Wildflower | 136 Commercial Street Condominium (Unit A).
The 84-light storefront window is distinctive enough, but the commercial space in this building bears a distinguished lineage as well. In the late 1860s, when the parcel was denominated 131 Commercial Street, this was the boatbuilding shop of Samuel H. Ghen. There was a vacant spell in the 1880s, before the shipsmith John Hopkins Livermore (1850-1904) moved his shop here from Union Wharf. There, he had advertised: “All kinds of ship work in iron done neatly and quickly. Particular attention to extra smooth work for yachts.” Livermore was born in Truro. He married Lizzie W. Clarke (1853-1931) and was initiated into King Hiram’s Lodge in 1888. He died at age 54, of pneumonia.
John H. Livermore’s shipsmith shop operated at the turn of the 20th century. The small shop opposite, 133 Commercial Street, was to become the first home of Cookie’s Tap. From “Francis Joseph Alves,” in the Municipal Collection on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 5957.
John Cabral Silva (1889-1963), whose family came from São Miguel in the Azores, bought the property in 1907 from the Livermore family. He operated a barbershop here, with his brother, Ernest Cabral DeSilva (1894-1964). Manuel Peters (1871-1962), a fisherman and native of São Miguel, bought 136 Commercial Street in 1914 from Silva. He owned it for the next 42 years, operating it as a grocery store and then as a tobbaconist. He lived upstairs with his wife, Mary J. (Perry) Peters (1876-1951), and their children.
Helen J. (Merrill) Flores (1911-1997) was the next owner of the 136 Commercial, buying it from Peters in 1953. She and her husband, Frank Flores, briefly ran a restaurant here by the name of Frank & Helen’s — appropriately enough. But they’d barely had time to settle in before the Security Federal Savings and Loan Association of Brockton foreclosed on the mortgage in 1956. The bank sold the lot to Ralph H. Mann Jr. in 1959.
136 Commercial Street in a 2008 photo by David W. Dunlap.
The main storefront in 2011, after Provincetown Antiques moved out and before the Todd James Gallery moved in. David W. Dunlap.
An interior view, from Robert Paul Properties, gives an idea how luminous the space can be.
In the early 1960s, the circular cellar was used by the shopkeepers Ralph H. Mann and Gene Buck for American paintings that had been held in private estates. The contemporary photo is from Robert Paul Properties.
Besides its wide variety of offerings, Ralph Mann’s antiques store had another attraction: It was open until midnight. These ads appeared in The Advocate on 1 September 1960 (left) and 27 July 1961 (right).
Mann was descended, through his mother, from the noble, influential (and generous) Tyszkiewicz family of Poland, according to The Advocate. Their benefactions enriched the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, especially in works from ancient Greece and Asia Minor. Mann himself contributed heirlooms to the Mann House in Scituate.
What Mann and his partner, Gene Buck, did next opened some eyes around Provincetown. They established Ralph H. Mann Antiques, later renamed Ralph H. Mann Associates, specializing in “unusual estate jewelry, elegancies, primitives, and Americana.” Their business reached its zenith in 1962, when The Advocate wrote of the “truly outstanding antique shop” that Buck and Mann
“have taken the large circular cellar in the basement of their property and transformed it into a gallery exclusively for early American 18th century through early 20th century artists. They have covered the brick walls (to their regret) with pegboard. The floor is terra cotta and yellow, with a white background. The indirect lighting is done with antique lamps with spotlights on the paintings.
“These paintings have been slowly collected over the years from private homes and have never been shown before. Every piece has been individually selected to make a most unusual gallery in this town, where the accent seems to be on abstract art.
“Before descending the ship’s stairs to the downstairs gallery, stop and look at the antique jewelry, where for their fourth year, they have one of the larger collections of antique jewelry in New England.”¹
That wasn’t the end of it, either. In early August, they displayed a 300-carat (two-ounce) topaz from the Tyszkiewicz family collection. A week later, it was a Limoges porcelain platter that had been manufactured for the White House by Haviland & Company during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. By 1965, however, a “spacious gallery” was being advertised in the pages of The Advocate, evidently meaning the end of the business.
Mann and Buck sold the property in 1973 to Karlene E. Murphy and Lawrence J. Murphy of Peabody, for $39,000. The Murphys sold it nine years later, for $105,000, to Edwina Poehler and Ewald Poehler Jr. of Pompton Lakes, N.J. They sold the property in 1999 to the Rainbow Partners Realty Trust, whose trustees included Kenneth C. Weiss, the developer of more than a dozen projects around town, including the final phase of Seashore Point, at 100 Alden Street; as well as 25 Bayberry Avenue; 38 Bayberry Avenue; 99 Bayberry Avenue; 101 Bayberry Avenue; and 72-74 Bradford Street, among others.
Two drawings by Karen Carroll [?] from August 2002 capture the lively jumble of the Provincetown Antiques store, run by Melissa S. Schwartz and Linda Freundlich. Its operations are now entirely online.
In its one season, 2012, the Todd James Gallery, run by Todd Warnken, displayed the works of Eveline Luppi and Samantha French, among others.
A peek through the gallery window in 2012. Both photos by David W. Dunlap.
Weiss turned the building into the five-unit 136 Commercial Street Condominium. Unit A is the commercial space. It was purchased in 2001, for $245,000, by Melissa S. Schwartz and Linda Freundlich, who opened the Provincetown Antiques shop. After a decade in the bricks-and-mortar realm, they moved their business online. They were succeeded in the space in 2012 by the Todd James Gallery, owned and run by Todd Warnken, who holds a master’s degree in photography and theater set design from Bennington College. His busy inaugural season featured shows by Samantha French, Eveline Luppi, Justin Russo, and Nermin Kura and Joe Bartholomew. But the gallery was short-lived.
After serving briefly as the Provincetown office of 3Harbors Realty, Unit A was purchased in January 2019 from Schwartz and Freundlich by John Dougherty and Jeff Fresenius as the new location of Wildflower of Provincetown, a florist and home décor store formerly located at 152A Commercial Street and 361 Commercial Street. They are also real estate agents at Robert Paul Properties and living in the neighborhood.
¶ Last updated on 2 February 2019.
136 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 136 Commercial Street:
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2008, by David W. Dunlap.
For further reading online
• Ernest Cabral DeSilva (1894-1964)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 35395738.
• John J. Dougherty
Robert Paul Properties website.
• Helen J. (Merrill) Flores (1911-1997)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 88304440.
• Jeff Fresenius
Robert Paul Properties website.
• Linda Freundlich
Provincetown Antiques website.
• John Hopkins Livermore (1850-1904)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 52906803.
• Manuel Peters (1871-1962)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 126842015.
• Mary J. (Perry) Peters (1871-1962)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 126842382.
• Melissa S. Schwartz
Provincetown Antiques website.
• John Cabral Silva (1889-1963)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 54343819.
• Todd Warnken
“Gallery News: Floating Walls in Provincetown’s West End,” by Rafael Jean, From the Designer’s Desk, 5 July 2012.
¹ “To Fellows and Friends Afar & Abroad,” The Provincetown Advocate, 26 July 1962, Page 1.