How New Bedford’s Car Barn Building Got Its Name
You've driven by it countless times on I-195, but chances are you have no idea how it earned its name.
The Car Barn is now an apartment building in the Weld Square section of New Bedford. The radial brick chimney proudly stands as one of the most recognizable landmarks in New Bedford. It's not quite the Whaling City version of the Citgo sign, but it's not too far off.
With such a recognizable presence, there's no doubt everyone knows the origin of New Bedford's Car Barn – or do they?
While the Car Barn has housed apartments for as long as I've been in town, it never occurred to me how the building got its name. If I had to take a guess, I would have thought it was a former car dealership. The Car Barn sounds like a great place to buy a car. I could hear the Fun 107 radio commercials now with guys like Manny and Jeff talking about the great deals the Car Barn has this Fourth of July Weekend.
It may surprise you to find out, though, that New Bedford's Car Barn has been around a lot longer than cars.
We stumbled across this nearly 100-year-old video that shows New Bedford's Car Barn in its original form. It was a hub for New Bedford's horse-drawn streetcars in the late 1800s. Back in the spring of the year 1921, the Union Railway Company decided to honor its streetcar origin with a parade.
This silent film shows the crowds lining Purchase Street to watch as the horse-drawn streetcar passes by with some of the city's dignitaries riding inside. It's astonishing to see the number of people that this event attracted. Attendance must have been in the thousands.
Interestingly enough, people were packed shoulder to shoulder just three years after the Spanish Flu devastated the United States. If you were wondering if we'll ever shake hands again, the mayor is seen shaking hands with everyone in sight.
The video boasted that while the service on the New Bedford streetcars had significant advancements since its launch in 1872, the price in 1921 hadn't changed in 49 years. Each streetcar ride was only five cents.