Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Photo courtesy of Essex National Heritage Area
The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places and Maritime Heritage Program, in partnership with the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, proudly invite you to explore the Maritime History of Massachusetts. With more than 750 miles of coastline, inhabitants of Massachusetts have relied upon maritime resources from prehistoric times to the present. This latest National Register of Historic Places travel itinerary highlights 89 of the historic places that tell the story of the interdependent relationship between Massachusetts and the sea.

Boston Light
Photo by Jeremy D'Entremont,

The earliest human inhabitants began living in what is now Massachusetts around 10,000 BC. Algonquian-speaking groups of American Indians occupied the area for centuries prior to European exploration in the late 15th century. European colonization began in earnest during the early 1600s, followed by the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620 and the Puritans in 1628. Colonists, like the indigenous peoples before them, lived by hunting, farming and catching fish and shellfish. Shipbuilding and maritime commerce soon became staple economic activities for the colonists, as well. While the first battles of the American Revolution took place outside of Boston in 1775, the only other battle of the Revolution that took place in Massachusetts occurred in September 1778, when the British burned New Bedford, a port from which American ships attacked British vessels. After America established independence from British rule, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts entered the Union as the sixth state on February 6, 1788, with a population of nearly 378,000. Today, according to the most recent census report in 2004, 6,416,505 people call Massachusetts home. While maritime industries remain a vital part of the economy, tourism has also become an important source of income with millions of travelers visiting Massachusetts each year. With its beautiful beaches, small town charm and bustling cities, Massachusetts offers something for everyone.

Nantucket Historic District
Photo courtesy of Aaron Marcavitch
Maritime History of Massachusetts offers several ways to discover the places that reflect the maritime history of this New England state. Each highlighted place features a brief description of its historic significance, color photographs and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page are links to four essays: Lighthouse & Lifesaving Stations, Ships & Shipbuilding, the U.S. Navy and Maritime Commerce. These essays provide historic background, or "contexts," for the places included in the itinerary. In the Learn More section, the itinerary links to regional and local websites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities. Visitors may be interested in Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, located in Massachusetts. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed if you plan to visit the Massachusetts coast in person.

Maritime History of Massachusetts is part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage visits to historic places throughout the Nation. The National Register of Historic Places partners with communities, regions and heritage areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places nominated by State, Federal and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan trips by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and providing public accessibility information for each featured site. Maritime History of Massachusetts is the 42nd National Register travel itinerary in this ongoing series. Itineraries for other maritime-related destinations include Early History of the California Coast, Florida Shipwrecks, Along the Georgia-Florida Coast, Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Cooridor and World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area. The National Register of Historic Places and Maritime Heritage Program hope you enjoy this virtual tour. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.

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