, Greek Revival with Italianate Details, c. 1820-35 Located at 36 North Water Street, the Burroughs & Cushman Store is an example of an early 19th century dry goods store. The structure has also been used as for a... Read more
44 North Water Street, Frederick Bryant-Lysander Washburn Building, c. 1825, Federal Style The earliest reference to the Bryant-Washburn Building is in an advertisement of October 1825. The first known businesses in the building were Freder... Read more
48 North Water Street, c. 1832, Federal Style with Greek Revival Details Constructed by William Rotch, Jr. circa 1832, the Rotch building was built in the Federal style with Greek Revival details. There is a semi-elliptical window within th... Read more
   60 North Water Street, The Double Bank Building, c. 1831, Greek Revival Style In 1831 the Merchants’ and Mechanics’ Banks jointly employed Providence architect Russell Warren to design a building for their common use with the Merch... Read more
13 Hamilton Street, Ivory H. Bartlett & Son, c. 1876 Constructed in 1876 by Ivory H. Bartlett & Son as a counting house for the company, this brick building may have been designed by Caleb Hammond, a New Bedford architect Bartlett d... Read more
 114 Front Street, Coggeshall-Grinnell Block c. 1832 Built c. 1832 by John P. Coggeshall, Jr. and William P. Grinnell, this 4-story granite and brick commercial warehouse, sits on land originally owned by Joseph Rotch (part of the 10-acre ... Read more
72 North Water Street, Rodman Candleworks Building, c. 1810, Federal Style This Federal style commercial building was built c. 1810 by Samuel Rodman, Sr., for the manufacture of spermaceti candles. Samuel Rodman, Sr. (1753-1835) was born an... Read more
89 North Water Street (22 Elm Street), Frederick A. Sowle Building , 1884 The Frederick A. Sowle Building at the corner of Elm Street is a commercial building constructed by Sowle in 1884 and used as a shoemaking factory. W.S. Hill purchase... Read more


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