Rotch Counting House and Pacific Club

Dear Libby,

I am researching Massachusetts courthouses. Do your records show who built the 1772 Nantucket Courthouse at Water Street and Main Street? I was in the Library on Federal Street, but they had no information. I did not see any plaque on the old courthouse.


A Curious Visitor

Dear Visitor,

I presume that by “the 1772 Courthouse at Water Street and Main Street” you refer to what is known as the Pacific Club, the three-story brick building at the junction of Main and South Water streets, which housed the courtroom of the Nantucket court system until the early 1960s before the present Town and County Building, which now houses the courts, opened in 1966 at the corner of Broad and South Water Streets, at the northern end of that block.

The building in question was, in fact, built in 1775, not 1772, as erroneously stated on the wood plaque mounted on the outside of the building, for William Rotch, one of the pre-eminent figures in Nantucket’s whaling industry, and served as the Rotch Counting House. Rotch subsequently moved his business to New Bedford, and the building was bought by the Commercial Insurance Company, which owned it until it was purchased in 1861 by a group of former whaling masters who formed the organization known as the Pacific Club, and the building henceforth has been known by its eponymous name and is still owned by the members of the Pacific Club, who are invited into membership on a referral basis and are responsible for its maintenance.


Libby Oldham

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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