Much has been said recently about the Star Store campus of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in downtown New Bedford. After more than 20 years of hosting UMD's College of Visual and Performing Arts, the legendary department store building is empty again.

One of the largest department stores in New Bedford, Star Store had a glorious history downtown. The New Bedford Dry Goods Company opened the Star Store at 715 Purchase Street at the corner of Union Street in 1844. As New Bedford grew, so grew the Star Store.

The Standard-Times reported that in 1915, Star Store was "rebuilt, refurbished, and updated" to include "four floors with a roof garden," not to mention an elevator and "a phone booth on each floor."

New Bedford's Star Store Was Much More Than A UMass Campus
Courtesy Spinner Publications

By 1923, its 25th anniversary, the Star Store employed about 300 people. Gorin's, a Boston-based department store chain, purchased the Star Store in 1969.

Urban renewal in the 1960s, then the opening of the North Dartmouth Mall in 1971, marked the beginning of the end of downtown New Bedford's glory days.

WBSM-AM/AM 1420 logo
Get our free mobile app

Almy purchased the Star Store from Gorin's in 1983. Two years later, the store closed.

New Bedford's Star Store Was Much More Than A UMass Campus
Courtesy Spinner Publications

Following several false starts and redevelopment proposals, including at least one to convert the former Star Store into a downtown hotel, the City of New Bedford took possession of the building in 1995.

A year later, Senator Mark Montigny was able to shepherd legislation on Beacon Hill that allowed UMass Dartmouth to sign a 20-year lease to house its College of Visual and Performing Arts Campus at the Star Store building.

The campus closed in the fall of 2023 in a dispute over funding. The future of the Star Store building is unclear at this time.

Inside New Bedford's Capitol Theater

New Bedford's long-dormant Capitol Theater is set to undergo a $6 million restoration project that will convert the former movie house into a mixed-use facility. Here's how it looks today.

WARNING: Under no circumstances should you enter this property. By doing so you risk bodily harm and/or prosecution for trespassing on private property.

Gallery Credit: Barry Richard

Peek Inside New Bedford's Historic Rodman Mansion

This 1833 granite mansion on County Street was designed by architect Russell Warren in the Greek Revival style. It now houses office condo spaces, but some of its former glory is still visible!

Gallery Credit: Kate Robinson

New Bedford's Ice Skating Rinks of the Past

New Bedford's Brooklawn, Buttonwood, and Victory Parks drew huge crowds to their ice skating rinks. Check out some vintage photos courtesy of Spinner Publications of what it was like on the ice in the Whaling City back in the day.

Gallery Credit: Barry Richard

More From WBSM-AM/AM 1420