US Custom House (New Bedford

Photo by and courtesy of Galen R Frysinger,

Completed in 1836, the U.S. Custom House in New Bedford is the oldest continuously operating Custom House in the Nation. It is also the largest, most elaborate and arguably the finest of the series of four granite Greek Revival customhouses in New England designed by Robert Mills between 1834 and 1836. The only other customhouse designed by Robert Mills in Massachusetts is inNewburyport. Mills, the first architect of international reputation both born and trained in America, is also known for designing important buildings and structures in Washington, D.C. such as theU.S. Treasury, the General Post Office, the Patent Office and theWashington Monument.

The New Bedford Custom House was authorized by Congress on July 3, 1832. The site for the building was purchased on April 22, 1833 for the sum of $4,900, and the cost of the finished building was approximately $25,500. It is a rectangular, two-story, white granite building with a hipped roof. It is five bays wide and three bays deep. The faade is dominated by a three-bay wide portico comprised of four Greek Doric columns, which support a pediment. Pilasters are exhibited at each corner of the building. Historically, the New Bedford Custom House was where whaling masters registered their ships and cargo. It is symbolic of the era when New Bedford was a major port, and it adds architectural distinction to theNew Bedford Historic District. Todays commercial fishing and cargo ships continue to log duties and tariffs here, as it still serves as the New Bedford office of the U.S. Customs Service. It was also the first post office in New Bedford and continues to function as such.

The U.S. Custom House is located at 37 N. Second St. in New Bedford. It is within the boundaries ofNew Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, and theNew Bedford Historic District. The U.S. Custom House continues to house the U.S. Customs Service, as well as offices of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Park Service. The building is owned by the U.S. Government and is open to the public.