On the other side of the Bourne Counting House, the granite building in front of you, is Merrill's Wharf, completed in 1847. The wharf then was the longest in New Bedford port. Built by Edward Merrill for an expanding whaling fleet, this wharf outfitted hundreds of vessels for voyage and offloaded them on return. The wharf provided a shipyard, pump-and block-maker, blacksmith shop, spar shop, paint shop, and space to store 20,000 barrels of whale oil.
Ship carpenters, caulkers, spar makers, riggers, sailmakers, stevedores, ship keepers, coopers, gaugers, and oil fillers scurried about Merrill's Wharf readying ships for the rigors of sea. The return of a ship to port brought merchants, mechanics, and loved ones to welcome home the crew and appraise the offloaded bounty.
In 1848 Merrill built the granite building you see on the wharf's south side, which became known as the Bourne Counting House for Jonathan Bourne, Jr. Whaling agents like Bourne set up counting rooms on the second floor and stored whalebone, ship provisions, and equipment on the first. Sailmakers and riggers occupied the third and fourth floors.
Edward Merrill retired from whaling in 1833 and built an oil manufacturing plant near here. After it burned in 1842, he decided to invest his capital "where it would not suffer" and so built the wharf that bears his name.
There is today an odor of whale oil about Merrill's wharf, contributed by a few hundred casks of oil that happen to be stored there at this time, which brings back memories of departed days to the old citizen who gets a whiff of oil and seaweed once so familiar.
Zephaniah W. Pease, April 1916