Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2006 Preservation Award Winners
Corson Building • New Bedford
Corson Building • New Bedford

Rehabilitation & Restoration

The Corson Building was originally composed of two separate three-story commercial buildings dating to 1875 and 1884, both owned by Temple S. Corson. The brick structure has a cast-iron storefront and displays Queen Anne and Gothic-style detailing. It is located in the New Bedford Waterfront Historic District and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. In 1997, a raging three-alarm fire caused the roof to collapse and left little more than charred beams and shattered glass. The Corson Building had a very uncertain future until the Waterfront Historic Area League, or WHALE, stepped in. WHALE convinced city officials not to condemn what remained and persuaded the owners to donate the property to their nonprofit organization. WHALE raised money for the Corson Building’s stabilization and then transferred the property to the National Park Service, which was looking for more public meeting space within the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.

The National Park Service then undertook a remarkable $6.4 million rehabilitation project, which was completed in 2008. The project secured the original façade to a new structural steel frame erected within the building. The restoration included historically accurate windows and reconstructed storefronts. Renamed the Corson Maritime Learning Center, the building has a new use as educational space for the National Historical Park. It features a theater, an exhibit on historic preservation in New Bedford, displays on New Bedford history, and spaces for educational programming and National Park Service offices. With this outstanding rehabilitation, the Corson Building will continue to be a vital center and a defining feature of New Bedford’s historic downtown.

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