† 220 Commercial Street

Oldest Shop

The Oldest Shop, which was torn down in 1966, can be thought of as Provincetown’s Penn Station; not in terms of grandeur, certainly, but as that beloved landmark everyone assumed would always be around — until it was razed in the name of economics. Noting the objections that greeted its demolition, The Advocate said in an editorial: “The group of protesting citizens could well form the nucleus of an historical society or of any organization dedicated to the preservation of old historic Provincetown landmarks. And there are still more than a few to be saved though they are fast disappearing. Let’s preserve — not memorialize!” (“Let’s Preserve — Not Memorialize,” The Advocate, 3 November 1966.)

There was an almost Elizabethan sensibility about it, with the second-story living quarters projecting outward over the recessed storefront. Look out below for night soil! The shop space had many incarnations. At various times, it housed a fruit shop, a confectioner’s shop and Harry Williard’s Shoe Hospital.

The Provincetown Advocate arrived in June 1941 to lease the building as its headquarters. The newspaper hung out the shingle pictured above:

“This is the oldest Shop Building in Provincetown, erected in 1799 while John Adams was second President of Our Country – Below this sign once hung the slate from which the old Town Criers took their public notices to cry ‘Up-along’ and ‘Down-along.’ [Whitewashed:] Now the office of The Provincetown Advocate.’

Among the stores to operate after The Advocate‘s departure was the Etcetera Shop, owned by Judith Tobey and Roslyn Garfield, which opened in 1955. It featured “fine, handmade shirts, and things and things and things, sort of remiscent of the many kinds of products handled during the long existence of the old building, which was standing almost before there was a Commercial Street.” (“To Fellows and Friends,” The Advocate, 26 May 1955.) By the 1958 season, it was called Shirts Etcetera, still run by Tobey and Garfield. That year, the Candle Shop also operated here.

Kurt Robert Ruckstuhl (±1923-2000) and Irma Ruckstuhl — who already ran the Old Village Store, Emporium and Corner Gift Shop — operated the Candlemakers store at No. 220.



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