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Dartmouth, Massachusetts

Dartmouth Town Hall
Dartmouth Town Hall
Official seal of Dartmouth, Massachusetts
Utile Dulci (Latin)
"Useful and Agreeable"
Location in Bristol County in Massachusetts
Location in Bristol County in Massachusetts
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Bristol
Settled 1650; 373 years ago (1650)
Incorporated 1664; 359 years ago (1664)
 • Type Representative town meeting
 • Total 97.5 sq mi (252.6 km2)
 • Land 60.9 sq mi (157.8 km2)
 • Water 36.6 sq mi (94.8 km2)
125 ft (38 m)
 • Total 33,783
 • Density 346.39/sq mi (133.741/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Codes
02747, 02748, 02714
Area codes 508/774
FIPS code 25-16425
GNIS ID 0618279

Dartmouth (Massachusett: Apponeganset) is a coastal town in Bristol County, Massachusetts. Old Dartmouth was the first area of Southeastern Massachusetts to be settled by Europeans, primarily English. Dartmouth is part of New England's farm coast, which consists of a chain of historic coastal villages, vineyards, and farms. June 8, 2014 marked the 350th year of Dartmouth's incorporation as a town. It is also part of the Massachusetts South Coast. The local weekly newspapers are The Dartmouth/Westport Chronicle and Dartmouth Week'

The northern part of Dartmouth has the town's large commercial districts. The southern part of town abuts Buzzards Bay, and there are several other waterways, including Lake Noquochoke, Cornell Pond, Slocums River, Shingle Island River and Paskamansett River. The town has several working farms and one vineyard, which is part of the Coastal Wine Tour. With a thriving agricultural heritage, the town and state have protected many of the working farms.

The southern part of Dartmouth borders Buzzards Bay, where a lively fishing and boating community thrives; off its coast, the Elizabeth Islands and Cuttyhunk can be seen. The New Bedford Yacht Club in Padanaram hosts a bi-annual regatta. The town's unique historic villages and selection of coastal real estate has made it a destination for generations as a summering community. Notable affluent sections within South Dartmouth are Nonquitt, Round Hill, Barney's Joy, and Mishaum Point. It also has a number of year-round residents and a variety of activities through the year. As of the 2020 census, the year-round population of Dartmouth was 33,783.

Dartmouth is the third-largest town (by land area) in Massachusetts, after Plymouth and Middleborough. The distance from Dartmouth's northernmost border with Freetown to Buzzards Bay in the south is approximately 16 miles (26 km). The villages of Hixville, Bliss Corner, Padanaram, Smith Mills, and Russells Mills are located within the town. Dartmouth shares borders with Westport to the west, Freetown and Fall River to the north, Buzzards Bay to the south, and New Bedford to the east. Boat shuttles provide regular transportation daily to Martha's Vineyard and Cuttyhunk Island.


Dartmouth was first settled in 1650 and was officially incorporated in 1664. Dartmouth's history was that of an agricultural and seafaring community, but during the late 19th century its coastline became a resort area for the wealthy members of New England society.

It was named for the town of Dartmouth, Devon, England, from where the Puritans originally intended to depart for America. The land was purchased with trading goods from the Wampanoag chiefs Massasoit and Wamsutta by elders of the Plymouth Colony; reportedly thirty yards of cloth, eight moose skins, fifteen axes, fifteen hoes, fifteen pairs of shoes, one iron pot, and ten shillings' worth of assorted goods . It was sold to the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers, who wished to live outside the stringent religious laws of the Puritans in Plymouth.

There are still Quaker meeting houses in town, including the Smith Neck Meeting House, the Allens Neck Meeting House, and the Apponegansett Meeting House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The town's borders were originally named in the charter (and set by King Philip) as the lands of "Acushnea, Ponagansett, and Coaksett." This includes the land of the towns of Westport, Fairhaven, and Acushnet, and the city of New Bedford. In 1789, the towns of Westport and New Bedford, which included Fairhaven and Acushnet, separated and were incorporated as towns themselves.

The Lloyd Center for Environmental Studies, located in South Dartmouth, is a non-profit organization that provides educational programs on aquatic environments in southeastern New England. It is across the mouth of the Slocums River from Demarest Lloyd State Park, a popular state beach known for its shallow waters.

The Dartmouth Natural Resource Trust (DNRT) in South Dartmouth, holds over 1,500 conserved acres of land with 35 miles of hiking trails, ocean and river walks, photography tours, summer outdoor yoga series, bird watching, and plant identification. It's summer evening Barn Bash and winter fundraising auction are held annually.

Round Hill was the site of early-to-mid 20th century research into the uses of radio and microwaves for aviation and communication by MIT researchers. It is also the site of the Green Mansion, the estate of "Colonel" Edward Howland Robinson Green, a colorful character in his own right, who was son of the even more colorful and wildly eccentric Hetty Green, said to be the richest woman in the world in her time, who is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the "world's greatest miser".

In 1936, the Colonel died, and the estate fell into disrepair as litigation between his wife and his sister continued for eight years over his vast fortune. Finally, Mrs. Hetty Sylvia Wilks, the Colonel's sister, was ruled the sole beneficiary. In 1948, she bequeathed the entire estate to MIT, which used it for microwave and laser experiments. The giant antenna, which was a landmark to sailors on Buzzards Bay, was erected on top of a 50,000-gallon water tank. (After all efforts were made to preserve the structure, it was demolished on November 19, 2007.)

Another antenna was erected next to the mansion and used in the development of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. MIT continued to use Round Hill through 1964. It was then sold to the Society of Jesus of New England and was used as a retreat house. The upper floors were divided into 64 individual rooms. The main floor was fitted with a chapel, a library and meeting rooms. In 1970 the Jesuits sold the land and buildings to Gratia R. Montgomery. In 1981, Mrs. Montgomery sold most of the land to a group of developers who have worked to preserve the history, grandeur and natural environment. The property is now a gated, mostly summer residential community on the water featuring a nine-hole golf course.


Round hill telescope
The former MIT antenna atop Round Hill

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 97.5 square miles (252.6 km2). 60.9 square miles (157.8 km2) of it is land and 94.8 square kilometres (36.6 sq mi) of it, 37.53%, is water. It is the third largest town by area in Massachusetts.

The town is accessible by Interstate 195 and U.S. Route 6, which run parallel to each other through the northern-main business part town from New Bedford to Westport on an east-west axis within a mile or two apart from one another.

Massachusetts Route 140 and Massachusetts Route 24 are located just inside the boundaries in New Bedford and Fall River respectively providing access to Boston and points north of the area and is accessible by Interstate 195 and US Route 6. Massachusetts Route 177 also begins on the edge of town (in Dartmouth) on the border with Westport, accessible by US Route 6 near Lake Noquochoke, the Westport River's source. Route 177 runs west into Rhode Island linking Tiverton and Little Compton, and Aquidneck Island (The Newport area/Newport County) with the Fall River-New Bedford area.

Both Tiverton, RI and Little Compton, RI are geographically part of Massachusetts and are separated from the rest of Rhode Island by direct interstate highway access so smaller routes connect to the area (RI 138, MA/RI 24, RI 177/MA 177, and MA 81, and MA 88). Route 24 lies an average of 15 to 20 miles away in Tiverton, RI and Little Compton, RI, Massachusetts Routes 177 and Massachusetts Route 140 and Massachusetts Route 24 are based upon old Indian routes and trails.

Dartmouth includes the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve that extends from Fall River into many protected forests of North Dartmouth in the Collins Corner, Faunce Corner, and Hixville sections of town. The Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve actually extends its protected forest lands into the Freetown-Fall River State Forest and beyond.

There are many rivers that flow north-south in Dartmouth, such as the Copicut River, Shingle Island River, Paskamanset River, Slocums River, Destruction Brook, and Little River. Dartmouth is divided into two primary sections: North Dartmouth (USPS ZIP code 02747) and South Dartmouth (USPS ZIP code 02748).

The town is bordered by Westport to the west, New Bedford to the east, Fall River to the north, and Buzzards Bay/the Atlantic Ocean to the south.

The highest point in the town is near its northwest corner, where the elevation rises to over 256 feet (78 m) above sea level north of Old Fall River Road.


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1850 3,868 —    
1860 3,883 +0.4%
1870 3,367 −13.3%
1880 3,430 +1.9%
1890 3,122 −9.0%
1900 3,669 +17.5%
1910 4,378 +19.3%
1920 6,493 +48.3%
1930 8,778 +35.2%
1940 9,011 +2.7%
1950 11,115 +23.3%
1960 14,607 +31.4%
1970 18,800 +28.7%
1980 23,966 +27.5%
1990 27,244 +13.7%
2000 30,666 +12.6%
2010 34,032 +11.0%
2020 33,783 −0.7%

Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.
Padanaram Bridge
The village of Padanaram, with its bridge in the foreground


Dartmouth established public library services in 1895. Today there are two libraries, the Southworth (Main) Library in South Dartmouth, and the North Dartmouth Library. In fiscal year 2008, the town of Dartmouth spent 1.5% ($865,864) of its budget on its public libraries—some $25 per person.


Brutalist architecture of UMass Dartmouth
The campus of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Dartmouth is governed by a single school department whose headquarters are in the former Bush Street School in Padanaram. The school department has been experiencing many changes in the past decade, with the opening of a new high school, the moving of the former Middle School to the High School. The town currently has four elementary schools, Joseph P. DeMello, George H. Potter, James M. Quinn, and Andrew B. Cushman. The town has one middle school (located in the 1955-vintage High School building) next to the Town Hall, and one high school, the new Dartmouth High School, which opened in 2002 in the southern part of town. Its colors are Dartmouth green and white, and its fight song is "Glory to Dartmouth;" unlike the college, however, the school still uses the "Indians" nickname, with a stylized brave's head in profile as the logo which represents the Eastern Woodland Natives that first inhabited the area.

In addition to DHS, students may also attend Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School or Bristol County Agricultural High School. The town is also home to private schools including Bishop Stang, and Friends Academy.

Since the 1960s, Dartmouth has been home to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus, located on Old Westport Road, just southwest of the Smith Mills section of town. The campus was the result of the unification of the Bradford Durfee College of Technology in Fall River and the New Bedford Institute of Textiles and Technology in New Bedford in 1962 to form the Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute. The campus itself was begun in 1964 and its unique Brutalist design was created by Paul Rudolph, then the head of Yale's School of Architecture. From 1969 until its inclusion into the University of Massachusetts system in 1991, the school was known as Southeastern Massachusetts University, reflecting the school's expansion into liberal arts. The campus has expanded over the years to its current size, with several sub-centers located in Fall River and New Bedford.



Massachusetts Route 140 and Massachusetts Route 24 are located just outside Dartmouth's borders in New Bedford and Fall River, respectively, and both provide access to Boston and points north of the area. Massachusetts Route 177 begins just over Dartmouth's border with Westport, running west into Rhode Island and providing a link between the Newport-area (Tiverton, Little Compton, and Aquidneck Island) with the Fall River/New Bedford area. Interstate 195 and US Route 6 pass directly through Dartmouth, and also offer connections to the aforementioned three Massachusetts routes; the former provides access to Route 140, while the latter can be used to access Route 24 and Route 177.

Both Tiverton, RI and Little Compton, RI are geographically part of Massachusetts, lacking direct interstate highway connections with the rest of Rhode Island. Instead, smaller routes connect to the area (RI 138, MA/RI 24, RI 177/MA 177, and MA 81, and MA 88). Route 24 lies an average of 15 to 20 miles away in Tiverton, RI and Little Compton, RI, Massachusetts Route 177 and Massachusetts Route 140 and Massachusetts Route 24 are based upon old Indian routes and trails.


Public transportation in Dartmouth is primarily provided by the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority, which provides direct bus services between several points in Dartmouth and to the adjacent cities of New Bedford and Fall River. Transfers at either termini offer connections to T.F. Green Airport via Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway and various locales in Rhode Island via Peter Pan Bus; the latter company also offers connections from New Bedford to Cape Cod and Boston. Direct daily bus service from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to Taunton and Boston was formerly offered via DATTCO buses; this service was cut back to only one express round-trip every Fridays in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Despite its border along Buzzard's Bay, Dartmouth does not have any major water-based transport. However, the adjacent cities of Fall River and New Bedford offer several indirect ferry connections, with routes to Newport and Block Island from the former and Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cuttyhunk from the latter.


While Dartmouth and neighboring communities currently do not have any rail connections, construction of MBTA commuter rail stations is currently underway in Fall River and New Bedford as part of the South Coast Rail project. Upon completion, these will offer railway connections to cities including Taunton, Brockton, Braintree, and Boston.

A short segment of railway, officially known as the North Dartmouth Industrial railroad and informally referred to as the Watuppa branch, passes through northern Dartmouth after diverging from the New Bedford Secondary and eventually terminating in the nearby town of Westport. The primary operator of freight rail in Dartmouth is Bay Colony Railroad, which operates along the Watuppa branch and interchanges with Massachusetts Coastal Railroad in New Bedford.

Notable people

  • Frederic Vaughan Abbot (1858–1928), U.S. Army brigadier general (summer resident)
  • Naseer Aruri (1934–2015), internationally recognized scholar-activist and expert on Middle East politics, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and human rights
  • Ezekiel Cornell (1732–1800), member of Continental Congress 1780–1782
  • Henry H. Crapo, 14th Governor of Michigan
  • William W. Crapo, U.S. House Representative representing Massachusetts' 1st District
  • Arthur Golden (born 1956), author, Memoirs of a Geisha (summer resident)
  • Edward Howland Robinson Green (1868–1936), businessman
  • Edith Ellen Greenwood (born 1920), first female recipient of the Soldier's Medal
  • Huda Kattan (born 1983), CEO of Huda Beauty
  • Téa Leoni (born 1966), film and television actress (summer resident)
  • Arthur Lynch (born 1990), former football tight end for the Miami Dolphins
  • Lewis Lee Millett Sr., recipient of Congressional Medal of Honor (Korean War)
  • Brian Rose (born 1976), former Major League Baseball player
  • Philip Sheridan (1831–1888), Union general in the American Civil War who died at his summer home in Nonquitt
  • Pete Souza (born 1954), former Chief Official White House Photographer (2009–2017), grew up in Dartmouth
  • Jordan Todman (born 1990), football running back for the Houston Texans
  • Bernard Trafford (1871–1942), football player for Harvard University and chairman of First National Bank of Boston
  • Benjamin Tucker (1854–1939), individualist, anarchist and egoist; English translator of the works of Max Stirner
  • Karen Polito (born 1966) Lt. Governor of Massachusetts (summer resident)

See also

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