Moby Dick Herman Melville whale house New Bedford hotel airbnb


NEW BEDFORD – Since 1855, The Whalehouse has been known to locals as the place where Herman Melville stayed when he visited the city, a prestigious art school and a bed & breakfast. Now it serves as Airbnb.

“There is so much creative energy here,” said Laura Parrish, 36, owner of the historic Madison Street home. “When I can open it up to other people doing creative things in this place, I just feel like it just makes sense.”

The three-story Victorian house was built by whale merchant Henry Taber, who gave the house to his daughter Abby Taber Hunt as a wedding gift.

In 1862, after the death of Abby Taber Hunt’s husband, she returned to live with her father and rented the house to Catherine Melville Hoadley, sister of “Moby-Dick” author Herman Melville. He stayed in the house while he visited his family.

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For much of the mid to late 20th century, the house served as a Swain school of art and design. Years later it has grown into a bed and breakfast. In 2015, Parrish bought the house, renovated it, and soon after opened Airbnb.

The house is now in two sections – the guest suite and an event rental space. The two spots are separate and fully soundproofed from each other. The guest suite, which was originally the servants’ quarters, can comfortably accommodate two guests. It has its own private entrance, fully furnished with a mix of antiques and modern style decor.

View of the dining room from the entrance to The Whalehouse, an Airbnb available property on Madison Street in New Bedford that once belonged to Herman Melville's sister and where he stayed when he visited her.

None of the items in the house are from the original owners, but rather items that Parrish found on weekend antiques as well as from the personal collection of her husband Thomas Lavin.

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“He said when he moved here that he felt like he was collecting his whole life to have a place where he could finally make it perfect,” Parrish said of her husband’s vintage items.

The bedroom includes a queen bed and a walk-in closet, a bathroom with a glass-enclosed shower, a small kitchen, a living room with a pull-out sofa bed and a dining area.

Parrish said before the pandemic, guests would be visiting from across the country as well as overseas. Now, she says, the majority of visitors are locals who need to get out of their homes for a few days.

The Airbnb is located in the guest suite at the Whalehouse on Madison Street in New Bedford.

“I feel so humbled that I can make someone find a sense of serenity here because that’s what this place is to me,” she said.

The other side of the first floor is available for rent for events such as wedding and boudoir photoshoots, publications, advertisements, or small gatherings. The house was also used as a filming location for A&E and Discovery ID.

Is it haunted?

Parrish says she has heard stories from the locals about a few hauntings around the house, but she hasn’t personally witnessed anything. “I have only had great feelings here,” she said.

A quote from Herman Melville can be seen on the wall above the fireplace, while a wooden whale sits on the coffee table below inside The Whalehouse, an Airbnb available property on Madison Street in New Bedford which once belonged to Herman Melville's sister and where he stayed when he visited her.

However, her husband had an interaction. Supposedly, there is a myth that a female spirit goes up and down the stairs every night. Parrish said her husband heard footsteps and once saw a woman’s face in the shadows.

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“I don’t know. I only felt kindness,” Parrish added. In 1996, a priest in Fall River performed an exorcism on the house because the previous owners allegedly had problems. (But that’s all) what Parrish said she knew.)

“Every time I do something around the house, like I’m renovating a room, I say, ‘Hi house, I just want you to know that I love your house and that everything will be fine. she declared. “I think if there’s something here, they know I’m doing things with love.”

Who is the owner?

Born in Boston, Parrish grew up in Duxbury, Massachusetts. She attended Boston University to study graphic design. She works remotely in digital advertising as an experience design director for a California company. She previously owned the Track + Channel business on North 6th Street for a short time.

“I have always liked unique things. I’ve always liked challenges, ”she said.

Owner Laura Parrish-Lavin talks about the challenges of owning The Whalehouse, an Airbnb available property on Madison Street in New Bedford that once belonged to Herman Melville's sister and where he stayed when he visited her .

Parrish first visited New Bedford because she was interested in photographing abandoned buildings and unique architecture. At the time, she was in the process of buying a former candy factory in Chelsea, but the deal fell through. Soon after, she found The Whalehouse available on Zillow.

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“I always had this dream of owning an old house and fixing it,” Parrish said. “There’s just something about the energy here that was just like ‘Yes!’

“… And if you are moving to New Bedford, you have to be as close to ‘Moby-Dick’ as possible,” she said with a laugh.

During the pandemic, Parrish met her husband and they were married on August 20 at The Whalehouse. “We both wanted to do something simple,” she said. “It’s about two people and love, and coming together. So we used the house.

Thomas Lavin, left, Laura Parrish, right, celebrate their wedding at the Whalehouse on August 20.

They also own a property in East Falmouth, a 1940s cottage that they are also in the process of converting to Airbnb.

Invite people to enjoy New Bedford

Parrish says she and her husband have no interest in selling the house anytime soon. “This house has so much of our hearts and it’s really special to both of us, I would never want to be without it,” Parrish said. “For me, this is something that I would like to give to my children someday.”

Parrish, who is a board member for Rotch-Jones-Duff House, WHALE and the New Bedford Festival Theater, says she loves the whaling town and tries to encourage everyone she knows to come to her. to visit. “There’s a lot of cool stuff going on here. Looks like it’s about to be something really big, ”she said.

Owner Laura Parrish-Lavin walks past the entrance to the billiard room inside The Whalehouse, an Airbnb available property on Madison Street in New Bedford that once belonged to Herman Melville's sister and where he stayed when he visited her.

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Parrish said that was also one of the reasons she opened the Airbnb – to attract more tourism to New Bedford and help show off the area. “I think it’s such a cool city. I’ve been here for almost seven years and I see so much… culture, history, great people, smart people, talented people… I just love being here.

“I hope customers leave with a genuine appreciation for New Bedford.”

Standard-Times team writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at [email protected] Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.

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