There are few better examples in town of the profound difference that stewardship can make than in the contrast between 398 and 396 Commercial. Radically different now, they were virtually identical Federal-style houses a half-century ago (apart from the fact that No. 396 had a portico and central chimney). Now, you’d need a practiced eye to discern their kinship. That’s not to say the modification was a bad thing to do. Certainly, it brings a commercial life to the facade that No. 396 lacks. But it did deprive a once-noble structure of much of its dignity.
That said, No. 398 has been the setting of a number of important art galleries over the last 40 years, beginning in 1972, when the property was purchased by Juliet and Zoltan Gluck (1929-2006). Gluck left his native Hungary during World War II, emigrated to Palestine and fought for the creation of the Israeli state, remaining there another decade. He and Juliet arrived in Provincetown in 1967 and established the Zoltan Gluck Art Gallery at 424 Commercial Street. They moved it here in 1972, where it remained until 1998. They also ran the restaurant across the street, at 401½ Commercial, with their son, David, beginning in 1979.
“Thanks to Mr. Gluck’s personal charm, the Zoltan Gluck Art Gallery was home to an eclectic collection of European and American work for 32 years,” The Banner said. “Mr. Gluck was a fixture on the streets of Provincetown, where he enjoyed riding his bike in his trademark straw hat and chatting with the good friends he made. He loved sitting on the porch, enjoying the amazing people-watching that Provincetown had to offer.” (“Zoltan Gluck, 76,” The Banner, 21 September 2006.)
His successors in the gallery space were both followers of Henry Hensche. First, there was the Wohlfarth Galleries — plural because there is another one in Washington — run by Lavinia “Vinnie” Wohlfarth, who describes herself as an “expert in the study of American Impressionism and most particularly the works of Henry Hensche.” Her Provincetown gallery is now at 432 Commercial Street. She was followed by the Hilda Neily Gallery, run by a Provincetown resident who began studying with Hensche in 1974 and remained his student for 15 years. She has moved a couple of times since being here.