248-250 Commercial Street

 
Big Vin’s Liquor

The storefront addition is so dominant here that it’s almost impossible to focus on the beautiful Greek Revival house that’s at the core of the property, and is denominated 4 Gosnold Street, unless one steps back a few yards. It’s worth doing so for the pure pleasure of seeing the Ionic-column portico in the side yard. Its best-known retail incarnation was as the Corner Gift Shop, which dated at least to the late 1940s and was run for a time by Irma Ruckstuhl and her husband, Kurt R. Ruckstuhl (d 2000). Other tenants in the ’40s included the Flower Shop and Annette’s jewelry store.

† Wharf at 251-253 Commercial Street

Charley Cook’s Wharf

As early as 1838, Young’s Wharf was shown at the foot of what was once known as Forest Street (now Gosnold). It was Charley Cook’s Wharf under Capt. Charles Cook. By the late 1930s, it was known as the Art Colony Wharf, over which Heinrich Pfeiffer (d 1957) presided. On the wharf stood the Artists Theatre, which Pfeiffer originally intended for movies. In 1939, stage plays were added to the bill. The next year, following the destruction of the Wharf Theatre in the West End, Pfeiffer arranged for a summer season with the New England Repertory Company, so that Provincetown would not be deprived of summer theater. This evolved into the Provincetown Playhouse on the Wharf, discussed at 2 Gosnold Street.

251-253 Commercial Street

 
Shalom’s Gift Shop

One of the most important surviving 19th-century commercial properties, this long, two-story structure — built before 1858 — was known at one time as the Wharf Head Building, as it was owned by A. Young and stood at the head of Young’s Wharf (later Charley Cook’s Wharf). It was the location of the town’s first telegraph office and the Nautilus Club met for a time on the second floor. More pictures and history»

252 Commercial Street

252 Commercial Street, Adams Pharmacy, by David W. Dunlap (2009).

252 Commercial Street, Adams Pharmacy, by David W. Dunlap (2009).

Norman Cook Jr., courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project.

Norman Cook Jr., courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project.

Nancy (Salvador) Stefani at Adams General Store, by David W. Dunlap (2013).

Nancy (Salvador) Stefani at Adams General Store, by David W. Dunlap (2013).

You can’t fill a prescription at Adams General Store, but to many, this is still “Adams Pharmacy,” as it was from 1875 until 2009; the oldest business in continuous operation at one location — and a nexus of civic life. The town’s first telephone switchboard was here and so, until 2003, was a soda fountain. The Greek Revival-style main building is from around 1850. Dr. John Crocker started the pharmacy, succeeded by John Darrow Adams. He passed it to his daughter, Jennie (Adams) Cook, who passed it to her son, Norman Cook Jr., whose widow, Dorothy “Dot” Cook, sold it in 1989 to Vincent Duarte. Nancy (Salvador) Stefani is a welcome face at the counter. The whimsical mural map (pictured) is by Nancy Whorf.


More than 2,000 buildings and vessels are searchable on buildingprovincetown.com. The Building Provincetown book is available for purchase ($20) at Town Hall, Office of the Town Clerk, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown 02657.

252 Commercial Street

 
Adams (Formerly Adams Pharmacy)

You can’t get a prescription filled here any longer, but it will be years before they stop calling Adams a pharmacy, since that’s what it was from 1875 until 2009, when the prescription service was sold to Stop & Shop. Adams describes itself as the “oldest business in continuous operation at one location in Provincetown” and it remains a nexus of civic life of city life, as it has long been; home to the town’s first telephone switchboard in the early 1900s and, until 2003, to an old-fashioned soda fountain. Paradoxically, the soda fountain was taken out by Vincent Duarte, the current owner of Adams, to safeguard the privacy of pharmacy clients — but now there aren’t any clients and there isn’t any soda fountain. More pictures and history»

254 Commercial Street

 
Former Fire House No. 3 | Former Fire Department Headquarters

The two-story building at 254 Commercial Street was constructed around 1859 for Rescue Hook and Ladder Company No. 1. This was also the firehouse for Pumper No. 3, the Ulysses. The truck bay is now frequently in use as an information or solicitation center for civic and nonprofit events. (In many older accounts, you will see No. 254 assigned to Adams Pharmacy, while this building is given the street address 256A Commercial Street.)