Old Third District Courthouse

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Old Third District Courthouse
NPS Visitor Center, New Bedford, MA.jpg
Front (south) elevation in 2008, with NPS signage
Location New Bedford, MA
Coordinates 41°38′08″N 70°55′26″W / 41.63556°N 70.92389°W / 41.63556; -70.92389Coordinates: 41°38′08″N 70°55′26″W / 41.63556°N 70.92389°W / 41.63556; -70.92389
Built 1853[1]
Architect Russell Warren
Architectural style Greek Revival, Renaissance Revival
Part of New Bedford Historic District (#66000773)
NRHP Reference # 71000083
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 28, 1971
Designated NHLDCP November 13, 1966

The Old Third District Courthouse in New Bedford, Massachusetts, United States, is located at the corner of Second and William streets. It was built in 1853 by Russell Warren in the Greek Revival architectural style, as the home of the New Bedford Institute for Savings, a local bank. After the bank moved, the Bristol County courts came in. They, too, eventually outgrew it and moved elsewhere in the city. Since the creation of New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park in 1996, it has been used by the National Park Service (NPS) as the park's visitor center.


The building itself is a small two-story three-by-three-bay structure of brick with a raised basement and sandstone facade. A small bracketed cornice tops the windows and main entrance on William Street, which is fronted by a granite balustraded porch. The roofline is marked by a pediment. "THIRD DISTRICT COVRT OF BRISTOL" is carved into the second story in prominent letters.

It began life as the NBIS's building. When whaling declined in New Bedford, to be replaced by textiles, the bank moved to larger quarters downtown where it has remained ever since. The courts moved in in 1896, but later needed more space themselves, and moved out. During the mid-20th century it became a store, selling antiques at one time and auto parts at another. It had come back around to being used as a branch by Fleet Bank in 1995 when New Bedford's Waterfront Historic Preservation LEague (WHALE) bought it and turned it over to the NPS.

In 1971 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of 20 contributing properties to the New Bedford Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, and diagonally opposite the U.S. Customhouse, also a National Historic Landmark.

Visitor Center[edit]

Inside the building, during its hours of operation, park rangers offer brochures and guided walking tours of the historical park, which covers much of the waterfront area of New Bedford. The park's gift shop is also located on the premises. According to a 1999 study conducted for the Park Service, it is the most frequent start of a visitor's journey through the park.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park". 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  2. ^ Littlejohn, Margaret; "New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park Visitor Study" (PDF). ; University of Idaho; March 2000; accessed July 14, 2008, 5. "The sites most often visited first were the park visitor center (41%) and the New Bedford Whaling Museum (36%)."