History of 2 Bay View St.

By Flint Decker | May 02, 2012
Courtesy of: Flint Decker Copyright Amy Wilton.

The 2 Bay View St. building in Camden was built in 1833 and opened as a bank with the original “teller windows” still in place today. Known for it’s iconic curved front and curved windows, the building housed a safe that is long gone but the heart of the space remains.

Just a short period later, the building was owned by Joseph W. Bowers and called the “J.W. Bowers” Plumbing Co. The shop was known locally for selling a number of items including supplies for the ship chandlers’ in port, fisherman’s outfits, plumbing supplies, sailing provisions, kitchen woodenwares and a tinsmith. The space also housed a steamboat agent’s office and a small fish market below, from the space that is now the Small Wonder Art Gallery.

In many ways, the building was built like a boat, given its distinctive curved front shape, unusual offset architectural style and its large oversized curved front windows. The building survived the great fire of 1892 where Northeast winds carried the fire up Elm Street. Years later, the building also survived the harbor fire of 1935 where, fortunately, winds blew in the opposite direction — out of the Northwest toward the harbor.

Through the decades of the economic boom in shipbuilding, then bust, then boom again, and eventually a harbor landing waterfront redevelopment, the building has remained. She sits proudly at the head of Bay View Street and on the corner of what was known at the turn of the century as the “Corner of Bay View and Commercial streets.” Inside, a three-story industrial elevator was used for many years by plumbing supply companies, and still is in place today.

When Bowers owned the building it was known as the “Jones Block.” By 1931, it was owned by Albert H. Parsons, who was also a plumber and renamed the business to A. H. Parsons Plumbing Supply Co. Parsons retired in 1947 but the building retained his name well into the late 50s before it was changed to F. L. Spears Plumbing and Heating Co. At this time the building was referred to as the Spears Block. Years later, the building was sold once again and became the Hamilton Plumbing Co. In December 1971, Betty and Jack Frost purchased the building.

The Jack Frost Shop, which opened in February 1972, was robbed of $31,000 worth of coins and rare stamps two months later. The shop became well-known for antiques, post cards, coins, artwork and Maine-made items. Later in the mid 70s, the lower portion of the 2 Bay View St. building was the first location of Maine Sport, which opened for business in the dead of winter, selling bikes and kayaks out of the garage space downstairs. The Canvas Bag Shop opened and sold goods from the side entrance on Commercial Street each summer. Later, the well-loved Unique One sweater and yarn store operated out of the main floor for many years, until 2009.

Today, Small Wonder Art Gallery, now in its 28th year of business, and The New England Real Estate Company, which opened Dec. 1, 2011, together with The Antique Garden Shoppe, due to open May 17, operate out of the historic 2 Bay View St. building.

The 2 Bay View building was restored and fully renovated during summer and fall 2011 by Gail and me, owners of The New England Real Estate Company and The Antique Garden Shoppe. We recently returned back home to our home states of Vermont and Maine from Park City, Utah.

Interesting facts (or fiction) on 2 Bay View Street Building...

– The two great fires of 1892 and later in 1935 both ‘missed’ this building by just inches solely based on the different wind directions both days…

– This building and all the adjoining buildings on the Bay View wharf, housed thousands of boat builders who rushed into Camden for almost two years during the new boat building contract with the Navy during WWII, as evidenced by the ‘cut opening doorways between buildings’ which housed workers with beds…

– The front curved window on the right had a car drive right through it years ago. (That’s why it appears curved still, but is flat because of the extreme expense to replace it…)

– The front curved window on the left, still curved and in existence today, shows the ‘bullet hole’ in it from some late night unknown activities, which happened years ago, and are still a mystery today!

– Brenda, the owner of Unique One, passed away suddenly. Years later, we discovered the two original Unique One signs in the building, covered up. Through last summer’s restoration, we had the fortune of running into two wonderful Penobscot Chamber volunteers, Jim and Bev Nolan, at a Rotarian event one evening, and they found Brenda’s father and helped us donate (and deliver - thanks Jim and Bev!) the two signs back to Brenda’s father Leo on his farm in Union. He built the two signs originally for his daughter more than 25 years earlier…

Submitted by A. Flint Decker, owner of The New England Real Estate Company, 2 Bay View St., Camden.

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