|History of New Bedford
|The history of New Bedford as recorded by the English began
four centuries ago and pre-dates the Pilgrims of Plymouth by 18 years. English
explorer Bartholomew Gosnold investigated New Bedford's harbor on May 31, 1602
(Julian Calendar). Gosnold's expedition set out from Falmouth, England, and was
financed in part by the Earl of Southampton, a patron of Shakespeare. Gosnold
named Cape Cod for the abundance of fish he observed there; he named Martha's
Vineyard for his beloved daughter, Martha, and named the Elizabeth Islands for
his queen, Elizabeth I. Some historians place Gosnold's landing on New
Bedford's mainland shore at "Smoking Rocks," a rocky outcropping that
once existed approximately west-northwest of Palmer's Island. The site is now
part of the South Terminal.
In his journal, "Captaine Gosnols Voyage to
the North Part of Virginia," fellow voyager John Brereton described the
area as "the goodliest Continent that ever we saw, promising more by farre
then we any way did expect, also Medowes, and hedged with stately Groves, being
furnished also with pleasant Brookes..." The journal also describes the
party's first encounter with the peaceable Wampanoag, the Native Americans of
Gosnold's men built a small stockade on the little
islet in West End Pond on Cuttyhunk Island, from which they set forth to
explore the surrounding islands and the mainland. Of particular interest to
them was the collection of wild sassafras. Before returning to England, they
decided against leaving a permanent party behind, as their provisions were low
and the crew had reason to be wary of some of the natives they encountered.
Indeed, had they stayed the winter of 1602, the little stockade on Cuttyhunk,
or perhaps New Bedford might have become the first permanent English settlement
in New England. In 2002, the City of New Bedford, in partnership with regional
historical groups, conducted events in observance of the Gosnold Quadricentenntial . ........( Gosnold
Quadricentenntial Proclamation )
New Bedford's town charter was granted in 1787, and
the first town meeting was held March 21st of that year. Fairhaven and Acushnet
were part of New Bedford at that time. In 1812 Fairhaven was set off from New
Bedford, but Acushnet was retained for another 48 years until it too was set
off in 1860. All three communities were originally part of Dartmouth, which the
General Court of Plymouth Colony incorporated on June 8, 1664.
"Old" Dartmouth was then sparsely settled, with
isolated farms scattered over its broad expanse (an area which today comprises
Wareham to Westport). In the 1670's, as settlers advanced rapidly into the
interior, conflicts with Native Americans became more frequent. Natives and
settlers were killed and many dwellings destroyed in this first major conflict
in New England between the two groups. Known as King Philip's War (1675-1676),
this widespread and bloody conflict was so designated for the Chief Sachem,
Pometacom, whose name was Anglicized by the settlers as
By the middle of the 18th Century a series of large farms with
water frontage, trended up the hillside on the western bank of the Acushnet
River within the present area of downtown New Bedford. The farmhouses were
built on the crest of the hill along the King's Road, now County Street. Joseph
Russell, who lived at the head of William Street, owned one of these widespread
tracts. He conceived the idea of selling house lots and establishing a village.
His first sale was made in 1760 to John Lowden, a shipwright, who the next year
built the first house in Bedford Village on the west side of South Water Street
at the head of Commercial Street. Other sales followed, but the project grew
slowly. As 'Russell' was the family name of England's famous Duke of Bedford,
it was suggested that the name of Bedford be adopted for the new village and
its landing in honor of this royal connection. Subsequently the prefix
"New" was added when the Commonwealth ratified the township because
another town in the State had a prior claim to the original designation.
Among other ventures Joseph Russell engaged in offshore
whaling. Under his leadership the inhabitants of Bedford Village became whalers
and shipbuilders. Around 1780, William Rotch, Jr., a Nantucket Quaker moved to
Bedford Village. Rotch was a third-generation whaling merchant and banker. He
immediately set about focusing his great capital resources developing the whale
fishery here. Rotch gave whaling a substantial impetus, and it continued to be
New Bedford's chief industry for more than a hundred years. Rotch was the owner
of the first ship to be launched in Bedford Village, the Dartmouth, built in
1767. Her initial voyage was to London with a cargo of whale oil. She was one
of the vessels boarded by the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when Francis, son of
Joseph Rotch, as managing owner, protested the loss of his cargo.
At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Bedford Village was
a sizable and flourishing community. Although a large proportion of the
residents were Quakers, the village in common with the rest of Dartmouth, did
its share in furnishing troops for the war. Privateers made the New Bedford
harbor a base for assaulting English shipping. In consequence on September 5,
1778, a large force of British troops landed at Clark's Point, marched into
town by way of County Street and attacked Bedford Village. They burned many
buildings, shipping, wharves and warehouses, destroying large stores of goods
on both sides of the river. They killed four men. It took the little village
more than a decade to recover.
New Bedford's founders began early to care for the affairs of
religion and education. The first ecclesiastical body organized in Old
Dartmouth was established by the Society of Friends (the Quakers) in 1699, and
the first Congregational Church in the town dates from 1708. Regarding an
unverified tradition that this church had its origin in 1696, it can be said
there was unorganized preaching to that denomination probably prior to 1700.
The early Baptists listened to sermons by John Cooke, a prominent Dartmouth
resident and Mayflower passenger, but evidently had no established church in
The New Bedford Monthly Meeting of Friends emerged from the
Dartmouth Monthly Meeting in 1792. The first Congregational meetinghouse in New
Bedford was built in 1795 at William and Purchase Streets. The first
schoolhouse in Bedford Village was built on Johnnycake Hill in 1766 on the site
of the Seaman's Bethel or just south of it.
The young town continued to flourish. In 1801 there were 185
dwellings, with a population of 5,600. By 1805, the housing stock had increased
dramatically, to 300. The Bedford Bank had been incorporated in 1803, and
marine insurance companies were formed to protect the investments in the
whaling enterprise and the town's maritime commerce. Trading with coastwise
ports, with the West Indies and the East Indies, and with European centers had
New Bedford's prosperity continued to grow, based on three
major industries in each of which the community attained preeminence. They
were: whaling, the manufacture of fine cotton goods, and the general fisheries.
Of these original three, only the commercial fishing industry continues as an
economic engine, generating approximately $800 million annually to the local
economy. However, the business sector today presents a broad diversification in
manufacturing, service, retail and tourism-related concerns throughout the
New Bedford's worldwide reputation as the greatest whaling port
on the globe was a distinction wrested from Nantucket early in the 19th
century. The city's vast fleet of whaling ships plied every ocean on the charts
and brought the American flag into countless foreign ports for the first time.
In 1841, Herman Melville shipped out aboard the whaleship, Acushnet. His
experiences inspired him to write Moby-Dick, in which he describes New Bedford
in great detail. In 1845, New Bedford was the fourth maritime tonnage district
in the United States, exceeded only by New York, Boston, and New Orleans. The
City of New Bedford was incorporated in 1847, with Abraham Howland serving as
its first Mayor.
In the full glory of the days of whaling prosperity New
Bedford sent out more whale ships than all other American ports combined. In
1857, when the population was about 22,000 the peak was reached, with 329
vessels engaged, representing an investment of $20 million and a yearly catch
of $10 million. At this zenith, New Bedford was the richest city per capita in
the world. However, from that year onward the industry steadily declined. The
fleet had succeeded in hunting the leviathan to every corner of the globe,
almost to the point of oblivion. In addition, the price of whale oil dropped
steadily after petroleum was discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859.
Other factors included the destruction of numerous whalers by
Confederate cruisers during the Civil War, use of substitutes for whalebone,
and the wreck of many fine ships in the Arctic in the 1870's combined to
accomplish the downfall of the once great industry. In 1861 the United States
Government purchased a large number of old vessels of various kinds, loaded
them with stone, and then sank them in the harbor channels of Charlestown and
Savannah, in an effort to blockade those confederate ports. New Bedford's
contribution to the 'Stone Fleet" was twenty-four idle whaleships. The
last whaling voyage from this port was made by schooner John R. Manta in
New Bedford's connection to the United States Coast Guard
dates to the earliest history of that esteemed branch of the Armed Services. In
1876, the Revenue Marine School of Instruction, precursor of the U.S. Coast
Guard Academy, was established here to educate cadets of that service. One
member of the first graduating class, Worth G. Ross of New Bedford, rose to
become Captain Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 1903 the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was organized to
perpetuate the lore and tradition of the old township. Its central attraction
on Johnnycake Hill is the Bourne Whaling Museum, containing the largest ship
model in the world, the bark Lagoda. A gift of Miss Emily Howland Bourne, the
museum is named for her father, Jonathan Bourne, one of New Bedford's leading
whaling merchants. The Whaling Museum is the largest of its kind in the world,
with more than 150,000 objects in its collection.
The New Bedford High School was established in 1827, with John
F. Emerson principal, but was abolished in 1829. For eight years Mr. Emerson
then conducted a private High School. In 1837 the Public High School was
revivified under a mandatory state law, with Mr. Emerson at the head.
The Friends Academy, founded by wealthy Quakers as a classical
school, was established in New Bedford in 1810. The Swain Free School,
established under the will of William W. Swain, was opened in his former
residence in 1882 for general higher education, but later was transformed into
an art school of national acclaim, known as the Swain School of Design. The New
Bedford Textile School was organized in 1898, to instruct pupils in the
manufacture of cotton cloth. It was the procurer of SMTI, which evolved into
SMU, now the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. The New Bedford
Vocational High School was established in this same era, maintained then
jointly by the city and state.
Several churches were built in the first half of the 19th
century in what is now the city center. Some are still standing, and new
buildings have replaced others. The Young Men's Christian Association was
organized here in 1867. Its ornate building was erected in 1891on the northwest
corner of William and Sixth Streets, the first dedicated YMCA building in the
nation. It was demolished for a parking lot by developers in 1975, despite
public protest. The loss galvanized efforts toward serious historic
preservation across the city. The Young Women's Christian Association was
formed in 1911, and first occupied its building in 1924. The Salvation Army and
the Volunteers of America have been established for many years in New Bedford.
To date, more than forty-five people have occupied the office
of Mayor during the last 150 years. Of these, Charles Sumner Ashley held the
title for the longest running Mayor. Between 1891 and 1936, though not
continuously, he served thirty-two years as New Bedford's chief executive
officer, more than one-third of the city's existence to that point.
In 1938 voters adopted one of the statutory model city charters provided by the
Legislature known as Plan B. The most significant changes were the
strengthening of the Mayor's powers, especially in regard to appointments, and
the establishment of a single legislative body, comprising eleven Councilors.
"The earth has got to be very shifty to get out of the grasp of a people
equally at home on land and water." Thus wrote Thomas B. Reed,
distinguished Speaker of the National House in his greetings to New Bedford for
the city's semi-centennial of 1897. This referred to the transition from
whaling to cotton manufacturing.
Samuel Rodman was the promoter of New Bedford's first mill for
the manufacture of cotton cloth. It was in February 1846, that a charter was
granted to the New Bedford Steam Mill Company, and production began in November
of that year, at the foot of Hillman Street. In 1849, the mill ran 7,500
spindles. Because of a lack of sufficient capital, operations were discontinued
after five years. Meanwhile, the Wamsutta Mills was incorporated in April 1846,
and began operations January 1, 1849. It rose to become the nation's preeminent
producer of the finest domestic cotton fabrics.
After the turn of the century, eleven more mills were built,
with construction ceasing in 1910. New Bedford became one of the largest
producers of cotton yarns and textiles in the country, and led all centers in
quality and quantity output of fine goods. About 1920, at the height of
prosperity, there were twenty-eight cotton establishments, operating seventy
mills and employing 41,380 workers. The population was then 121,217. However,
lower production costs fueled growing competition from southern textile mills.
In 1928, textile workers protesting a 10% wage cut called a general strike.
Though the strike lasted six months, it ushered in an era in
which many textile mills moved from New England to the southern states
attracted by cheaper labor and lower production costs. Still, textile
manufacture continued here for decades. The Second World War, with its wartime
demand for all sorts of goods, gave New Bedford textiles another period of
prosperity. In addition, the "needle trade," in which skilled
stitchers assembled all manner of fine clothing continued to grow. Though
reduced in size, this industry continues today, as some of the finest names in
men's suits are manufactured in New Bedford.
Besides cotton manufacture New Bedford had been characterized
for many years by large-scale factory operations in numerous lines of products,
including rubber, metal, and glass manufactories.
New Bedford is a cosmopolitan community. The diversity of
nationalities represented here is a recognized accompaniment of the city's
growth and prosperity, to every phase of which these voyagers from other lands
and their posterity, as patriotic Americans, have contributed in no small
Long prior to the American Revolution, slaves were owned in Old
Dartmouth and New Bedford, some of them held by wealthy Quakers. Liberation was
urged by leaders of the sect, and before 1780, when slavery was abolished in
Massachusetts, no slaves were known to be held by New England Friends.
In the days of anti-slavery agitation, the people of New
Bedford showed a practical sympathy for fugitive slaves. The town was noted as
one of the major "stations" of the "Underground Railroad,"
which was not a railroad at all, but merely an undercover system, to provide
refuge for fugitives. The most famous fugitive to settle in New Bedford was
Frederick Douglass, noted abolitionist orator and leader, who lived here from
1838 to 1841.
Another escaped slave, Lewis Temple, opened a blacksmithing shop, which
primarily serviced the whaling fleet. In 1848, Temple invented the toggle-head
harpoon, which revolutionized the whaling industry.
Although considerable migration from Ireland had taken place in
the eighteenth century, the exact period of their first settling in New Bedford
is not known. About 1818, they were here in sufficient numbers to warrant
conducting a Catholic Mission, and Rev. Philip Lariscy, an Augustinian priest,
came to New Bedford for that purpose. Under his incentive a church, St. Mary's,
was erected in 1820 on Allen Street, near the corner of Orchard Street, with
Father Lariscy as pastor. In 1849, the former Universalist Church at Pleasant
and School Streets was purchased and occupied by St. Mary's parish. St.
Lawrence Church, successor of these pioneer houses of worship, was completed
and dedicated in 1870.
Visits by New Bedford's whaleships to the Portuguese Islands in
the eastern Atlantic, the Azores, Madeira, and also Cape Verde resulted in the
immigration of many islanders to America. This began in the 1830's or possibly
even earlier. Settling in New Bedford, the newcomers naturally found employment
in the whale fishery and many rose to command ships.
As migration continued over the years, several packet lines
plied between the islands and this port. Many Portuguese settled in the
southern part of the city, which was nicknamed "Little Fayal." Many
years after the first exodus, groups from continental Portugal came here and
located in the northern section. This was due to government changes in the
homeland. For a number of years the Portuguese people were communicants of the
first Catholic Church here, St. Mary's, but desirous of having a house of
worship of their own, St. John the Baptist Church was erected 1875. It was the
second Catholic parish in the city and the first Portuguese National Catholic
Church in the nation. At present the Portuguese people constitute the largest
proportion of the city's population, approximately 60%. Numerous fairs,
festivals and "festas" enliven New Bedford's busy cultural
Arriving in New Bedford almost as early as the Portuguese, Cape
Verdean immigrants formed the backbone of the whaling industry, on the wharves
and on the high seas. Fiercely proud of both their American and Cape Verdean
heritage, the Cape Verdean community sponsors one of the largest parades of the
year around Independence Day, as well as many annual cultural events.
French speaking residents came from Canada, answering the
growing demand for mill and textile workers during the Civil War. They first
attended St. Lawrence Church, but finally were given their own place of worship
when the Church of the Sacred Heart was dedicated in 1877 in the city's
northwest quarter. It was the oldest French-Canadian national Catholic Church
in the region. In 2001, despite public protest, the Diocese of Fall River
demolished the historic structure for a parking lot as part of a parish
Polish immigrants began arriving in New Bedford around 1895
drawn here by opportunities in the textile mills. Many were also carpenters,
adding their skills to building the burgeoning city as it spread northward to
its Freetown borders They were at first communicants of St. Kilian's and Holy
Rosary Churches, but in 1903 their own house of worship, Our Lady of Perpetual
Help was established.
German, Russian and Polish Jews are known to have made New
Bedford home as early as the 1850's. Early migration of the Jewish people from
Russia to this city began about 1877. Before a place of worship was erected,
religious services were held in private homes. In the 1890's the site of the
first Ahavath Achim Synagogue on Howland Street was purchased and the synagogue
was completed and dedicated in 1899. Today, there are two Jewish Congregations,
the Ahavath Achim Synagogue and Tefereth Israel Synagogue.
Other nationalities represented in New Bedford include, the
Lebanese and Greek, each having one church as well as very active cultural
calendars. People of Norwegian heritage have called New Bedford home for more
than a century. As with the Portuguese, the industriousness and maritime skills
of the Norwegians have earned them leadership roles in the port's fishing
industry. Spanish-speaking people from many lands, as well as Czechoslovakians,
Albanians, English, Italians and Germans have also made New Bedford home over
the years. Recently, Guatemalan and Mayan people have settled in southeastern
Massachusetts and Rhode Island, many being employed in maritime and
Regular traffic between the villages of New Bedford and
Fairhaven was established by the construction of a toll bridge, via Fish and
Popes Islands, in 1796. There was also for many years a ferry, which traversed
the harbor daily. The current iron turnstile bridge was completed in 1902.
Early sailing packets and later a steamboat line furnished
connection with Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. At various periods there was
direct steamboat service to New York.
Land transportation was by stagecoaches, which ran to Boston
and to Newport for connections by boat to New York, and points west. The Boston
mail stage was routed through Fairhaven. The first trains out of New Bedford
began in 1840, then running to Taunton Junction and on to Boston. In 1875, a
branch of the railroad running direct to Fall River from New Bedford was
established. A trolley system to Fall River was started in 1894 and was
replaced by buses in 1933.
In 1872, the New Bedford and Fairhaven Street Railway Company
was incorporated. In 1887 it consolidated with the newer Acushnet Street
Railway Company under the name of Union Street Railway Company. Trolley cars
displaced horse cars in 1890, and buses were introduced in 1925. The trolley
system was entirely discontinued in May 1947, replaced by bus service.
The Municipal Airport, with two runways each 5000 feet long,
is located on 400 acres in the northwestern part of the city in an area bounded
by Shawmut Avenue, Plainville Road and Mount Pleasant Street. Before the
expansion of the original field was completed in 1943, seventy-seven buildings
were removed or demolished, and a new section of Plainville Road was
Planning for a Municipal Airport began about 1935, at the
urging of the New Bedford Aero Club. Work on the field had begun as a Works
Progress Administration Project in 1940. The city gave the government full use
during World War II, and in 1942 an Army bombing squadron was stationed there.
A hangar, barracks, service buildings and the runways were installed by the War
Department. Subsequently the Navy took over. The airport is now under charge of
a Municipal Airport Commission, which is appointed by the Mayor. The airport
provides precision and non-precision instrument approach, with daily service to
the islands via Cape Air. Flight schools also operate from the airport.
The city water system commenced in 1869, six years after it
was established by an Act of the General Court of the Commonwealth on April 18,
1863. The city initiated the massive project in 1861 when it hired Capt.
Charles H. Biglow, Chief Engineer in charge of the construction of Fort Taber,
to perform initial surveying. Since then, many extensions and improvements have
been made, providing the city with a matchless resource, the envy of many
communities whose growth is limited by water supply. Indeed, New Bedford's true
wealth in the 21st century and its key to future growth, is its abundance of
clean water, the quality and quantity of which is unsurpassed in all of
southern New England.
New Bedford's Fire Department began its existence in 1772, when Joseph Rotch
bought a hand-drawn fire engine built in London, which was named Independence
No. 1. Over a long period the equipment consisted of hand engines, and there
was great rivalry between the companies as to which should be first to get
water on a blaze. The "best" fire brigades in town delighted "to
run with the masheen." After a huge waterfront fire in August 1859, the
most extensive in the city's history covering several blocks, the first steam
fire engine was purchased. In 1908 motorization of the department was begun,
and was completed in 1917.
New Bedford's first newspaper was The Medley, or New Bedford
Marine Journal, appearing in November 1792. Several other papers were also
published in the city. The Weekly Mercury, later a morning daily, started in
August 1807 and closed in 1942. Edmund Anthony established the Evening Standard
in February 1850, E. Anthony & Sons, Inc., later being proprietors. In 1902
the New Bedford Standard Times was published, first as a Sunday paper and later
as an afternoon daily. Basil Brewer became publisher of the Standard in 1931,
and acquiring a major interest in E. Anthony & Sons, Inc., absorbed the
Times in 1932. For a period the corporation also published the Mercury. The
paper is now issued as the Standard-Times, a morning daily, and is a division
of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc., Campbell Hall, NY.
The Superior Court House at County and Court Streets was built
in 1830-31. It was from this courthouse that the infamous Lizzie Borden was
tried for the double-murder of her parents in nearby Fall River in 1892.
The New Bedford Gas Company began the distribution of piped
gas for lighting in February 1853. Introduction of electric light in the city
took place in 1886, only seven years after Edison invented it.
St. Luke's Hospital was incorporated in 1884. It was first
operated in a wooden structure on Fourth (now Purchase) Street, until
established at Page and Allen Streets in the city's west end.
The Free Public Library was created by a city ordinance in
1852. It had a backlog of the 5,000 volumes of the New Bedford Social Library,
a private lending collection. The present Municipal Building, greatly changed,
housed the Public Library from 1856 until 1910. A fire in the historic City
Hall brought about its reconstruction for use as the Library. Thus, were the
functions of the two buildings switched; the old library at 133 William Street
relocated across the street to 613 Pleasant Street, and City Hall relocated to
the much-expanded Municipal Building at 133 William Street.
Robert C. Ingraham was the city's first librarian, serving from
the start until his death, a period of nearly fifty years. There are now more
than 500,000 volumes in the five city libraries, plus those available through
the Southeastern Massachusetts Library System. The library also oversees
several important collections within its archives, including the third largest
collection of whaling logs in the world and one of the oldest public
genealogical resource departments in the nation.
New Bedford's first post office began mail service in 1794, at
the corner of Purchase and Union Streets. A telegraph line was established in
1847, one year after Samuel Morsedemonstrated his invention at the Capitol in
Washington, DC. The telephone was introduced in New Bedford in 1880, only four
years after Bell demonstrated his invention.
The Commons, or Common Park (now called Clasky-Common Park)
was the city's first public green. During the 1890's, the city acquired the
lands that now constitute much of today's park system and improved and
beautified them. Brooklawn Park was the former estate of Daniel Ricketson, New
Bedford's first published historian. At Brooklawn, Rickstson entertained many
leading literary lights of the age, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry
Henry H. Crapo, long a public official of New Bedford,
published the first city directory in 1836. Later, Crapo traveled west and
subsequently rose to become Governor of Michigan.
Over the years, New Bedford has been battered by hurricanes, which
inflicted great damage to its shipping and shoreline industries. In response, a
3.5-mile long stone hurricane barrier was constructed between 1962 and 1966.
The barrier crosses the New Bedford harbor and features massive storm gates at
its 150-foot channel. Built at a cost of $18.1million dollars, it is the
largest stone structure on the East Coast of the United States. Operated by the
U.S. Army Corps. Of Engineers, the barrier protects the inner harbor and part
of the city's southern peninsula from storm surge, making New Bedford the
safest haven on the eastern seaboard.
In the early 1970's, Interstate Highway I-195 transected the
city, connecting it with Cape Cod and Providence, Rhode Island. Route 140
provides highway access to Boston. The Southeastern Regional Transit Authority
(SRTA) provides local bus service, and major bus companies link the city with
Cape Cod, Boston, and all points west and north. Cape Air provides daily air
service to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Passenger ferry service from the
city operates to Martha's Vineyard via the New England Fast Ferry Service's
high-speed and traditional ferries from State Pier. A convenient park &
ride faculty is connected to the ferry terminal by 3-minute shuttle bus ride.
Cuttyhunk Boat Lines provides service throughout the year to Cuttyhunk Island,
departing daily in season from Fisherman's Wharf, adjacent to the city's
Waterfront Visitor Center.
A milestone event in city history occurred in November 1996
when Congress designated 34 acres of the city's downtown historic district as
the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. Incorporating approximately
13 city blocks adjacent to the waterfront, this urban national park was
established "to help preserve, protect and interpret certain districts,
structures, and artifacts located in New Bedford, MA, that are associated with
the history of whaling, and related social, economic, and environmental themes
for the benefit and inspiration of this and future generations." National
Park status was widely acknowledged as a turning point for the city and
validation from the highest levels of government that New Bedford's remarkable
maritime and social history has played a significant part in the development
and growth of America.
As in Melville's day, the seafaring traditions of New Bedford's
mariner forefathers hold fast. The city continues to draw a substantial part of
its living from the sea. Today, the port is home to more than 225 commercial
fishing vessels of various drafts and rigs. New Bedford continues to rank as
the nation's #1commercial fishing port in value of landed catch. The working
waterfront is home to several national seafood-processing plants, which produce
a wide array of products shipped around the world. Vessels no longer off-load
their hauls on the piers, but tie up along the processing plants at the water's
edge, speedily emptying their catches from refrigerated holds directed into
refrigerated receiving bays. Seafood prices are primarily set by an on-line
display auction. New Bedford also has long held title as the nation's leading
supplier of sea scallops, making it America's top-dollar value port.
The New Bedford Business Park, located in the far north end of
the city, employs over 2500 people and accounts for approximately $650 million
in sales revenue. Extensive infrastructure improvements are underway throughout
the complex. Recently, 8 real estate purchases and 5 expansions in the park are
estimated to account for an additional 1500 jobs and $1 billion in total sales
revenue. Preeminent international companies call New Bedford home, including
Titleist and Foot-Joy Worldwide, Polaroid, Johnson & Johnson and American
Some major construction projects in the city recently completed
include: the $10 million expansion of the New Bedford Whaling Museum expansion,
Buttonwood Park Zoo expansion, Roosevelt Middle School, Compass Bank
Headquarters, Star Store Campus of the University of Massachusetts at
Dartmouth, Airport Terminal renovation, Main Library restoration, Fire Museum
expansion, freight ferry terminal construction, South Terminal expansion, Fort
Taber Park construction, and restoration of three city lighthouses.
Other public and private initiatives underway in the city
include: reestablishment of commuter rail service to Boston, limited expansion
of the regional airport, redesign of the Route 18 downtown connector,
construction of a 450,000 sq. ft. Oceanarium, Normandin Middle School
construction, Corson Building restoration, Nathan & Polly Johnson House
restoration, and the Zeiterion Theatre parking garage.
Tourism is also a fast-growing segment of the local economy. New Bedford's rich
history, its national park status and its authentic working waterfront draws
increasing numbers of tourists annually. In addition, a continued increase in
the number of galleries, museums, and cultural events is earning New Bedford
recognition as "a city of art, " attracting professional artists, art
patrons and visitors of all interests drawn to the city's growing artistic
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