U.S. Customhouse (Newburyport)

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U.S. Customhouse (Newburyport)
Photo by Jeremy D'Entremont, www.lighthouse.cc
Built in 1835, the U.S. Customhouse was used by the Federal government to collect taxes on imported goods brought to Newburyport by ship captains from ports abroad. The collection of duties on such merchandise began in 1789 in Newburyport. Following the construction of the U.S. Customhouse, receipts reached a maximum in 1875 and 1876 when more than $100,000 was collected in duties largely from sugar and molasses shipped to the local firm of Bayley and Sons from the West Indies. Bayley and Sons dissolved in 1877, after which the principle revenue of the Newburyport Customhouse came from soft coal or occasional cargos of molasses and tea. The volume of maritime trade conducted in Newburyport steadily declined until the U.S. Customhouse closed in 1910.

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U.S. Customhouse (Newburyport)
Photo courtesy of Annie Harris, Essex National Heritage Area

The Newburyport Customhouse was designed by noted architect Robert Mills—the first architect of international reputation both born and trained in America. The two-story, rectangular, Neo-Classical building is made of granite with granite-block pilasters at each corner. The gable roof features an unornamented pediment at each end. At the entrance, a one-story porch projects from the building's fašade and two columns support the entablature. Robert Mills is also known for designing important buildings and structures in Washington, D.C., such as the U.S. Treasury, the Old Post Office, the Patent Office and the Washington Monument. Today, the U.S. Customhouse is situated within the Market Square Historic District, on the edge of the city's central business district and in sight of the Merrimack River and Newburyport Harbor. It currently serves as a maritime museum exhibiting original objects from Newburyport's prosperous trade era, maritime art, models of locally-built vessels, maps of trade routes and journals and old maps of the city's origins.

The U.S. Customhouse is located at 25 Water St. in Newburyport. It is operated as a maritime museum by the Newburyport Maritime Society. At this time the museum is closed until further notice due to damage caused by spring floods. For further information, please call 978-462-8681 or visit the Newburyport Maritime Society's website.

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