A Stroll Down Old North Wharf

Old North Wharf was originally built in 1770, following the construction of Straight Wharf in 1723 and Old South Wharf in the 1760s.

The original structures on Old North Wharf were all destroyed during the fire of 1846. By the 1870s, the area was bustling again with fishing and sailing. In the early 20th century, many of the warehouses, fishing shanties, boat building workshops, and carpenter’s shops were converted to artists’ studios, summer cottages, and “picnic houses.”

Join us on a digital stroll down Old North Wharf…

2 Old North Wharf: Barzillai Burdett, boat builder, c. 1856. Burdett built whaleboats, row boats, and small catboats in this shop. In 1887, he built the catboat Dauntless, which he used to ferry bathers from town to cliffside beaches.

4 Old North Wharf: While other working buildings have been converted to resort cottages, this warehouse remains a reminder of Nantucket’s working waterfront.

12 Old North Wharf (Mary F. Slade): Just where did the name Mary F. Slade come from? The Mary F. Slade was a three mast barque of 199 tons, 95 feet long, built in 1848 at a shipyard in Scituate Harbor. She was made of oak and iron and copper fastened. No details of how or when she was lost, or how her quarterboard reached Nantucket, but it is assumed she was lost on the a shoal off Nantucket.

10 Old North Wharf: Austin Strong Boathouse, 1923. Commodore, artist, playwright, and philanthropist Austin Strong was a colorful character—you’d have to be to be the man behind the Rainbow Fleet, step-grandson of Robert Louis Stevenson, and friend to puppeteer Tony Sarg. Strong was the first person on Old North Wharf to turn a fishing shanty into a boathouse—or more specifically, a “land yacht.”

18 Old North Wharf (Wharf Rat Club): This building was originally used for culling quahogs, then became a fishermen’s supply store. People started gathering to swap stories and hang around the shop, and by 1927 the Wharf Rat Club was established. Rats still tell stories there today, and there are no fees or official meetings. The only requisite for membership is the ability to tell a good story.

The cottages Lydia, Independence, Constitution/John Jay, Enterprise, and Nautilus were all named after whaling ships that belonged to brothers Charles and Henry Coffin. (Herman Melville’s one whaling voyage was aboard the Coffin-owned whaleship Charles & Henry.)

8 Old North Wharf (Essex, formerly Charles & Henry): Silvester Hodges Carpenter Shop. The buildings on Old North Wharf represent the evolution of Nantucket—from scallop shanties to carpenters’ shops to boat building workshops to artists’ studios to summer cottage, these structures changed with the island.

 

11 Old North Wharf (Enterprise): A boat storage and maintenance building from 1920 until the 1950s, Enterprise became a summer cottage in the 1960s.

 

There are lots more cottages to explore, as we find more information, we’ll update this post!