Museum History

Originally founded as the “Antiquarian and Historical Society of Old Newbury”, the Museum of Old Newbury has grown significantly since its founding in 1877.  In its early days, the organization made use of space at the Newburyport Public Library to collect and study local history in the midst of patriotic fervor at the nation’s centennial.   Today, the Museum includes three historic buildings, a
restored 19th century garden, and a robust collection of local documents, photographs, and artifacts ranging from furniture to paintings to clothing.

By the early 1900s, the Society acquired its own space, a home at the corner of High and Winter Streets bequeathed by member Helen Balch Fowler.  Here, the Society constructed a fireproof brick addition for storage of its growing collection.  These holdings were significantly increased in 1912 when the Newburyport Marine Society gifted their collection of nautical objects, ship portraits, and global souvenirs and curiosities to the Historical Society.  Since the Marine Society’s founding in 1772, member sea captains had been meeting to share their insight and experience with fellow seafarers, and amassing a collection of objects related to their business and travels.

In 1955, the Historical Society settled into its third and current home, a brick Federal period mansion at the corner of High and Fruit Streets.  The Cushing House, home of Newburyport’s favorite son and first mayor Caleb Cushing, was given to the Society by the heirs of Margaret Cushing, Caleb’s niece and longtime Society benefactor.  Upon her death at age 100, Margaret had lived in the house her entire life and made few updates or changes.  The home was thus beautifully preserved and still boasts some original carpet, wallpaper, and fixtures.

Today, the Museum of Old Newbury operates from the Cushing House, Newburyport’s only National Historic Landmark.  Through tours, public programs, and archival access, the Museum brings the history of Newburyport, Newbury, and West Newbury to life for visitors from near and far.