A new street is born out of necessity
On the New Bedford side of the Acushnet River, Bridge Street abutted the farm owned by the Kemptons. In 1788 Ephraim Kempton, son of William Kempton was the current owner of the farm. His farm lay smack dab in the middle of physical and economic progress of the two cities. After people would cross Bridge Street and enter New Bedford they typically would go north or south along the waterfront or the many markets and businesses that lay on streets like Front, Water, Rodman and Centre. It was only a matter of time before people would, out of necessity need to get to other parts of the city in a more direct manner.
Ephraim decided to build a street going through the middle of his farm that connected to Bridge Street so as to maintain the progress of the city. Eventually the name Middle Street came into common parlance and replaced the Bridge Street name. The foresight that Ephraim had was born out as within that year Middle Street would undergo two extensions. Within 10 years it would reach County Street.
Middle Street Timeline
c1759: Granddaughter of Joseph Russel mentions an Indian Wigwam sat in the woods in what would eventually be Bridge and Middle Street.
1788: John Howland purchases property on the south side of Middle street and extends a wharf from it. Throughout the year the street would be extended two more times. First extended to meet Water Street, then to 2nd Street.
1792: Matthew Howland builds Samuel Rodman’s first house on the southwest corner of Middle and Water Streets.
1798: Middle Street is extended to County Road (now County Street.)
1799: McPherson-Bullock house built.
1804: John Avery Parker builds his first of many homes on the southeast corner of Purchase and Middle Streets.
1806: Post Office is moved to a site on Middle Street.
c1813: John Howland builds stone building for an oil manufacturing company on the corner of Middle and Water. It stood where is now the front of the Standard-Times Building on the JKF Memorial Highway.
1832: Post Office vacates it’s spot on Middle Street and locates to a small wooden building on Union Street.
1833: John Avery Parker purchases property at the foot of Middle Street and it’s called Parker Block.
1833: Sixth Street was extended from Elm Street to Middle Street. North Christian Church, designed by Russell Warren in a Greek Revival Style.
1836: The Post Office-Customs House is built.
1837: Middle Street is extended from County Street to Summer Street.
1844: Middle Street School is built.
1845: New Bedford High School built on the corner of Summer and Middle Street.
1852: Portions of Middle Street receive public sewer works.
1859: Vessel the John & Edward, 20 buildings, and 8,000 barrels of oil are burned in a fire that destroys sections of Middle Street.
1869: Possible first use of Macadam roads at Bridge Square.
1881: New Bedford Co-Operative Bank opens at 125 Middle Street.
1889: The New Bedford Co-Operative Bank becomes the Acushnet Co-Operative Bank.
1901: Main Building at Parker Block/Bridge Square torn down.
1902: The New Bedford Home for the Aged is incorporated at 396 Middle Street.
1922: North Christian Church is demolished and replaced with Sear’s Roebuck Store on corner of Middle and Purchase Streets.
1970: Explosion at 2:30 a.m. at 209 Middle Street, Sully’s Inn and Italian Spaghetti House.
1973: Urban renewal leads to the demolition of many houses.
1976: Middle Street becomes one of the boundaries for the County Street Historic District.
1980: Middle Street becomes one of the boundaries for the Central New Bedford Historic District, which includes City Hall.
2011: Hurricane Irene sends 4 boats crashing into the New Bedford/Fairhaven Bridge.
If you have any corrections, additions, advice or anecdotes to share please comment below or e-mail us at email@example.com.
#02: Elm Baptist Church circa 1920, Middle Street East of County. Photo by Joseph S. Martin.
#03: Christian Church circa 1870. Middle and 6th Streets with 2 children in foreground. By Stephen F. Adams.
#04: Old New Bedford Custom House Corner – Water and Middle Streets. Photo by Gifford R. Swain.
#05: Corner of Middle and Purchase Streets. Photo by N.B. Whaling Museum.
#06: New Bedford High School circa 1905 on Middle & Summer Streets. By N.B. Whaling Museum.
#07: McPherson-Bullock House on corner of Middle and North Second Streets circa 1905. By Fred W. Palmer.
#08: Parker Block/Bridge Square at the end of junction of Bridge and Middle Streets. By N.B. Whaling Museum
#09: Parker Block/Bridge Square rounding Middle Street to Front Street. By N.B. Whaling Museum.
#10: Health department – 116 Middle Street. By Spinner Publications.
#11: Looking down Middle Street 1934. By Spinner Publications.
#12: School at Middle and Summer Streets. By Spinner Publications.
#13: Northwest corner of Purchase and Middle Streets. By Spinner Publications.
#14: Purchase and Middle Street circa 1940s.