About the Museum and a little Mattapoisett History…

MHSM Meetinghouse 1821

Long before the English first began to settle New England, Mattapoisett was already home to summer residents:  Native Americans who used the heads of the harbors as their summer villages. The name Mattapoisett comes from the Wampanoag name for this scenic harbor, and is interpreted: Place of Rest.

In its day, Mattapoisett was the most famous whaleship building port in the world.  The list of vessels known to have been built in Mattapoisett now numbers 300; and indications show that if the early Customs House records of Nantucket and New Bedford would be available, this number would be doubled.  Mattapoisett built ships not only for Nantucket and New Bedford, but for Salem, Boston, Yarmouth, Barnstable, Fairhaven, Edgartown, Dartmouth, Westport, Newport, Providence, New London, Sag Harbor, New York, and as far south as Delaware.  The shipbuilders came to Mattapoisett some 25 years before the American Revolution.

Mattapoisett Historical Society

1865 was the last big year of this splendid business. The ship building yards built several more boats, but the industry was dying. The Holmes yard built five more whalers, the last being the well-known bark Wanderer in 1878.  For the last time the hammering of the caulker awakened echoes throughout the area.  For the last time ship’s carpenters had their glass of “grog” at “eleven and four”. And, for the last time, the townspeople gathered to see a graceful vessel start slowly, and then glide down the greased ways into the harbor.

After the end of the Civil War, as the ship building business began to wan in Mattapoisett, a new industry was born:  Summer People.  With easy access to Mattapoisett provided by the railroad station in town, and the natural beauty of the harbor, Mattapoisett became the summer resting place for the wealthy of Boston.

The first to see the possibilities were Mr. and Mrs. George M. Barnard who came in the fall of 1869, purchasing most of Cannonville, Ned’s Point and the Neck.  Among the other early summer visitors were Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and his son, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who lived out at the Old Cowen place at Crescent Beach, and J. Lewis Stackpole who converted the Hall blacksmith shop west of Water Street into a “summer house on the sea sands”.

Along with the homes built around the harbor, Mattapoisett’s beaches were opened up to the influx of summer residents.  In 1893, the Dexter family owned the Pico Beach area and built three bedroom houses along the shore.  These furnished homes were rented out for the summer for $25.  The Hillers sold lots on Crescent Beach.  Houses were built at the water’s edge to take advantage of the view and the breezes.  Point Connett, Pease’s Point, Mattapoisett Neck and Brandt Island were also built upon as the summer population continued to expand throughout the early 20th century.

Despite the passage of time, little has changed during Mattapoisett summers.  Beach communities still thrive, boats still fill the harbor, and people flock to the beaches-just with less material covering their bodies!  Activities still center outside with yachting, paddle boarding, and windsurfing at Ned’s Point being very popular.  The Town Beach is always crowded, and Harbor Days and Heritage Days always draw crowds.  Mattapoisett is still a Place of Rest.

At the Mattapoisett Museum and Carriage House, visitors enjoy engaging history exhibits ranging from Mattapoisett’s shipbuilding roots to the impact of Hurricanes on the community. Fun and educational programs for families and youth include a Holiday Toy Train Show, a Fall Festival, Sea Chantey performances, Scavenger Hunts, Special Activities during school vacations and Interactive Walking Tours exploring the Town.

The Mattapoisett Historical Society also hosts lectures led by distinguished scholars and historians that illuminate history through dialogue with the larger community. Researchers from across the country utilize the unique resources in the Francis Rowland Research Room including genealogy and family papers that date back to the 1600s.

The Museum Shop:
The Museum Shop features a wide selection of Mattapoisett gifts and books.
We will be opening our online store soon!

Thursday  10 a.m – 4 p.m.
Friday-Saturday  1-4 p.m.

September-June: by appointment only

Group tours and Special Visits are Available.
Please call (508) 758-2844 to schedule a visit.
During the off season, the Curator is available Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

$5 Adults, children free.
Historical Society Members are free.



See Map

Mattapoisett Museum and Carriage House
5 Church Street, Mattapoisett, MA 02739
(508) 758-2844

From I-195:
Take exit 19A toward Mattapoisett. Merge onto North Street at the end of the exit ramp.  Follow North Street through the traffic light at the intersection of Route 6.  Continue down North Street to Church Street.  Make a right onto Church Street.  The Museum will be down Church Street on the right.