Business Profile: 48 Central Square
The J.H. Fairbanks block, at 48 Central Square, is the oldest commercial building on the Common. Unlike most surviving 19th-century commercial buildings, which lost their storefronts to modernizations over the years, the Fairbanks block boasts a remarkable number of original elements, including its wooden storefronts, bracketed porch overhang, and Italianate hood moldings over its third-floor windows.
Two English immigrants, John Hassam Fairbanks and William Prophett, bought this plot of land from Josiah Bassett in 1864. They finished construction a year later. Fairbanks was a tinsmith who later opened a hardware shop on Bedford Street; he then moved the shop into the northern storefront of the new building. Prophett was a carpenter and cabinetmaker who opened a furniture store in the southern storefront. He later expanded his business into upholstery and undertaking.
The upholstery shop, as well as a tin shop, were located toward the rear of the building. The block also included a wooden "showcase" (visible in the photo below) on the sidewalk to advertise the stores' products.
In the 1940s, Prophett's family moved the business into William Prophett's former home at 98 Bedford Street. It remains there to this day.
Fairbanks Hardware expanded into both storefronts and operated from the Fairbanks block until the 1980s, when they moved into the former Rico's (originally A&P) at the northern edge of the Common. Fairbanks closed in 2007 after Walgreens announced that they were razing the shopping plaza to build their new store.
Recent tenants of the Fairbanks block include the Music Loft, Get Fit, and the Juice Mill.