Front Cover
 Title Page

The Pacific National Bank of Nantucket
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00100888/00001
 Material Information
Title: The Pacific National Bank of Nantucket
Physical Description: 20p. : ill.
Language: English
Creator: Ekstrom, Rurik Mason
Publisher: Rurik Ekstrom Mason
Place of Publication: Nantucket, Mass.
Publication Date: 1986
Copyright Date: 1986
Subjects / Keywords: Historic preservation
Architecture -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Architecture -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Historic preservation -- Nantucket, Massachusetts
Coordinates: 41.283106 x -70.099705
General Note: AFA Historic Preservation document 870
General Note: Preservation Institute: Nantucket project
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UF00100888:00001

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page 1
    Title Page
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
Full Text












~___ ___~I~_ __ __ __

_ I_ __ 1




The purpose of this paper was to collect, coordinate and

edit as much information as was possible in determining the

Pacific National Bank building's original design and

construction in 1818 and the sequence of events that led to

its configuration of today. The history of the bank is well

documented in numerous publications sponsored by the bank

itself and several sources relating local history in

Nantucket. The institutional and social history of the bank

and its proprietors has not been particularly helpful in

determining the movement of walls, however. The information

that has been most helpful is in the form of letters and

memos that have occasionally bounced between the Nantucket

Historical Association and the bank officers of any

particular era, or research completed by the Historic

American Buildings Survey in 1972, or, most importantly,

physical evidence that was found in exploring the building

first hand. The assistance of Henry G. Kehlenbeck,

president of the bank since 1970, has been most helpful and

appreciated in this particular phase of data gathering. It

is also important to state, that the story is yet incomplete

in that certain sources of very important information were

unavailable at the time of this research. For future

studies it will prove invaluable to include, if possible,

some of this information.

In 1974, Julian Gallup Everett, an architectural historian

and Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, spent

the summer in Nantucket completing a set of drawings that

were an interpretation of the bank's original layout and

later additions that covered its history up to his day. In

exploring the premises, Everett discovered such evidence in

the basement as old foundation walls and footprints of

masonry work that were very helpful in pinpointing the

original configuration of the building and the changes that

occurred years later. Photographs, as well as his access to

bank records were also very helpful in this work. In

compiling the information for this paper these important

drawings and more detailed notes unfortunately have not

been available. Some notes and memos from Everett to the

Bank have been obtained, however, as well as original

drawings of alterations done in 1925 and 1929. From these

and other sources it has been possible to recreate, as

accurately as possible, the story of the building known as

the Pacific National Bank.

Prior to 1818, the offices of the Bank had been located on

the east side of Federal Street between Main and Cambridge

in the converted residence of Josiah Barker. This property

had been obtained for the Bank in 1804, at the institution's

founding, with the stipulation that Mr. Barker find a new

place to live within two years. Unfortunately, this house

was one of many victims of the fire of 1846 which, long

after the Bank had moved, destroyed almost three hundred

buildings in Nantucket's downtown.

In 1818, it was decided by a meeting of directors and

shareholders that a new banking house would be constructed

reflecting the prosperity of the times and the greater needs

of an institution which had grown proportionately. At this

time the Bank was still under Massachusetts state charter

and was called the Nantucket Pacific Bank. The property at

the had of lower Main Street, or Market Square, had long
been known as "Hammett's Corner" and was under the

ownership of Dr. Oliver Bartlett. Shortly after deciding to

build, the bank bought this land from Dr. Bartlett for

$2,500.00 and directly moved the only house there to the

northeast corner of Coffin and Union Streets, which

incidentally acquired the stone steps of the original

banking house after the fire some years later.1

The architect, if any, is as yet unknown. As relatively few

professional architects were ever engaged in Nantucket

building, it is quite possible that the design work could

have been done by the builder or an interested and well read

citizen, but the quality and thoughtfulness of of this work

would seem to make this doubtful. An original cost estimate

does exist, quoting a finished price for the building at

$7,000 and listing all of the materials, laborand fittings,

including the vault, with an anticipated $1016.09 figured
for contingencies. The requirements for this new banking

house were for a brick and stone building of inherent

importance and quality that would accommodate the

institution's need for efficiency as well as the symbolic

imagery that should befit such a prominent element of the

Island's financial community. The end product still serves

as proof to the building's success.

The Bank's front facade, which looks to the east and down

lower Main Street towards the Wharf, exists today almost

exactly as it was built in 1818. It consists of a

symmetrical block of three bays and is topped by a shingle

hip roof. The primary material is brick, laid in flemish

bond, which is complimented by a heavy base of granite and

narrow bands of brownstone which wrap around the building at

window sill level on both of its two floors. The windows

are treated with inset panels in "Adamesque"3 manner of

applied arches on the first floor and simple rectangles on

the second. This detail is continued on the south elevation

which was originally the only other public side. The most

prominent feature of the main facade is the building's

fanlight crowned front door with an elegant stair of

brownstone which fans down to the pavement imitating the

form of the window above. This is covered by a semi-

circular portico that incorporates two neo-classically

inspired Ionic columns. Early photographs indicate that

around the middle of the nineteenth century, this portico

was actually rectangular in shape and was supported by

similar columns on top of the existing semi-circular stair.

This may imply that this was originally the intent of the

designer, but with the change, occurring in photographs


'. I I ,

, /


;1 'p n s I T
I I,
-~~LI- ln ^| I^-.IL
;:':44 I I^:i ^ n l, _t.d
i i-_--"i_____j

Early east and south elevations from P.N.B. pamphlet, 1979.


_i I


l ,' ,

hi "'
'' II i
I i
iii i, I i :i II i Il


around the same time, the building gained an attractive and

reasonable improvement.

Stylistically, the Bank building represents a time in

Nantucket when design began to break from conservatively

based Quaker formality and start to acknowledge the

influence from the mainland of more stylized and fanciful

work. The country's search for a national style had gone

beyond the Federal at this point and was developing stronger

applications of the neo-classical. Nantucketers by 1818

were probably some of the most travelled people in the

world, with the far reaches of their whaling trade, and

could only naturally be affected in the ways they designed

their buildings. The Nantucket Pacific Bank was the most

obvious and appropriate subject of this new influx of ideas.

While the Bank's front elevation remains today true to the

intentions of tAs original design, its flanks bear witness

to a process of alteration and additions that has been an

integral part of the building's life and its changing

requirements. Originally, the banking house was built as a

"squarish" block oriented to the east down Market Square

with a two bayed ell projecting to the west along the south

elevation. This is the elevation that looks on to Main

Street. The building was constructed of heavy brick masonry

walls and through the first and second floor rose an

interior transverse masonry wall of similar girth that was

so spaced to handle the support of the second floor on large

wooden joists. Due to this configuration the main banking

space to the front, or east end of the building, was rather


Through the front entrance one came into a tight public

lobby serving the teller's counter that began right after

the first window to the south and ran transversly across to

where the vaults were located on the north wall. The

structural evidence of the original location of these vaults

wcrc looatsod on tho north wall. The trutural evidrenee of

-.che original of these vaults (two, as seen from an early

plan) is still visible in the basement by a large structural

arch of brick masonry existing in the appropriate location.

Obviously, no windows were on the north side of the first

floor until these vaults were later removed. Behind the

tellers counter was a banking space that went as far as that

interior transverse masonry wall. This wall contained one

fireplace that served the banking and public space to the

east and two others that faced west into two offices on the

other side. The drawings completed in 1925 show that the

President's office had been the one on the south side of the

building.5 Beyond this office was the entrance hall and

stair to the apartment above. This, in combination with

another office to the west, was the ell that was most

probably original to the building. Early drawings show that

there was a fireplace on the west wall of this ell which

probably would have served an original kitchen to the

apartment above.6


u''r.s~/ C)


Early plan shows original layout of the first floor (1818) stair and
use of rooms unverified.
19th century photographs show painted exterior walls (removed around 1925).

Plan and photographs from PNB pamphlet, 1979, pp. 16.

At one point, not long after the original construction,

another ell was built off the west wall of the main block on

the north side facing Liberty Street. Up until this time

there is no evidence that there were ever any windows below

the second floor on that side of the building. This new ell

protruded north of the north block allowing for a door to be

located there, and the new space to used as the Director's

Room. For some reason this addition was built so that its

second floor was four feet below that of the main building's

and had to be bridged with a short run of stairs to connect

the two. A stair from the basement to the first and up to

the second floor is recorded to have been built later into

this ell, but little is knownof any detail. In any case,

the construction of this north ell was completely

independent of the existing south ell and evidence of a

larger fireplace may indicate that the kitchen was moved

over from there.

The apartment that housed the family of the Bank's Cashier

was originally on the second floor and was entered from the

south and up the south stairs in the rear. A staircase is

shown in one early plan off the main lobby on the north side

east of the vaults, however, not other mention of this stair

was found.7 The two front rooms, a drawing room and dining

room, are still in use by the bank's business offices and

remain much as they were in 1818. As aside note, this

drawing room on the south side is where the Mitchell

sisters' infamous piano was hidden until they were chastised
by the Quaker congregation. From these front rooms back,

little more information has been collected on the layout of

the second floor. Not until later, when the two ells were

eventually connected, does any other mention arise.

The roof of the original building is a hip or mansard

configuration on the main block with the ride of a pitched

roof over the southern ell following the same ridge line.

The northern ell is considerably shorter than the rest of

the building, however, and its pitched roof lies below and

projects from the main buildings' west wall. (In the

eventual connection of these wings and additions, with even

more space being created below, the roof plan has since

become a rather complicated combination of ridges, valleys,

slopes and flat surfaces that may eventually be responsible

for some maintenance problems.)

As fortunes seem to have been building most rapidly in

Nantucket between 1800 and the late forties, it would follow

that the bank's working needs would have called for any

changes to be made at this time. As of this writing,

however, the construction of the north ell sometime in the

first half of the century is all that can be seen. No other

alterations are recorded in this period. It is possible

that the Great Fire of 1846, which virtually leveled almost

one third of the town, made the rebuilding of other

businesses and homes a priority and thus stifled any

activity at the bank. One notable exception was the

observatory (no longer in existence) built on the roof by

William Mitchell, the bank's cashier from 1837 to 1861.

From here in 1847, his daughter Maria discovered the comet

that won here international acclaim and gold medal from the

King of Denmark. Even exact dates for this construction are

not recorded, however.

In 1865 the bank gave up its state charter and became

federally incorporated as the Pacific National Bank of

Nantucket. A year later new doors and lock3were fitted to

the bank's vaults. In 1894, with much fanfare and under

important leadership of cashier Albert Brock, the Bank

installed "steel lined, burglar proof, doors made for the

vault... with locks of the most approved kind."9 Clearly,

the nineteenth century was not a period of major alteration

to the buildings original design, but in 1912 Brock is

accredited with organizing a major modernization of the

Bank's interior layout. No information was found concerning

any changes that might have been made at this time. The

next significant turn of events doesn't seem to have taken

place until the years 1924-25.

By this time the original ideas and requirements of the

traditional banking house were certainly outdated. The

duties and business of the institution had evolved

considerably, even though economic hard times that had
befallen the island with the collapse of the whaling
befallen the island with the collapse of the whaling

industry. In 1923, the Bank's Trust Department was

initiated and by 1924 the time right for change. Original

blue prints prepared by the Boston firm of Densmore LeClear

and Robbins, dated February 1924, indicate the following

changes and additions made by the bank the next year.0

In first solving the real problems of limited public space,

the entire masonry wall which transversed the main building

was eliminated on the first floor, including the fireplaces,

and replaced by structural columns which bear on the

existing masonry foundations below. The teller's counter

and screen were then pushed back to this point, where it

remains today. The vaults were removed, creating a greater

public space that continued back to the west wall of the

original building. Windows were then introduced into the

north wall lighting the space better and creating a far less

stark elevation on the outside. The new public lobby then

wrapped around the L-shaped teller's counter which continued

to contain a banking area behind.

The vaults were replaced by a new two story vault which was

built on the back of the north ell. The floor heights

remained unchanged from the original additions' design and

the stair that had serviced the basement, first and second

floors was removed, creating a new basement access under the

south stair. The entrance from Liberty Street was also

removed at this point and replaced by a window. The stair

and stair hall in the south ell, as the only remaining

access to the second floor, .aa4- pushing its hall space into

the banking area behind the counter. This in effect was a

protrusion east of the original west wall of the main

building. This wall was penetrated again to the north,

creating an opening into a lobby space serving the new

vaults, the Director's Room and offices with an iron gate

separating it from the main Lobby.

At this point the two ells were finally combined,

eliminating the eight foot space that had existed between

them. The joining accommodated space for coupon booths on

the first floor and bathroom facilities on the second, and

the President's office was moved west to the office still

served by a fireplace in the back of the south ell.

In completing these changes the bank had solved its problems

of limited public space as well as the difficulties with

horizontal "work traffic"11 that had been an issue for some

time. The problems of vertical circulation remained,

however, and with the adaptation of the second floor

apartment to working space the problems became even more

evident. Today the Bank still suffers from this


One other notable alteration to completed around this same

time, although it is not exactly know when, was the removal

of exterior paint and the return of the natural color of the

brick.12 Early photographs have shown the building painted

white with contrasting color applied to the recessed window

panels and details. The removal of these finishes are

said to have been completed with a torch.

The building was again altered four years later in 1929 in

attempt to continue the modernization of the institution and

its facilities. Another set of drawings prepared by the

same firm of Densmore, LeClear and Robbins, document the

construction of an addition of two more bays to the south
ell in May of 1929. This project introduces, rather

unfortunately, the history of another building which would

later become bodily as well as institutionally bound to the

Pacific National Bank. The Masonic Lodge Hall, next to the

bank at 63 Main Street was occupied in 1929 by a combination

of small retail shops and various community groups. The

unfortunate nature of its relationship to the bank is that

also in 1929, half of it was torn down to allow for the

construction of this new addition.

Built in 1802, the Masonic Lodge is described as once having

a five-bayed facade with "colossal order Roman Ionic

pilasters"l5 flanking the center bay and at the outer

corners. With a full entablature, the second story windows

were enframed by small pilaster supporting archivolts and

keystones and the first floor was fashioned with a Greek

Revival entablature and pilasters as storefronts to serve

the changing needs of its owners. Two full bays to the east

were demolished to ma e way for the bank's addition.

The masonry wall and its fireplace serving the president's

office was removed form the bank's south ell now, of

course, joined to the north ell in the 1925 alterations.

The tow-bayed block that was added mimicked the two-bayed

block of the original east end of the elevation, thus

creating a more perceivable balance on this side of the

building. The south still being higher than the north, two

small windows were included in the north wall of the

addition to bring light into these new second story spaces.

At this point the Pacific National Bank commanded quite a

sizable piece of this corner property. The usable interior

square footage of the building had more than doubled in its

first century and every effort had been put forward in

keeping the institution as modern and efficient as possible.

For the most part this had consistently been done with the

historic nature of the building in mind, as well as its

place in the community as a whole. It wasn't until the

issue of the Masonic Lodge Hall came up again in the fifties

and sixties that the institution had truly been put to the


In 1952, the bank became the tenth owner of the denatured

Masonic Lodge Hall. since Nantucket's anti-Masonic period

in the 1830's and 40's, the building had been changing hands

almost regularly. Its first floor had always been rented,

as mentioned before, to small shops and merchants while the

second floor had served as the meeting place for a number of

schools, clubs and societies. When the Pacific National

Bank bought the property on the Hall's one hundred and

fiftieth year, the favored proposal was to turn the site

into a parking lot, accessible from both Liberty and Main
Street. While parking was becoming more and more of a

future need for the growing institution, it clearly would

have been a mistake to demolish this building to serve such

a purpose.

The bank was fortunately persuaded to preserve the Masonic

Lodge and eventually adapt it towards the greater needs of

the Trust Department. In 1970, this work began with

architect and interior designer, Allan Congdon, supervising

its completion. What resulted was first floor connection

being made through a fire door from the Bank's expanded

south side into the remaining portion of the Lodge building.

Most of the major spaces have been left relatively

unaltered, with the exception of its main stair which has

been made smaller and less dominating in the hall.17 The

building appears quite separate from the bank and stands as

a good example of compatible and sensitive treatments that

can be employed in fulfilling the needs of a growing


This brings the building up to date. With the exception of

maintenance and the painting of a large mural in 1954 over

the tellers' screen in the lobby, no other changes can be

identified. This mural was commissioned on the occasion of

the Bank's One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary and depicts

life in Nantucket at the time of the founding in 1804.

As of this past year the Pacific National Bank has taken

over ownership of the Philip Folger block across the street

on Main. This has been slated for the expansion of even

more Trust Department space hopeful awaits restoration work.

It seems clear that any future work the bank takes on will

certainly include a firm commitment to the architectural and

historical issues that surround Nantucket. As a focal point

and leader in the community since its founding, the Pacific

National Bank must continue to grow while at the same time

be an example of the stewardship that must accompany every

institution's policies towards change.


1. Pacific National Bank, 1804-1979: A Remarkable Bank
Account, p. 4-6.

2. Ibid.

3. George A. Fowlkes, Mirror of Nantucket.

4. Julian Gallup Everett, Memor sent to bank, 4/9/74.

5. Original Drawings by Densmore, LeClear and Robbins,
February 3, 1924 (D.A.).

6. Pacific National Bank, Remarkable Bank Account, 1979,
p. 17.

7. Ibid, p. 16.

8. Kehlenbeck Interview, July 23, 1986.

9. Pacific National Bank, Pamphlet 1979, p. 12.

10. Drawings found at offices of Design Associates, Inc.
Nantucket, MA.

11. Everett Memo, 4/9/74.

12. HABS Report, June, 1971 (Mass 938).

13. Pacific National Bank, Pamphlet, 1979, p.16. And
original photo in bank's possession.

14. Drawing found at Design Associates

15. Clay Lancaster, The Architecture of Historic Nantucket,
p. 152.

16. Letter addressed to Robert G. Metters, Chairman of
N.H.A. Building Survey.

17. Ibid.


1. Lancaster, Clay. The Architecture of Historic
Nantucket, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972.

2. Fowlkes, George Allen, A Mirror of Nantucket,
New Jersey, 1959.

3. Historic American Buildings Survey, #Mass-938.
Historical Report prepared by Marie M. Coffin,
June, 1966. Material edited for deposit in
Library of Congress by Constance Werner Ramirez,
June, 1971.

4. Brock, Albert G. "History of Bank", Proceedings,
N.H.A., 1904.

5. Folger Museum, Folder 25, Collection 91, HABS.

6. Pacific National Bank 1804-1979: A Remarkable
Bank Account, Pacific National Bank, 1980.

7. Pacific National Bank We've Been Helping Nantucketers
for 180 Years, Pacific National Bank, 1984.

8. Drawing for 1925 and 1929 changes were found at the
offices of Design Associates with help from
Chris Dalmus.

9. Mr. Henry G. Kehlenbeck, President Pacific National
Bank was most helpful in providing a tour of the
building from basement to roof and making available
drawings and information which were in the bank's

10. Memo found in Foulger Museum Collection from Julian
Gallup Everett to the Pacific National Bank,
April 9, 1974, was very important in this work.
Although his drawings were never found, this memo
"summarizes the data in the blueprints in the bank's
possession, that I used in preparing these drawings
of the 'as is' arrangements of the Premises."

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2011 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated May 24, 2011 - Version 3.0.0 - mvs