New Bedford Architecture

I think all who sew, dabble in clothing design, and appreciate texture and color can also appreciate architecture. My husband and I lived in the greater New Bedford, Massachusetts area in our teens and early marriage. We grew up with Moby Dick, Johnny Cake Hill, Seaman's Bethel and the illustrious history of the whaling industry all around us. We knew where Herman Melville had his drink, where the fish houses were, where the ships got their gear, where the prostitutes plied their trade,  and where the fish auctions took place. We knew where to purchase exquisite antique scrimshaw from long gone whalers who etched the teeth in their hours of monotony waiting for  sperm whales. It was an area steeped in history. But most of all we knew where the whaling captains lived. The whaling captains who would leave their wives and children for 2-3 years at a time to seek their fortune in whale oil and bring back to their spouses riches and wealth from all over the world. When I started working my first "real" job it was County Street where my employer was located. It was on Hawthorn Street that I went to the doctor. It was on Union Street that I shopped.  These streets and there neighbors were on a hill overlooking the deep prosperous harbor of New Bedford.  The captains chose this elevated spot to build their homes and show off their wealth. Every home whose portico faced the harbor had a widow's walk on the roof, the better to watch for their incoming loved ones and ships. Inside the homes of the whaling captains (I've been in a few) spoils from all over the world were incorporated into the interior architecture. Newel posts carved like massive maidenheads lon  ship's prows, stained glass that took your breath away, mirrors I can't even begin to describe, amazing hand blown gas lamps to light the parlors. The captains of this industry could afford the best artisans and their homes belied that ability. No detail, ornament, or curve was confined to budget. These men were very wealthy and they wanted the homes that their families occupied in their absence to be very grand, as if to remind the spouses and children why they were gone so long.

It is with this history that I show you just a handful of homes of the whaling captains.  I spent much of last week right in this area as my sister in law is just a few blocks up. Time was limited as we were dealing with  family issues but I did manage to take a few pics. Because the pics were taken from the street you can't see many of the widow's walks. Also, know that this is just a tiny sampling. There are many more of these magnificent homes, blocks of them.  I always enjoy looking at them and hope you do too. On my next trip down I will try to take more...Bunny

This home is one of my favorites having a scallop shell carved into the eave over the porch. This home used to be painted a shiny brown enamel all over. I think I liked that better. It really showed off the magnificent carving .
 This one has a gorgeous widow's walk  and an amazing carriage house that you can't see from this angle.
Many of these homes have amazing iron work fences and gates.

I think this doorway is just magnificent and the paint colors perfection.
And here are a couple of smaller homes.

These homes continue for blocks going West, up from the harbor and this is but a small sampling.

I would like to say that with a heritage like this it can't help but affect you. If you have lived in this area you will know that a home is where the disposable income is put. In New Bedford they don't buy skidoos and motorcycles and boats until they have the home maxed out and beautifully landscaped. You can see small modest homes just so well taken care of, very different from what I see up here in the Adirondacks. And while I did not get to sew at all this past week, I did get to enjoy color, shape, texture, and I got to admire how a three dimensional shape can be spectacular, much like fashion. I hope you enjoyed the tour. Back to sewing tomorrow!...Bunny


  1. Enjoyed the pictures! Thanks for posting them.

  2. Gorgeous homes. I've never seen a new home that compares with with an old, beuatifully carved out building. They have such character.

  3. I love to look at old home. Thanks for the tour. It was my mini-getaway.

  4. You are so right about seamstresses appreciating architecture! I find myself always staring at old houses and fixing them in my mind. Our little farm town has quite a few, and many of them sadly are on their way to total delapidation. I dream of fixing those bay windows and porches....

  5. What beautiful homes! Thanks for sharing. I think my favorite is the one with the lovely dentil moldings under the eaves.

  6. Gorgeous houses - wouldn't it be lovely to own one! If wishes were horses etc etc

  7. Hello, Bunny! I'm a brand new blogger myself, but I've been enjoying your posts for some time...I believe the word is "lurking."

    I thoroughly enjoyed your pictures...such beautiful homes...I've never seen anything like them. Our little Indiana town is known as "The Victorian Village," but we don't have anything like this! Thank you for sharing!


  8. I thoroughly enjoyed this tour, Bunny! I'm so glad you thought to bring along your camera & capture the essence of this beautiful area. I had no idea anything like this existed up there.

    It reminds me of Shaker Heights area in Ohio, where the Rockefellers & the Van Sweringens built similarly magnificent homes. I would love to tour inside some of those!!

    Thanks for taking us along on your trip. I hope things are settling down with your MIL.


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