Tuesday, Jun 3, 2008
New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park joined with dignitaries, partners, and community members to cut the ribbon on the new Corson Maritime Learning Center on Friday, May 16th. Senator Edward M. Kennedy offered the keynote address. Other guests included Congressman Barney Frank, National Park Service Northeast Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach, State Senator Mark Montigny, State Representative Antonio Cabral, Waterfront Historic Area League (WHALE) Executive Director Lisa Sughrue, and former WHALE Director Tony Sousa. The occasion was followed by an open house where over three hundred people toured the new facility and exhibits.
During the ceremony, Senator Kennedy remarked, âWhat you have all built here will ensure that generations to come will learn about New Bedfordâs remarkable history and enduring spirit. Needless to say, we also owe thanks to the National Park Service and its staff who have worked so hard and well with our community to make this new vision a reality.â
The Corson Building, located next to the park visitor, consists of two three-story brick structures built in 1875 and 1884. For many years the Corson Building housed Moby-Dick Marine Specialties on its first floor, a popular shopping stop for visitors to the historic district. In 1997, a devastating fire ripped through the building. The Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE), a non-profit preservation organization, came to the building's rescue after the fire, acquired the building through a donation from the Piva family, and secured the funds for stabilization. WHALE, in turn, donated the building to the National Park Service in 2004. The Denver Service Center, the Northeast Region, Harperâs Ferry Design Center and New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park completed a $6.4 million rehabilitation of the building.
âThis facility which includes new interpretive exhibits, a theater, and education and archival space, will enable the park and its partners to celebrate and share our whaling and maritime heritage with visitors and the community,â said superintendent Celeste Bernardo. âWe are grateful to the organizations and individuals who worked so hard to make the Corson Maritime Learning Center a reality.â
New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park was established by Congress in 1996. One of 390 National Park Service areas, it is the National Park Service site addressing the history of the whaling industry and its influence on the economic, social and environmental history of the United States. The park includes New Bedfordâs 13-block waterfront historic district, Schooner Ernestina, the Rotch-Jones-Duff House & Garden Museum and several sites along the waterfront. The legislation establishing the park also established a connection between the NPS and the IÃ±upiat Heritage Center in Barrow, Alaska.