One of the historic gems of Hyannis is the Guyer Barn on South Street, west of Town Hall. Now known as the Hyannis Harbor Arts Center, the building is a showcase for local artists, both established and new ones, in a wide variety of artistic genres. The barn provides a community art space, a working artist studio and professional artist gallery which supports and promotes the arts. Visitors come here year round to enjoy changing art exhibits and performances, and participate in art classes and performances.

Last month the Guyer Barn was visited by ten members of the Guyer family who told of their fond memories of their childhood in the barn at the home of their grandfather, the local druggist Arthur J. Guyer, who was a prominent businessman in the village.

Arthur Guyer was also apparently an inventor of sorts. Among the memories of his grandchildren is that they marveled at a gadget Grampa built to push his horse out of the barn when the door was opened.

The barn was located behind the house built by Mr. Guyer in 1886. The house had a fine view of the bay from what was called Hallett Street (later South Street). It was next to the home of the popular steamship captain, Sidney Crowell.

Mr. Guyer had begun his pharmacy training in northern Vermont at age twenty, as clerk for the druggist Amasa O. Gates in Morrisville, Vermont, near his birthplace. The family told us the story that he joined his brother who was a grocer, floating a load of groceries down the Connecticut River. How Arthur got from the western Massachusetts to Cape Cod is unknown, but he showed up in Hyannis in 1883, at age 22, with his wife Delia.

He joined the most popular doctor in town, Dr. George Doane in the business of dispensing drugs. In June 1883 they opened the first apothecary, Hyannis Drugstore, across from the Post Office, on the southwest corner where Old Colony meets Main Street. They advertised selling patent medicines, shoulder braces, but also stationery, sponges, perfumery, hair dressing, mineral waters, horse medicine, and even Dalmatian insect powders.

A soda fountain provided the fizz for flavored drinks like Guyer’s Tonic. Doane and Guyer tried selling the business in 1889 without luck, and five years later Mr. Guyer bought Dr. Doane’s share but stayed in the building, which may have been owned by Dr. Doane.

In 1891, Arthur Guyer’s sister Josie opened up a jewelry store in the same building, selling summer goods like souvenir silver spoons, baseballs, toys and games, as well as eyeglasses and Christmas decorations. She also sold clocks and watches, which were repaired by a resident watchmaker Mr. Weber. Josie’s variety items did not hamper her brother’s promotion of novelties like valentines, bathing caps, Scot paper towels, Eastman Kodak cameras, hot water bottles, flashlights, chocolates, liquor and gasoline.

Arthur Guyer was an early bicycle enthusiast, biking 250 miles to his birthplace in Vermont, including a stretch where he travelled 150 miles in 14 hours. In 1893 he opened Guyer’s Bicycle Shop in Hyannis. When his wife Delia deserted him for the new oil fields of Pennsylvania, he divorced her, and married Hattie Thompson, daughter of a Vermont doctor.

Mr. Guyer became a prominent civic leader, a founder of the Cape Cod Telephone Company (1901) and Cape Cod Hospital (1919), president of the Rifle Association (1917) and Hyannis Board of Trade (1919), Master and 32 degree Mason, and Engineer of Hyannis Fire Department.

In 1913, the drug store moved across Main Street. After 40 years in business Mr. Guyer sold out in 1922 to his rival Mr. Megathlin, who continued the drug store under Guyer’s name. On his way to open a drug store in Vermont, his car was crushed by a Boston & Maine train, resulting in the loss of one of his lower legs. The pioneer druggist and cyclist died at his South Street home next to the barn in 1935.

Published in the Barnstable Enterprise Sept. 21, 2012


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