The Pacific Club is a historic brick building at the foot of Main Street that began life in 1772 as the counting house of whaling merchant William Rotch. Held together with worn bricks and dense lime mortar, the Pacific Club stands stoic yet fragile at 15 Main Street.
Whaling company owner, William Rotch, needed to be on the waterfront and so built his commercial warehouse in 1772 as a base of operations for his four whalers, the Beaver, the Bedford, the Dartmouth and the Eleanor. Today’s title for the building did not become a household name for another 79 years.
Along with the William Rotch Warehouse, the three-story brick served several miscellaneous uses after the Rotch whaling empire moved out. It once housed Nantucket’s courtroom, the chamber of commerce, a photographer’s studio, a local television station, a telegraph office, a weather service outpost, a U.S. Customs House and regular cribbage tournaments. Today this space is slowly being restored.
But there is no plaque or interpretive exhibit outside the Pacific Club building today narrating its history for passersby. Knowledge of this building is in the heads of its shareholders and members, now scattered around the country with just a few on Nantucket. A quick inquiry reveals that Rotch and other whaling captains, operated out the building from when he built it in 1772 until he sold the building to Gideon Gardner in 1804.
In July 22, 1854, the 24 shareholders of the building, 22 of which were former whaling captains, founded the Pacific Club, purchasing the brick whaling warehouse from the Commercial Insurance Company in 1861 for $1,205.
These days Nantucketers probably know this magnificent space as that building where the taxis are on its south side, for the Club Car restaurant, and the Bank of America ATM in the building’s northwest corner.