The 132-year-old Gloucester Safe Deposit & Trust Co. building, located at 189 Main St. on the corner of Duncan Street and a reminder of the city's wealthy heyday as the world's busiest fishing port, has been rehabbed, with new owner William Thibeault seeking a fine restaurant and retail tenants to further advance restoration of the city's downtown crossing.
"We put it back to the original blueprint," said Thibeault's fiancee and partner, Annie Fonzo, a niece of Mike and Jane Fonzo, the well-known real estate developers and benefactors of the new animal shelter recently opened by Cape Ann Animal Aid. The building also includes a residential penthouse where the previous owners lived.
Thibeault, who has a castle of a beach house at the far end of the Wingaersheek strip, acquired the 1880 granite corner structure two years ago for $625,000, and has brought it back with new windows and interior polish. Thibeault acquired the old bank building from George and Joanne Levantis, who lived on the top floor.
Thibeault said he specializes in distressed properties. For example, he pointed to the restoration of the D & B Bait property on Commercial Street,which he bought and then sold to Intershell.
The Gloucester Safe Deposit Trust Co., according to city records, was constructed in 1880. That puts the bank's beginning smack in the middle of the era of the schooners — the swift, exquisite, industrial fishing boats powered by sail that were innovated in Essex and Gloucester to give Gloucestermen maximum access to the fishing grounds of the Western Atlantic.
Their development helped propel Gloucester to its economic apex. The era lasted through the Roaring '20s, long enough for the tercentennial celebration in 1923 that produced the Fisherman's Memorial and Stacy Boulevard itself.
The dark side of the schooner days was the awful toll extracted from the fishing community by storms that came up while the fleet was out on the banks. In the era of the schooner, more than 3,700 fishermen were lost at sea, 249 alone in 1879, while the Safe Deposit and Trust Co. was being constructed.
Across Duncan Street from Thibeault's rehabbed bank is another of booming Gloucester's banks, this one Gloucester National, which has 1796 etched in granite. The best guess based on assessor's records and appearance, however, is that it was probably built about the same time, late 19th century, as the Gloucester Bank and Trust Co. building.
The 1796 might represent the founding date of Gloucester National Bank. The building houses a variety of professional offices and the restaurant Alchemy.
Except for the restaurant, which fronts on Duncan, there was a similar mix in 1964.
Assessors' records note the following tenants with their monthly rent in parentheses: A barber shop ($50), an insurance office ($100), a law office ($75), fisheries office ($150), radio station ($150), insurance office ($100) and a Christian Science reading room ($50).
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3464, or email@example.com.