While we love Newburyport for its charming downtown district, fabulous beaches, and great restaurants, the area was once a bustling commercial seaport. With its location at the mouth of the Merrimack River and its proximity to Boston, Portsmouth, and Portland, Newburyport was a prime spot for the shipbuilding, fishing, and shipping industries. Today, many historical sites serve as reminders of the city's rich maritime history, like historic houses and even the site of the country's first Coast Guard. Those interested in learning more about the area's history should visit these two Newburyport museums.
Custom House Maritime Museum | 25 Water St, Newburyport | (978) 462-8681
The city's custom house is now home to a maritime museum, having once been the offices that oversaw imports entering the city. The building itself is an architectural treat, built in 1835 from local granite, with marble floors and brick fireplaces. The maritime museum has a great collection of art, artifacts, and ships models that tell so much about the lives of everyday people in Newburyport. The historical records of the custom house detail the assortment of goods from around the world that passed through Newburyport, while an exhibit on the city's shipyard shows off the prolific shipbuilding of the 19th century. The museum is open Saturdays and Sundays January through April and Tuesday through Sunday May through December.
Museum of Old Newbury | 98 High St, Newburyport | (978) 462-2681
This Newburyport museum tells the history of the area within the home of the Cushing family, a family of merchants, sea captains, and a former mayor of Newburyport. Members of the Cushing family lived in the Federalist style mansion, built in 1808, until 1955 when it was gifted to the museum. It's full of period furniture, silverware, fixtures, appliances, and wallpaper and makes for a fascinating peek back in time. Combined with the collection of the Newburyport Marine Society, the museum provides a great look at how a wealthy family during Newburyport's shipping heyday with some historical context provided by other artifacts. Take a guided tour and then explore the gardens, which were restored to its mid-19th-century design based on a family member's drawings. The museum opens for the season Memorial Day weekend and is open for tours Wednesday through Sunday.