Thursday, May 21, 2015

End of an Era for Adams Pharmacy

What will become of this plaque, since Adams has moved?
After 146 years, as the oldest business operating in the same Provincetown location for all that time, the shop that will perhaps forever be known to Townies and frequent PTown visitors as Adams Pharmacy, finishes that legacy by moving across the street.
Known at various times as 252 and as 254 Commercial Street, the house at the corner of Commercial and Gosnold streets was built about 1850, with the small front yard giving way at some point to the storefront that was built on sometime later.
In 1869, Dr. John M. Crocker, who was the original publisher of The Provincetown Advocate, was living in the house when he started printing his weekly newspaper. It seems that the pharmacy business was started in the same year. Born and raised in Provincetown, Dr. Crocker had graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1866, and practiced medicine here for some 20 years.
Adams' Pharmacy, at the right, about 1880. Gosnold Street sign is on the tree.
John D. Adams lent his name to the business when he bought it in 1875. Later, relatives in the Norman Cook Family got involved with the business, followed by Norman Jr., who ran the place for over 40 years, beginning in the 1930s.
He was a volunteer on the Provincetown Fire Department, as well as a licensed pharmacist. His wife Dorothy ran the store while her husband served briefly in the Pacific in WWII, having been drafted into the Navy. They eventually passed down the management of the shop to Joe Ward, whom they had more or less "adopted" when he had begun working at the store as a troubled teen, needing a home.
The town shovels out after a huge snowstorm in 1939.
Adams Pharmacy has always been a sort of gathering place for PTown folks. After the second enlargement of the storefront there was plenty of space for three tables in the center of the room, where people could have a cup of tea while they discussed the events of the day or swapped stories and rumors.
When a long counter with twirling stools and an old fashioned soda fountain was installed, the place instantly became a hangout for high school kids sipping sodas after class and on weekends, and by then most of the town was starting each day with a hot cup of coffee at that counter, along with a couple of juicy tidbits from a neighbor or two.
This photo from Adams' Facebook page looks like it was
probably taken in the 1950s. Notice the old ice cream chest. 
Vincent Duarte bought the property in 1989, and he continued to run the pharmacy.
When he removed the beloved soda fountain and counter in 2003, the entire town seemed to go through a period of mourning.
Tables and a few chairs were once again employed, and folks could still stop in for an ice cream treat from the self-serve freezer, or share a little gossip over a newspaper and a cup of coffee, but it just was never quite the same. Although Duarte still owns the shop today, he sold the pharmacy interest in the business to Stop and Shop when they came to Provincetown in 2009.
I'm afraid this week's move will really prove to be the end of an era as Adams moves across Gosnold Street, trading places with Big Vin's Liquors.

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