New Bedford’s History Featured in New Series of App-Based Walking Tours
A series of new app-based walking tours will allow those interested in learning about the unique architecture of New Bedford and the people who have dwelled among it to dive into the city’s rich history any time they want.
“A lot of people think of New Bedford as the Whaling City and its whaling history, but there are other stories of New Bedford,” said Pat Daughton, Administrator for the New Bedford Preservation Society and the producer of the digital tours. “We use the tool of architecture to tell the stories of the people and places of the city.”
The digital tours are titled New Bedford Pathways, and they are available through the Pocketsights mobile app. Just download the free app, search for “02740,” and then scroll down to “New Bedford Pathways” and you can begin taking the tours.
As you walk from location to location, your mobile device’s GPS feature will know at which spot you’ve arrived, and present you with information about that location, including historical photos, information about the architect and the previous residents when available. It gives you all of the information the Preservation Society has in its archives about that location.
Best of all, you don’t have to wait for a warm, sunny day to take the tours; you can “tour” the sites anytime, anywhere.
“You can just scroll through it on your computer, tablet or phone, or you can take yourself to the actual places and walk the tour,” Daughton said.
Tours include “New Bedford – More Than Colonials,” featuring homes that came about during the city’s growth in manufacturing, transportation and commerce from 1850 to 1900; “Old Bedford Village,” the area built up by whaling captains that became a cornerstone of the abolitionist movement and the Anti-Slavery Society; “Downtown New Bedford,” focusing on the development of the district including during the prosperous times of the textile industry at the turn of the 20th century; “The Historic Waterfront,” exploring what was once the hub of the whaling industry; and “Kempton’s Corner,” focusing on the coopers, sparmakers and shipwrights who lived and worked in the city’s shipbuilding center.
“We wanted to tell people there’s a very big variety of architectural styles in New Bedford,” Daughton said. “People just think of the big Victorian houses, but that’s not the complete picture of the architecture of the city or the people that have lived in the city, because people of all kinds of economic status lived in New Bedford. It wasn’t just whaling captains and shipbuilders and owners.”
The New Bedford Preservation Society began in 1974 as a program called “Re-Leaf,” which was a group of citizens that wanted to save the trees that lined County Street; that’s why the logo for the Preservation Society is an elm leaf, Daughton said.
“That led to us wanting to bring awareness of the preservation of these historic buildings in New Bedford, so we started with the historic marker program to recognize people that restored buildings,” she said.
The Preservation Society worked with the Massachusetts Historical Commission to pull together all of the information collected about the homes, their original owners, their architects and more. The society then began doing its holiday house tours and summer walking tours.
For years, the tours have been conducted with a guide from the Preservation Society leading the way. Through modern technology, though, visitors and residents alike can now tour the city’s historic homes on their own with the app.
Each tour, Daughton said, features about 15-20 locations and should take an hour or less to complete. Users can also change the route they want to take as well.
“It’s a very active app, and very user-friendly,” she said.
Future plans include wanting to bring in tours of the Whitman Mill area and other historic mills, as well as a tour of houses built by and for women, which was already the subject of a film posted to the New Bedford Preservation Society’s YouTube page, which has videos of a number of its walking tours.
The app also allows the Preservation Society to keep spreading the word of the city’s history even at a time when it’s harder to get volunteers to lead tours and programs off the ground.
“COVID was a very difficult time for us, as we were unable to do our yearly fundraiser and that had a big impact on our budget, as it has for everyone,” she said. “So if anyone would like to become a member or contribute in any way, they can call me at (508) 997-6425 and I’d be happy to talk with them.”
Take a look at some of the properties you'll see on the tours here: