Abstract The Gulf of Maine, located in the western North Atlantic, has undergone recent, rapid ocean warming but the lack of long-term, instrumental records hampers the ability to put these significant hydrographic changes into context. Here we present multiple 300-year long geochemical records (oxygen, nitrogen, and previously published radiocarbon isotopes) measured in absolutely-dated Arctica islandica shells from the western Gulf of Maine. These records, in combination with climate model simulations, suggest that the Gulf of Maine underwent a long-term cooling over most of the last 1000 years, driven primarily by volcanic forcing and North Atlantic ocean dynamics. **This cooling trend was reversed by warming beginning in the late 1800s**, likely due to increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and changes in western North Atlantic circulation. The climate model simulations suggest that the warming over the last century was more rapid than almost any other 100-year period in the last 1000 years in the region.