New Bedford Massachusetts Walking Tour
This walking tour includes several New Bedford landmarks and museums, including the New Bedford Historical Society, the New Bedford Art Museum, and the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The Rotch-Jones-Duff House is one of the finest Greek Revival homes in the country and is considered a national historic landmark. It was built in 1834 for whaling agent William Rotch, Jr. and designed by architect Richard Upjohn, one of the best architects at the time. The house, which belongs to the County Street Historic District and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was owned by two other families: the Jones family and the Duff family. All three families were prominent in the whaling industry as well as active participants in the community. The Duff family owned the home until 1981 when the Waterfront Historic Area League purchased it. It opened a year later as a museum featuring period items and furniture owned by the three families. The museum also features exhibits about the whaling industry and about the environment. Many educational programs are offered as well.
The Nathan and Mary (Polly) Johnson House, located at 21 Seventh Street in New Bedford, Massachusetts, is a significant building in the history of the city as well as the headquarters of the New Bedford Historical Society. The historical society celebrates the efforts of the Johnsons, the legacy of the abolitionist movement, and the history of African Americans, Cape Verdeans, Native Americans, West Indians and other people of color in New Bedford. The home was once owned by a free African-American couple who lived there and operated a successful catering and confectionery business. They also harbored escaped slaves as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The New Bedford Historical Society purchased the home in 1998. Two years later, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The UMass Dartmouth Art Gallery features contemporary student and professional art exhibitions throughout the year. It is located across the street from the Ocean Explorium. This gallery is the satellite venue for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, which has its main gallery on the Dartmouth campus.
A monument to a local innovator named Lewis Temple was erected on the front lawn of the New Bedford Public Library in 1987. Temple was a former slave who became a free man and a skilled blacksmith. He invented a toggle harpoon used by the local whalers. His design was a massive contribution to the whaling industry. The monument shows Temple standing and examining the end of his harpoon.
On the front lawn of the New Bedford City Hall, there is a stone slab memorial to one of the greatest leaders of the American abolitionist movement. Frederick Douglass was born a slave and escaped to freedom when he was twenty years old. His route took him to New Bedford, Massachusetts. Douglass stayed in New Bedford for several years before moving on to tackle the tough issues of abolitionism, women’s rights, and general equality of all Americans.
In 2014 the New Bedford Art Museum and ArtWorks! Partners for the Arts and Community merged to serve the community as one community arts center. The museum is located in a former bank and features changing art exhibitions throughout the year. Both historic and contemporary art exhibitions are presented. In addition to the artwork, the museum offers various educational programs for people of all ages.
The Liberty Bell Plaque marks the site of where New Bedford’s Liberty Bell used to ring, at the old Liberty Hall. The bell was used to warn fugitive slaves that U.S. Marshalls were on their way. The bell didn’t survive the fire that also destroyed the building in 1854. A piece of it was kept and inserted into the bottom of the plaque as a reminder of what the citizens of New Bedford did to resist the slave trade in America.
The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Plaza is a small memorial park situated on the site of the regiment’s former recruiting station in New Bedford. The 54th Infantry was the first regiment of African Americans recruited to serve the Union in the North. The unit is best-known for their valiant record in battle as depicted in the Hollywood movie Glory. The plaza was dedicated on February 12, 1999.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum preserves and celebrates the history of the whaling industry in the City of New Bedford, the country and the world. It houses the world's largest collection of whaling-related materials. These include the largest library of whaling books, prints and journals; the largest scrimshaw (decorative art made from ivory bones) collection; the largest collection of Japanese whaling art; the largest collection of marine paintings by Old Dutch Masters; and the largest scale model of a whaling ship built in 1916 called the Lagoda. The museum also features numerous other items (numbering about 750,000 in all) such as photographs, fine art, manuscripts, maps/books, and 19th and 20th century whaling technology. Other highlights include the complete whale skeletons, one of which is a Blue Whale. In addition to the collections, the museum also offers educational programming such as lectures and film screenings.