Local Cultural/Historic Organizations
NBPA honors our maritime heritage
The NBPA works to promote the following City of New Bedford cultural and historic organizations and sites as attractions that can be visited by boat via the Harbor as well as by land as a way to draw visitors to the City’s waterfront. Also, a historic living history walking tour is being developed for future visits as well as other tourist packages.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum, established in 1903, is the world’s largest museum devoted to whales and the industry of whaling. Highlights include the world’s largest ship model - an 89-foot, half-scale replica of a whaling ship - and a rare blue whale skeleton. The research library contains whaling, maritime, and local history materials, which cover the period from 1643 to 1984.
The Azorean Maritime Heritage Society, in conjunction with the New Bedford Whaling Museum and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, and with the cooperation of the Atlantic Challenge Foundation, has constructed two Azorean whaleboats to raise awareness of the maritime history of the Azorean community on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Waterfront Historic Area League (WHALE) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving New Bedford’s historic character and promoting the preservation and restoration of historic buildings, sites, and cultural activities of the region. WHALE’s vision is a restored and reconnected city with a harbor and waterfront reunited to its historic districts and downtown.
The New Bedford Port Society, organized in 1830, and later incorporated, is dedicated to the “moral and religious improvement of seamen.” The society operates the Mariner’s Home and the Seaman’s Bethel. Opened in 1851, the Mariner’s Home, located at 15 Johnny Cake Hill next to the Seamen’s Bethel, still provides overnight lodging for transient seamen. Originally built as a private residence in 1787, the structure was relocated to its present location. The Port Society charges a nominal fee for temporary lodging. The home is not open to the general public. However, transient seamen may contact the Port Society to inquire about overnight lodging. The Seamen’s Bethel, the famous “Whaleman’s Chapel” on Johnny Cake Hill, was built in 1831 and dedicated in 1832. As described in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, marble memorials to lost seamen line the walls of the church. The bethel is an active house of worship and regular church services are conducted there. Pastoral counseling also is available.
The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, started in 2016 is a great addition to our downtown attractions. Located at 38 Bethel St., the center showcases the commercial fishing industry's roots that continue to flourish in New Bedford.
Schooner Ernestina Commission
The Schooner Ernestina Commission operates the historic Schooner Ernestina, the official vessel of Massachusetts. The nine-member commission (which is part of DCR) is appointed by the Governor and includes designees of DCR, the Department of Education and the Office of Travel and Tourism and six other residents of Massachusetts. Enabling legislation allows Ernestina to receive funds from both public and private sources to support its missions as a sailing school and museum.