Sherburne Hall, built just after the Great Fire of July 1846, took only five months to construct. This perhaps speaks to the island’s desire to rebuild, recover, and get back to work after the devastating fire that destroyed much of downtown. Originally called the Centre Street Block, the building housed six shops and an upstairs meeting space, used by the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows and other social groups from 1847 on. It was even briefly used as a dance studio!
By the 1860s, many of the shops on Centre Street, including shops in Sherburne Hall, were run by women, lending the street the still-used nickname “Petticoat Row.” A renovation completed in 1987 took twice as long as the original construction, with a team of skilled conservators, architects, and historic planners. The 1986/87 restoration relied on photographs from the 1870s, the earliest available of the hall. The renovation uncovered clay pipes, pottery, shoes, fabric, and women’s bonnets–reminders of the women shopkeepers who kept the island running during the golden age of the whaling industry.
Over the years, countless islanders and visitors alike have passed through Sherburne Hall, to attend the holiday artisan market, the Nantucket Historical Association’s Festival of Trees, or meetings of community and fraternal organizations. Sherburne Hall is home to both the Nantucket Preservation Trust and the Preservation Institute Nantucket, two organizations striving to protect and preserve Nantucket’s architectural history, for today and for the future.