It seems the basement space in which Mark S. Petteruti and Robert J. Martin Jr. operate their gift shop was once among the more treasured rendezvous of ancient mariners. This was the home of Capt. Eldbridge G. Berry (1837-1918), son of James and Bethsheba (Nickerson) Berry of Crockers Neck — Dennisport, these days — who’d set out to sea at age 9 and continued sailing into his 40s, at which time he became “engaged in the purchase and sale of old junk.” But the real business conducted in his basement office was that of storytelling. Berry, who came from a family of seafarers, offered refuge daily to a “little bevy of ex-mariners who have long found his little office a snug ‘cabin’ in which to gather and exchange confidences and ‘yarns'” — “doings and voyagings and sea customs of which little is heard in the present, for the recounter and the listener had lived the life of a sailor in the old sailing ship days.” (Agnes Edwards, “Cape Cod — New and Old,” the Provincetown Advocate, 27 June 1918.)
374 Commercial Street as it appeared around 1927. From the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 6, Page 116, in the Dowd Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 1943.
What we see from Commercial Street is actually the side elevation. The main facade of the house is on the west. When it was built, perhaps in the late 1700s, there was no Commercial Street to which it might have been oriented, nor any neighbors to block it. Based on 1977 interview with William N. Rogers, who then owned the building, Josephine Del Deo noted the following in the Historic District Survey:
It was in use originally as a fisherman’s boarding house. The small rooms under the eaves upstairs attest to this use. … [T]he fishermen came up directly from the beach. Its interior boasts wide floor boards and very wide paneling, some boards being as wide as 30 inches in the upstairs hall. The stairs are traditionally steep and the railing is pine. There were originally five fireplaces in the house, but these are presently boarded. The original doors and all the wainscoting is intact. The sills are low and, of course, crooked. The door frames are crooked and high against the ceiling …. All the wall woodwork is now painted, but the original wood is in place in every room and has not been altered.
374 Commercial Street in 2009. Photograph by David W. Dunlap.
Peggy Moore had a store here in the mid-1930s offering “smart frocks” and gifts. A decade later, it was Scotti’s Elba Restaurant, specializing in Italian cuisine: spaghetti, chicken cacciatore, ravioli, steaks, and chops.
Thomas D. Brown II (±1927-1998), who lived in Truro, owned and operated a Beach Point cottage colony in the early 1960s when he decided to get into the real estate business for himself. Thomas D. Brown Real Estate Associates dates to 1961. Brown sold the company in 1994 to Nick Brown. The company bought Swan Real Estate Associates in 2002. The upstairs office is now occupied by Kinlin Grover Real Estate.
Hilda Neily arrived in Provincetown in the early ’70s to study with Henry Hensche. She opened a gallery in which to show her work in the late 1990s. It was formerly located in the basement commercial space, as was Tumbleweed Designs.
In 2013, Petteruti and Martin opened Botanica in that space. Among their many offerings are aeriums, air plants, artworks (original oil and acrylic paintings, and reproductions), cards, cast stone ornaments, coasters, fragrances, furnishings, garden accessories, giclée prints, gift foods, globes, lamps, Motawi tiles, mugs, napkins, plant containers, soaps, sprays, tea light holders, terrariums, and vases. The store is open year-round.
¶ Last updated on 9 February 2021.
Mark Petteruti and Robert Martin in their store, Botanica, in 2014. All of the photos below were taken the same year, by Dunlap.