14 Center Street

Ruthie’s Boutique

A somber old funeral home on Center Street is joined to a utilitarian commercial structure fronting on Bradford Street to form this odd — but vital — property, now known (at least on paper) as the Center Garden condominium. It’s best known these days as the home of Ruthie’s Boutique, a thrift shop that steadily helps finance the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod and Helping Our Women, plus other worthy organizations on a rotating basis. The entrance to Ruthie’s is on Bradford. Around the corner, on Center Street, is the house occupied for many years by Capt. Thomas Seabury Taylor, one of the last of Provincetown’s whaling masters. His son, William Wilson Taylor, lived at 7 Center Street.

After his whaling days, Taylor became an undertaker. His funeral parlor was on Commercial Street, but he lived here. The association between 14 Center Street and the undertaking business survived Taylor’s years. This became the Williams Funeral Home and then, in 1952, the Provincetown branch of the half-century-old Nickerson Funeral Service, which also operated in Wellfleet, Orleans and Bourne. This home was managed by Richard Nickerson, Henry W. Carlson and Anthony P. Tarvers. The Nickersons renovated the ground floor “with the aim of making it both attractive and comforting,” The Advocate reported. The second floor was turned into a casket showroom. Six years later, they demolished the west end of the building, on Bradford Street, and constructed a new addition, with a two-car garage, a preparation room, a smoking room and a display area for funerary merchandise. The home operated at least through the mid 1960s.

The late 70s saw the arrival of Health Associates of Provincetown Inc. and the Women’s Health Clinic. By 1976, To the Lighthouse Press was operating here, offering offset printing, composition and silkscreen printing. That was the beginning of a time in which 14 Center Street was a something of a media center — WOMR radio and Provincetown Magazine were both here.

In about 1977, Ruthie Adler began managing the HAPI Thrift Store for Health Associates. It was the forerunner of Ruthie’s Boutique, and shared its successor’s charitable focus on community health. In 2010, the thrift shop operation was able to distribute $3,636 each to the AIDS Support Group and Helping Our Women, and $1,818 to the Provincetown Theater Company.

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