Market Square Historic District

photo - Market Square Historic District
Market Square
Newburyport, MA 01950

Located in Newburyport, the Market Square Historic District is one of the last seaport business districts remaining from the golden days of New England shipping. Market Square served as a market since American Indians met early explorers from England, France and Holland on the banks of the Merrimack River to trade furs and fish. In 1796, workers completed the canal connecting Newburyport with inland areas, which made Market Square the trading center for a good portion of interior New England and for sections of the Canadian border. An extensive fire in 1811 destroyed virtually every building in the area. To prevent a similar catastrophe once the Market Square area was rebuilt, the city passed an act promoting the construction of brick or stone buildings, limiting the height of wooden buildings to 25 feet high, and requiring massive fire walls to be built between buildings. Most of the buildings standing in the Market Square Historic District today were built during a 21-year period following the fire and strictly followed the building code. 

A majority of the Federal style buildings facing the Square are brick row houses, three stories high and three bays wide, with commercial space below. The ridge roofs topping the row houses are separated by fire walls. Two of the most historically significant buildings in the district are the Market House and the U.S. Customhouse. Construction on the Market House began in 1823. It is a Federal style, brick building with a nine-bay facade. The U.S. Customhouse at 25 Water Street forms the east boundary of the Market Square Historic District. American architect Robert Mills designed this Neo-Classical Revival building in 1835. It currently serves as the Custom House Maritime Museum.


  • Historic Resources
  • Early Settlement Trail
  • Industrial Theme Trail
  • Maritime Theme Trail
  • Scenic Vistas
Essex Coastal Scenic Byway
Rail Trail
Rail Trail Trailhead