Newburyport is a small, coastal city in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States, northeast of Boston. The population was 17,416 at the 2010 census. A historic seaport with a vibrant tourism industry, Newburyport includes part of Plum Island. The mooring, winter storage and maintenance of recreational boats, motor and sail, still contribute a large part of the city's income. A Coast Guard station oversees boating activity, especially in the swift tidal currents of the Merrimack River.
At the edge of the Newbury Marshes, delineating Newburyport to the south, an industrial park provides a wide range of jobs. Newburyport is on a major north-south highway, Interstate 95. The outer circumferential highway of Boston, Interstate 495, passes nearby in Amesbury. The Newburyport Turnpike (U.S. Route 1) still traverses Newburyport on its way north. The commuter rail line to Boston ends in a new station at Newburyport. The earlier Boston and Maine Railroad leading further north was discontinued, but a portion of it has been converted into a recreation trail.
Whereas the town of Newbury is very large, and the inhabitants of that part of it who dwell by the water-side there, as it is commonly called, are mostly merchants, traders and artificers, and the inhabitants of the other parts of the town are chiefly husbandmen; by means whereof many difficulties and disputes have arisen in managing their public affairs – Be it enacted ... That that part of the said town of Newbury ... be and hereby are constituted and made a separate and distinct town ....
The act was approved by Governor Francis Bernard on February 4, 1764. The new town was the smallest in Massachusetts, covering an area of , and had a population of 2,800 living in 357 homes. There were three shipyards, no bridges, and several ferries, one of which at the foot of Greenleaf Lane, now State Street, carried the Portsmouth Flying Stage Coach, running between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Boston.
The town prospered and became a city in 1851. Situated near the mouth of the Merrimack River, it was once a fishing, shipbuilding and shipping center, with an industry in silverware manufacture. Merrimack Arms and Brown Manufacturing Company made Southerner Derringer pistols in their Newburyport factory from 1867 to 1873. The captains of old Newburyport (as elsewhere in Massachusetts) had participated vigorously in the triangular trade, importing West Indian molasses and exporting rum made from it. The distilleries were located around Market Square near the waterfront. Caldwell's Old Newburyport rum was manufactured locally until well into the 19th-century.
Although the purchase of slaves in Massachusetts was illegal, ownership of slaves purchased elsewhere was not; consequently the fine homes on High Street were staffed by African and Native American slaves until the newly independent General Court of Massachusetts abolished slavery altogether in the Revolutionary War.
Newburyport had never been comfortable with slavery. It had been a frequent topic of pulpit rhetoric. After the Revolutionary War, abolitionism took a firm hold. Several citizens are recognized by the National Park Service for their contributions to the Underground Railroad. The abolitionist movement reached a peak with the activities of William Lloyd Garrison, who was born in Newburyport and raised in its anti-slavery climate. His statue stands in Brown Square, which was the scene of abolitionist meetings.
Newburyport once had a fishing fleet that operated from Georges Bank to the mouth of the Merrimack River. It was a center for privateering during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. Beginning about 1832, it added numerous ships to the whaling fleet. Later, clipper ships were built there. Today, the city gives little hint of its former maritime importance. Notably missing are the docks, which are shown on earlier maps extending into the channel of the Merrimack River, and the shipyards, where the waterfront parking lot is currently located.
The city's historical highlights include:
Historic houses and museums: