Home » Historic building of the week – The Canniffe House and Clothing Shop

Historic building of the week – The Canniffe House and Clothing Shop

It’s believed the building at 43 Atlantic Ave., was moved from the corner of Commercial Street between 1901 and 1908. Photo by Spenser Hasak

I am not sure about you, but when I see a historic building, I do not usually consider that it may have been moved. The next time I see the Canniffe House and Clothing Shop, however, that thought may come to mind.

In 1859, two brothers from County Cork, Ireland named John and Jeremiah Canniffe purchased a lot from a man named Daniel Glover. The lot was designated as 55 feet by 90 feet on Commercial Street and the seven-year mortgage was $1,025. In today’s money, that would be approximately $37,200. 

Unfortunately, John died of tuberculosis only months after the purchase, leaving Jeremiah with the property. In 1872, the household consisted of Jeremiah, his wife Margaret, and their two daughters.

But in 1902, two years after Jeremiah’s death, the property was divided between Jeremiah’s son, James, and his daughter, Mary. As a part of this division, James received the current property, a 33-foot-wide-by-55-foot-deep lot on Atlantic Avenue. His sister received the rest of the property.

The extant building currently sits at 43 Atlantic Ave, in James’ lot. However, it was likely not always at this location. Granted, it did not move too far — according to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, “A careful comparison of the 1901 and 1908 Sanborn maps strongly suggests that the two-story end house that is currently part of the subject building was moved from the corner fronting Commercial Street to its present location at this time.”

In other words, the house seems to have shifted northeast down Atlantic Avenue from the corner of Commercial Street and Atlantic Avenue. The first map upon which the lot is depicted does not include an Atlantic Avenue, only Commercial Street and Cottage Street.

Atlantic Avenue was extended through the Shipyard neighborhood, where this building sits, in 1882. The building’s movement to face Atlantic reflects the growing economic and commercial activity along the street and in the neighborhood.

While James’ family moved sometime between 1926 and 1930, James was not yet done with the property. By 1930, he had opened a clothing store at 43 Atlantic Ave., thus converting the property to mixed use, as it remains today. Though the Canniffe’s store eventually moved, storefronts remain in front of the gable of the Italianate-style end house that James and his father once called home.