Once upon a time, it was relatively easy to lure tourists to historic New Bedford. The city straddles U.S. Route 6 which, before the completion of Interstate 195, was the only way to drive to Cape Cod from places such as Providence and New York.

In a June 9, 1963 article in the New York Times, Arthur Davenport said of New Bedford, "This prosperous and bustling city was once the whaling capital of the world, and the residents still take real pleasure in recounting the glories of the past."

Davenport's article examined the long-defunct Moby Dick Trail that guided tourists to some of the highlights of a bygone era in New Bedford and Fairhaven.

"The visitor catches on quickly that New Bedford was the home port for Herman Melville and that it gave to him much of the background material for his internationally known whaling tale Moby Dick," wrote Davenport.

The Moby Dick Trail Guided Visitors To New Bedford And Fairhaven
Courtesy Spinner Publications

"The Moby Dick Trail seems to have been started in 1962, mostly by Fairhaven people, including Miss Elizabeth I Hastings, who was a longtime educator, member of the Fairhaven Improvement Association, and probably one of the founders of the Fairhaven Historical Society," former Fairhaven Tourism Director Chris Richard said.

Tourists could pick up a Moby Dick Trail brochure at the tourist information booth at Route 6 and Brownell Avenue in New Bedford and follow the trail map to its conclusion at the Captain Warren Delano House on Walnut Street in Fairhaven, the 31st trail attraction. There were 19 trail stops in New Bedford and 12 in Fairhaven.

Moby Dick Trail signs with harpoons were posted along the way to keep tourists on track.

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Richard says the Moby Dick Trail lasted probably until the early 80s.

"Because it was intended to get drivers along Route 6 to explore the area on the way to the Cape, it was probably Route I-195 that led to the trail becoming obsolete," he said.

The Moby Dick Trail Guided Visitors To New Bedford And Fairhaven
Courtesy Spinner Publications

"Today, there are so many more historical locations available to the public in New Bedford and Fairhaven that the Moby Dick Trail seems quaint in comparison," he said.

Former New Bedford City Planner Richard Walega disagreed with that notion. In 2007 a letter published in the Standard-Times, Walega called for the restoration of the Moby Dick Trail.

"Greater New Bedford misses a wonderful opportunity for 'branding' by ignoring the legacy and past success of the Moby Dick Trail," Walega argued.

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