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What To Do in New Bedford, the Old Whaling Capital Outside Boston

“I’ve some people right here who’re portray the opposite facet of the home,” my Airbnb host messaged me earlier than a highway journey to New Bedford, Mass. “The blokes are actually fairly superior/gifted artists, a number of good vibes.”

Certainly, when Aaren, my journey companion, and I turned off County Avenue to search out our house for 2 nights — a one-bedroom condominium in an 1855 Victorian that was once apparently rented by Herman Melville’s sister — three painters have been industriously updating the home’s exterior with cream, orange, blue and heat grey colours.

As of late, your entire metropolis, roughly 60 miles from Boston, appears to be getting a recent coat of paint. Indicators of rejuvenation are all over the place, from a park honoring abolitionists to new murals on previous buildings.

As soon as the world’s wealthiest city per capita and a powerhouse in whaling and textile manufacturing, New Bedford fell into decline within the mid and late Twentieth century, enduring a excessive crime price, excessive unemployment, city blight and dangerous jokes (“New Bedford: The armpit of Cape Cod, perhaps the nation”). In the event that they stopped in any respect, many vacationers would keep just for a meal, or a go to to the New Bedford Whaling Museum, earlier than persevering with through ferry to Martha’s Winery or driving Interstate 195 to Cape Cod.

Sure, New Bedford continues to lean closely into its maritime previous: Not solely did we keep at the charming Whalehouse and go to the Whaling Museum, we additionally ate on the Whaler’s Tavern and toured a restored mansion built on whaling money. However there’s a concentrate on the current, too. Outdated textile mills are being reimagined, new eating places are thriving and exhibitions and parks are increasing to raised inform town’s lengthy historical past of selling equality. Museums, downtown artist studios and performance spaces communicate to funding in the creative class. As for the long run, the primary train service from Boston since the late 1950s is anticipated to begin subsequent 12 months. (Its deliberate route shouldn’t be without complaints.)

Due to well being care and commercial fishing and different maritime industries, New Bedford stays a working city. It doesn’t depend on tourism, although all over the place we went, we met proud, invested residents — from the volunteer docent on the Whaling Museum to the curator at New Bedford Free Public Library to the waitstaff at eating places.

“There’s no Cape Cod pretentiousness within the metropolis, as a result of we’re not likely Cape Cod. We’re the South Coast,” stated Allie Copeland, the curator, including that New Bedford “has a really cool type of vibe now.”

Our first night, after stopping on the Quahog Republic Whaler’s Tavern for a golden ale and a Mai Tai, Aaren and I met Bev Ehrich and Carl Freedman consuming exterior on one of many metropolis’s cobblestone streets. The couple had just lately moved from Windfall, R.I., to the close by village of Little Compton. They’d pushed in for dinner with one other couple at Union Flats, a seafood restaurant that opened this winter. The 4 associates raved in regards to the monkfish and mackerel (later we inhaled seared scallops, recent and cooked completely), in addition to town’s jazz and different cultural attracts.

“The one purpose we used to return right here once we lived in Windfall was to get the ferry,” stated Ms. Ehrich, 69, a retired college administrator. “Now we’re coming for fabulous eating places, museums and music.”

In 2017, Margo Saulnier started her position because the artistic strategist for the city of New Bedford, charged with implementing an arts and culture program. Since then, town and companions have used grants and different funding to host free occasions, solicit and help native artists to create public murals and extra.

“The extra that we put money into our artistic financial system and our native expertise in arts and tradition, the higher it’s for everybody,” Ms. Saulnier stated. “And that features individuals who dwell right here and individuals who go to right here.”

For the individuals who go to, New Bedford could be comparatively cheap. The artwork assortment on the New Bedford Free Public Library shows work by modern artists like Adrian R. Tió, in addition to previous favorites from Ralph Fasanella, Albert Bierstadt and John James Audubon. On the Cape Verdean restaurant Izzy’s, a heaping can’t-eat-fast-enough breakfast of cachupa rafugado, scrambled eggs and linguiça prices $13. The “See NB in Three” pass, $18 for adults, permits entry to the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, New Bedford Art Museum and the Rotch-Jones-Duff House & Garden Museum — whose rose beds alone are definitely worth the charge.

The collapse of the whale inhabitants on the finish of the nineteenth century got here as monumental textile mills have been being constructed, remodeling the cityscape. However as manufacturing within the South and abroad gained prominence within the mid-Twentieth century, these factories closed and New Bedford languished. The scenario grew bleaker within the Nineties after native fisheries collapsed.

“For 50 or 60 years, there’s been nothing occurring as a result of the textile vegetation closed up,” stated Mr. Freedman, 71 and a lawyer, at Union Flats, talking of New Bedford and different previous New England mill cities. “These energy-consuming industries won’t ever fill these massive buildings ever once more. And that’s why reimagining these buildings is the long run.”

I spent the subsequent morning strolling round one reimagined mill within the metropolis’s South Finish neighborhood. Kilburn Mill, inbuilt 1903 and expanded in 1910, is a three-building advanced now house to outlets, gyms, music performances and the brilliant, plant-filled Dough Company restaurant, which sells a scrumptious “Inexperienced Large” egg sandwich ($8) — one with greens, pickled onions and goat cheese.

Breakfast fueled us as we toured downtown museums and strolled the streets. On one block alone, I found a toy retailer, a used file retailer and a witch store referred to as ​​Sanctum Folklorica. The spotlight of the day was the Whaling Museum (adults, $18), devoted to the brutal business that reworked New Bedford and the world. By way of a wealthy assortment — whale skeletons hanging from the ceilings, an explorable duplicate of a whaling ship, artwork collections and extra — we discovered not solely whaling historical past, but additionally the creatures’ biology and habits, the threats they face and conservation efforts.

The museum additionally appears to be like on the individuals powering the business, beginning with native Native People, and the mariners who got here from all over the world, together with Cape Verde, the Azores and mainland Portugal, and settled right here. (By way of culinary and different cultural influences, their presence stays strongly felt.)

One expanded exhibition on the museum and close by park are devoted to Captain Paul Cuffe, a Quaker born domestically to a Native American mom and African father in 1759. At a time when many Africans and African People have been in servitude, Cuffe ran blockades throughout the Revolutionary Struggle and later turned a rich shipowner and captain, utilizing his affect to petition the state for the best for landowning males of coloration to vote, and to determine one of many nation’s first built-in faculties.

All through town, we discovered about New Bedford’s ties to Quakerism, which contributed to town changing into a stronghold for abolitionism, a station on the Underground Railroad and establishing a recruiting office for one of many first African-American regiments within the Civil Struggle.

This fall, the New Bedford Historical Society, together with town, plans to unveil a park devoted to the world’s abolitionist motion. Abolition Row Park, constructed on an unoccupied nook lot, will embrace a statue of Frederick Douglass, a gazebo and neighborhood backyard area.

“What we’ve been intentional about — and are funding — is the sure tales that haven’t been advised, or haven’t been advised to the lots,” Ms. Saulnier stated. “There may be this renewed sense of celebrating that previous.”

Our final night, we biked south to the Harborwalk, a strolling and biking path on the hurricane barrier that protects the New Bedford Harbor. The large sea wall, constructed within the Sixties, rises 20 ft above the Acushnet River and provides views of lighthouses, ships and passing ferries. Simply past one set of its large barrier gates lies Cisco Brewers Kitchen & Bar, a 3.5-acre restaurant and bar outside area that opened final June and welcomes canine, youngsters and beer lovers with picnic tables, dwell music and a dock for water-going visitors. Aaren ordered meals to share and two hazy I.P.A.s, and we settled in to benefit from the scene.

Farther south is town’s East Beach and Fort Taber Park, a 50-acre inexperienced area and military museum, however these must wait for one more go to. We completed our fried clams, listened to 1 final music and, within the cool ocean breeze, bought again on our bikes.

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