ECW Weekender: Nathan & Polly Johnson’s House (Virtually)

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m going a little “stir-crazy” this week…and it’s been rainy, making it not as easy to just head out for a walk. So, I starting thinking about places I want to travel, and as I reviewed the list, I remembered New Bedford, Massachusetts.

New Bedford was the capital of the 19th Century whaling industry. And what’s that got to do with the Civil War? Well, some of New Bedford’s homes served as important safe houses on the Underground Railroad. Frederick Douglass also lived in New Bedford just after his escape from slavery.

Nathan and Polly Johnson’s House (NPS website photo)

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park is a thirteen block district, preserving the history and architecture of this Massachusetts harbor city. One of the preserved sites is the home owned by Nathan and Mary “Polly” Johnson, free African Americans. The Johnsons used their home as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and it was also the first place Frederick Douglass settled in 1838 when he arrived in the north.

The home is not usually open to the public, but the National Park Serive and New Bedford Historical Society have made it possible to take a virtual tour from anywhere, at anytime. (As long as you have internet!) There’s both a video tour and an interactive virtual tour. Happy exploring!

The Nathan & Polly Johnson House – Virtual Visit

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park – NPS Foundation Website

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park – NPS Website (to plan your visit when the park reopens!)

And if you’re planning a trip to New Bedford, don’t forget that Herman Melville lived there! In addition to his famed novel, Moby Dick, he also wrote some Civil War poetry.

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, editor, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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