New Bedford's Downtown was once the whaling capital of the world. Whalers from Nantucket came to the village in the 1700s and established the industry there. By the mid-1800s, New Bedford began to replace Nantucket as the whaling center in the United States, because of the deeper harbor and the location on the mainland. Over 10,000 men worked on the whaling ships that sailed out of the city in the 1840s. In 1847 alone, half of a million barrels of oil and three million pounds of whalebone were amassed.
Even with a large exodus of mariners in 1849 with the announcement of gold in California, whaling remained strong in the city through the 1850s. Immigrants from many Portuguese-speaking places, primarily the Azores, arrived to work on the ships. New Bedford had the largest Portuguese population by the end of the 1800s. Besides the Azores, immigrants also came from Portugal, Cape Verde, and Madeira. Due to prevailing winds, the Azores were the first port-of-call for whaling ships, and the other locations were also stops for whaling ships as they cruised the seas.
Whaling went into decline at around 1859, when petroleum began to replace whale oil as a source of fuel. Ships lost as sea were not always replaced. The largest whaling company in the nation, J. & W.R. Wing Company, sent out its last ship in 1914. Finally, the "John R. Mantra" made the last whaling voyage in the United States from New Bedford in 1927. As whaling declined manufacturing became more prominent in New Bedford.
The Sundial Building, on Union Street. The structure was built in 1820 and gets its name from the sundial installed on the facade. The sundial was used by mariners and whalers to set their nautical instruments, and "New Bedford Time" was based on this sundial. The sundial still keeps good standard time.
Buildings on Water Street. Rodman Candleworks, built in 1810, is on the left. The Mechanics Bank and Merchants Bank, built in 1831, is on the right.
Historic buildings on Hamilton Street. New Bedford's still-working commercial fishing fleet is in the background.
The William Rotch, Jr. House, on Water Street. The house, on the left, was built in 1832. The other Water Street buildings date to the same time period.
Buildings on Centre Street. The blue house on the left is the Henry Beetle House, dating to 1804. An old warehouse is in the center.
Buildings on Centre Street. The John Harrison Building, built in 1820, is on the right.
An old warehouse on First Street.
The Seth Russell House, on Union Street. The house was built in 1765.
Buildings on Front Street. The Joseph Taber Building, on the left, was built before 1840 and was used for pump-making and block-making.
Buildings at Front & Centre Streets. The Tallman Warehouse, built in the 1790s, is on the left.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum, on Johnny Cake Hill. The museum was built in 1916 as the Jonathan Bourne Whaling Museum.
The Mariner's House, on Johnny Cake Hill. The house was built in 1787 for William Rotch, Jr., and became a home for transient seamen in 1857.
The Seaman's Bethel, on Johnny Cake Hill. The church was built in 1832 to provide moral and religious improvement to impressionable mariners who were faced with temptations found in seafaring life. The church was made famous as the "Whaleman's Chapel" in Herman Melville's Moby Dick.
The Seth Godfrey House, built in 1873, and other period buildings, on Johnny Cake Hill.
The Benjamin Rodman House, on Second Street. The house was built in 1821 for Rodman, who was a founder of the New Bedford Institution for Savings.
The Bourne Warehouse, on Second Street. The warehouse was built in 1887 for an auction business.
The Haile Luther House, on the left, and the Abijah Hathaway House, on the right, on Second Street. The Luther House was built in 1840 and the Hathaway House was built in 1846.
The U.S. Custom House, on Second Street. The structure was built in 1836 and was the place where whalers registered their ships and cargo. The Custom House is the oldest continuously operating Custom House in the nation.
The old Third District Court of Bristol, on William Street. The structure was originally built in 1853 for the New Bedford Institute for Savings, and was converted into the Third District Court in 1899. It now serves as the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park Vistor Center.
The Andrew Robeson House, on William Street. The house was built in 1821 for a candlemaking factory owner.
The old Citizens National Bank Building, on William Street at Second Street. The bank was built in 1877 and now houses a restaurant.
The Corson Block, on William Street. The left side of the structure was built in 1875, and the right side was built in 1884.
Historic buildings on Acushnet Avenue. The T.M. Denham & Brother Building, built in 1877, is in the center.
The Sowle Building, on Elm Street. The factory was built in 1884 as a producer of shoes, and soon changed to making switchboards.
The old Merchants National Bank, on William Street. The bank structure was built in 1894.
Buildings on William Street. Two buildings of the Merchants National Bank are in the center and on the right. The center building was built in 1894.
The old New Bedford Five Cent Savings Bank, on Purchase Street. The bank was built in 1891 and is now the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library.
The Cherry and Company Department Store, on Purchase Street. The store was built in 1920.
The New Bedford Institution for Savings, on Purchase Street. The old bank was built in 1914, and now houses the Ocean Explorium.
The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, on Purchase Street. The live performing arts center opened as the State Theatre in 1923, and was later renamed Zeiterion Theatre.
The Star Store, on Purchase Street. The store, also known as the Mills Building, was built in 1915.
The Coffin Building, on Pleasant Street. The structure was built in 1911.
Buildings on Pleasant Street. The Hutchinson Block, built in 1913, is in the center. The First National Bank of New Bedford, built in 1924, is the gray building to the right, with the Standard Times Newspaper Building, built in 1894, is to the right of that.
The New Bedford Free Public Library, on Pleasant Street. The library was built in 1856 and originally served as the city hall.
"The Whaleman", in front of the New Bedford Free Public Library. The statue was dedicated in 1913.
The John Duff Building, on Pleasant Street at William Street. The structure was built in 1889 as an Odd Fellows hall.
New Bedford City Hall, on William Street. The city hall was built in 1852, and housed the city library from 1856 to 1910
The First Baptist Church, on William Street. The congregation was established in 1813, and the church was built in 1829.
The Bristol County Registry of Deeds Building, on Sixth Street. The structure was built in 1908.
The Philip Anthony House, on Sixth Street. The house was built in 1822.
The Levi Standish House, on Sixth Street. The house was built in 1825 and is home to the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts.
The Regency Towers, on Pleasant Street. The highrise was built in 1986 and is New Bedford's tallest building, at 173 feet.
The U.S. Post Office, on Pleasant Street.
The New Bedford Hotel Apartments, on Pleasant Street. The highrise was built in 1920 as a hotel.