Stop 1: Visitor Center

Historic photo of the Visitor Center with a man staring at the camera

Stop 1: Visitor Center

New Bedford Whaling
National Historical Park
33 William Street.
New Bedford, MA 02740

The Beginnings of a National Park

Your tour starts at the main entrance of the National Park Visitor Center, located at 33 William Street. From the sidewalk take a moment to look up, at the glass panel which states “The Old Bank 33 William Street.” Housed in the former New Bedford Institution for Savings, the visitor center and the adjacent Corson Building are the only buildings owned by the National Park Service. This building was completed in 1854 in the Classical Revival Style. The front of this building is composed of stone, from its brownstone façade to the granite staircase. In order to appreciate this place, you really have to crane your neck, huh? This building is perched on a foundation above ground level, with a prominent staircase leading to the entrance. Although you cannot see inside, we will share some pictures. Note how impressive this structure is in every detail. This building is striking in its ornateness and size. We’re looking at a sturdy structure here, made with stone and thick wooden moldings. Each detail is large and exaggerated, purposely done to symbolize a stable and sturdy establishment ensuring customers that their money was in good hands. The creation of the New Bedford Institution for Savings was to provide a financial institution for everyone regardless of social status. This practice amplified the wealth of the bank by providing access to more capital for loans. This pooled capital was invested in whaling voyages and other ventures, enabling all investors to reap greater profits. The average citizen was rewarded for using this bank by collecting a whopping 13% interest rate, something unheard of today. Although intended to help the rich, both parties benefited greatly from this practice.


Last updated: October 26, 2020

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Mailing Address:

33 William Street
New Bedford, MA 02740



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