The candle factory was built by the Mitchell family immediately following Nantucket's Great Fire in 1846 and close to the end of the island's whaling era. Less than two years later, island businessmen William Hadwen and Nathaniel Barney purchased the manufactory and continued to operate it as a candleworks until the end of whaling in the 1860s. The structure served as a warehouse until its conversion into the offices of the New England Steamship Company in the 1870s. In 1919, the candleworks was outfitted to use as storage and housed an antiques shop. In 1929, the building was purchased and converted into the NHA's Whaling Museum, and remained as such for more than seventy years.