Museums & Historic Sites

Top Historic Sites on Nantucket

October 16, 2023

Visiting the historic sites on Nantucket is a wonderful way to explore the island’s rich history and experience its unique charm. Nantucket has a well-preserved historic district with cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture, and intriguing museums. Let’s explore some of the top historic sites to visit on Nantucket

Visiting Historic Sites on Nantucket

“People are quick to make monuments of anything they live long enough to control”. – Hilton Als

1. Nantucket Historical Association

top historic sites on nantucket

Address: 15 Broad St
City/State/Zip Code: Nantucket, Massachusetts 02554

Activity: Guided Walking Tours

Description: The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties. They offer guided walking tours (late May through October) of the Hadwen House, the Old Mill (the oldest working windmill in the country) and the 1686 saltbox, Jethro Coffin House.

Taking a tour with the NHA is a great way to see many of the historic sites on Nantucket at the same time with a knowledgeable guide to lead you. It is best to make a reservation.

“Monument, n. A structure intended to commemorate
something which either needs no commemoration or cannot be commemorated”. – Ambrose Bierce

2. Jethro Coffin House

top historic sites on nantucket

Address: 16 Sunset Hill Ln
City/State/Zip Code: Nantucket, MA 02554

The Jethro Coffin House, located on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, is a historic gem dating back to the 1680s. It’s one of the oldest houses on the island and serves as a prime example of colonial-era architecture.

This saltbox-style house offers visitors a step back in time with its period furnishings, wooden beams, and charming atmosphere. It’s not only a museum but also a window into Nantucket’s early history, making it a must-visit destination for history buffs and those curious about the island’s heritage.

“I am not concern about my posthumous fame. Monuments are no good to the dead”. – Varg Vikernes

3. Hadwen House

top historic sites on nantucket

Address: 96 Main St
City/State/Zip Code: Nantucket, MA 02554

Hadwen House is a historic mansion located on Nantucket. Built in 1846, it is a splendid example of Greek Revival architecture. The house was originally constructed for whaling merchant William Hadwen and his family.

It features grand columns, ornate interiors, and period furnishings, offering visitors a glimpse into the island’s prosperous 19th-century whaling era. Today, Hadwen House is part of the Nantucket Historical Association and serves as a museum, preserving the island’s rich maritime history and architectural heritage.

4. Whaling Museum

top historic sites on nantucket

Address: 13 Broad St
City/State/Zip Code: Nantucket, MA 02554

The Nantucket Whaling Museum is a captivating institution that delves into the island’s maritime history. Housed in a historic candle factory, it features an impressive collection of artifacts, art, and exhibits related to Nantucket’s whaling industry, which was a vital part of the island’s economy in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Visitors can explore intricately crafted scrimshaw, whaling equipment, and learn about the island’s role in the whaling era. It’s an educational and immersive experience that offers a window into Nantucket’s seafaring past.

The poet’s scrolls will outlive the monuments of stone. Genius survives; All else is claimed by death”.
– Edmund Spenser

5. Greater Light

top historic sites on nantucket

Address: 8 Howards St
City/State/Zip Code: Nantucket, MA 02554

Greater Light, located in Nantucket, Massachusetts, is a historic house and art center. It was originally the home of two Quaker sisters, Gertrude, and Hanna Monaghan, who transformed the property into a unique living space in the early 20th century.

The house is known for its distinctive architectural features, including large skylights that fill the interior with natural light. Today, Greater Light serves as an art center and museum, highlighting exhibitions and events that celebrate Nantucket’s artistic and cultural heritage. It’s a testament to the island’s creative spirit and historical significance.

“Often the crowd does not recognize a leader until he has gone, and then they build a monument for him with the stones they threw at him in life”.
– J. Oswald Sanders

6. Great Point Lighthouse

top historic sites on nantucket

City/State: Nantucket
Island, Massachusetts

Great Point Lighthouse, situated at the northern tip of Nantucket, is an iconic maritime landmark with a history dating back to 1784. This historic lighthouse has been instrumental in guiding ships safely through the treacherous waters of Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

It stands as a stark, weather-beaten structure, characterized by its distinctive red stripes. Visitors can reach Great Point Lighthouse via off-road vehicles or by hiking along scenic trails, providing a unique opportunity to appreciate its historical significance and breathtaking coastal vistas.

7. Old Jail

top historic sites on nantucket

Address: 15 R Vestal Street
City/State: Nantucket,MA

In 1696 on Vestal Street, Nantucket built its first jail. Reinforced in 1805, the wooden structure, represents colonial architecture, became known as the “New Gaol”. The last prisoner was kept in here in 1933. In 1946 what is now known as the “Old Goal” was deeded to Nantucket Historical Association.

8. The Old Mill

top historic sites on nantucket

Address: 50 Prospect Street
City/State: Nantucket, MA

The Old Mill, thought to be the oldest operating windmill in the U.S. in its original location, continues to grind corn into cornmeal today as it did in 1746 when it was built.
The Old Mill was built in 1746 by Nathan Wilbur, a sailor from Nantucket who returned from visiting Holland. Today it is the only remaining mill of the 5 that were once found on the island.

Sold in 1828 to a carpenter, Jared Gardner, the mill was restored to its original capacity to grind corn. After more repairs over the years the mill is still capable of grinding corn just as it did two hundred and fifty years ago.

More Exploration of Nantucket History

To make the most of your historic exploration on Nantucket, consider taking guided tours offered by local organizations and museums. These tours often provide in-depth historical insights and stories that will enhance your understanding of the island’s past.

Enjoy your visit to the historic sites on Nantucket! To continue your exploration of the island’s rich history visits the Museums of Nantucket.

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