Union Exchange Building | Former Seamen’s Savings Bank.
On 14 April 1851, Gov. George S. Boutwell — who would go on to distinction as an abolitionist, civil rights advocate, United States representative, United States senator, Secretary of the Treasury, and Commissioner of Internal Revenue — approved the incorporation of the Seamen’s Savings Bank in Provincetown. Seaman’s was (and is) a mutual savings association, owned not by stockholders but by its depositors, and governed by trustees chosen from among numerous “corporators” who represent the diverse interests of the community. The founding corporators were David Fairbanks, Joseph B. Hersey, and Thomas Nickerson.
From the beginning, the affairs of Seamen’s were tied up with the Union Wharf Company, of which Thomas Nickerson was a cofounder, along with Jonathan Nickerson, Stephen Nickerson, and Samuel Soper. (All three Nickersons were corporators of Seamen’s, too.) The bank’s original headquarters, which opened in March 1852, were in what Herman Jennings called the “old Union Wharf store.” That was identified as 99 Commercial Street — future home of Sal’s Place — by Josephine Del Deo in the 1977 Massachusetts Historical Commission survey. Leander Rockwell, a fisherman from Nova Scotia, opened the first savings account in April 1852, with $36.
Fairbanks, the first treasurer and a partner in Union Wharf, became president of the bank in 1856. Around this time, Seamen’s moved across the street and into this structure, the Union Exchange Building, which was then denominated 83 Commercial Street. (The street numbering system along Commercial changed in the early 1900s.) Fairbanks lived at 90 Bradford Street, which was known from 1985 to 2014 as the Fairbanks Inn. During his presidency, in 1868, the bank purchased the Union Exchange Building, which it had been leasing. It reported total deposits of $365,432.58 in 1870, or roughly $7 million in today’s dollars. Fairbanks was succeeded as bank president in 1874 by Capt. Lysander N. Paine (1831-1918), who lived at 96 Commercial Street, which was called Captain Lysander’s Inn in its days as a guest house.
Lysander Paine was a director of the Atlantic Mutual Fire and Marine Insurance Company, which also had its headquarters at 83 Commercial Street. Joshua Paine, the president of Atlantic Insurance, was a corporator at Seamen’s as well.
In 1889, while the bank was still here, it hired young William Henry Young (1871-1942) as a teller, fresh out Dean Academy (now Dean College) in Franklin. Young, who lived at 10 Carver Street, was to become a preëminent public citizen, attaining the presidency of Seamen’s and a leading role at the Provincetown Art Association, the William H. Young Insurance Company (predecessor of Benson Young & Downs), King Hiram’s Lodge, and the Board of Trade (predecessor of the Chamber of Commerce). He was the father of Lewis Armstrong Young (1895-1918), for whom the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Provincetown is named.
Seamen’s moved out of this building in 1892 to a much larger new headquarters, 274-276 Commercial Street, where it remained more than 70 years.
The property was purchased in 1923 by Francisco G. Roza and his wife, Mary (Ferreira) Roza (±1880-1958). She had come to the United States at the age of 17 from São Miguel, in the Azores. Here, the couple operated Rose’s Variety Story, which also sold groceries, in the 1930s. The property passed in 1946 to their son, Frank Garcia Roza (1913-1964), a fisherman, who discovered a cache of Portuguese coins in the building — perhaps a long-lost savings account from the Seamen’s days. Roza leased the storefront space in 1954 to the New York art dealer Harry Salpeter (1895-1967).
Salpeter commissioned Stephen Shilowitz (1929-1998), best known as an associate of the architect Antonin Raymond, to renovate the interior of 90 Commercial Street. The result earned a glowing review in The Advocate of 24 June 1954:
The original construction within the gallery space, especially designed and built by the brilliant young architectural student Stephen Shilowitz … has already attracted much favorable attention from artists. The general principle is that of an inner cage in which lighting and the paintings can be favorably related in a shifting pattern, varying with the nature of each exhibition.
The opening show at the Harry Salpeter Gallery the next month featured four Provincetown artists: Reeves Euler, Edwin Dickinson, Philip Malicoat, and Bruce McKain. Salpeter advertised works of art “from $5 to $500,” including watercolors, oils, drawings, prints, and sculpture. His gallery lasted only two seasons, however.
Donald Frederick Witherstine (1896-1961) and Robert B. Campbell of the important and influential Shore Studios, 47 Commercial Street, leased this space beginning in 1956 as an exhibition gallery. It was, for some time, operated for Shore Studios by William Maynard and Gladys Maynard, both artists and teachers. The opening show in the 1957 season amounted to a roll call of Provincetown artists: Richard Florsheim (1916-1979), Martin Friedman (1896-1982), Abraham Harriton (1893-1986), Mervin Jules (1912-1996), Joseph Kaplan (1900-1980), Irving Marantz (1912-1972), Herman Maril (1908-1986), Sabina Teichman (1905-1982), and Sol Wilson (1894-1974). It operated through 1961.
Yvonne Andersen and Dominic Falcone (1928-2009), alumni of the Sun Gallery, 393 Commercial Street, opened the Front Street Gallery here in 1962, in a partnership with Salvatore and Josephine Del Deo (1925-2016). “It ran successfully for a few years,” Josephine told me in 2014. “The happenings in the gallery were many and varied, such as Peter Schumann’s taller-than-life puppet shows [the Bread & Puppet Theater] and many exhibitions by artists such as Arthur Cohen” (1928-2012). There were also film showings in 1963. In 1964, the painter Romanos Rizk (1927-2009) was granted a license to run an art school here.
The Roza family sold the property in 2003 to Frederick V. Long and his wife, Joy (Valentine) Long, whose mother, Helen, runs Valentine’s Guest House at 88 Commercial Street. As a civic volunteer, Joy presented the welcoming face that greeted hundreds and thousands of visitors in the lobby of Town Hall. She is also a massage therapist. Doing business as In Joy’s Hands, here at 90 Commercial Street, she offers myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, and reiki. Frederick Long is an attorney. He graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1960, served as a public defender in Massachusetts for four years, then as an assistant district attorney for 24 years. His office is here. Josephine Del Deo said the Longs have “beautifully restored” the building.
¶ Last updated on 27 August 2018.
For further reading online
Fred Long on LinkedIn.
In Joy’s Hands website.