As you walk up to the fourth floor of the Dodd Building at the northeast corner of Fifth and Maine in downtown Quincy, you get to suite No. 42. In the bottom right-hand corner of the door that leads into the office are the words, "Come In!"
It's a nice welcome for anyone wanting to do business with J.B. Murphy Real Estate and Appraisals. Murphy's office was right next to D.D. Dodd and Co. Merchandise Broker, which took up space in Suite No. 41.
As you stand in the hallway now outside where the businesses were, the mind pictures people hustling in and out of the place. Thanks to the living time capsule that is the upper floors of the Dodd Building, the mind is able to wander. These folks did business in an era well before cellphones and Wi-Fi hot spots. Rotary phones ruled the world and face-to-face customer service was key.
The new owners of the building, Rodney and Sheryl Hart, are planning to eventually bring the entire building back to life. They're starting out slowly. On the main floor is their baby, Second String Music, which has been in the building since July 2012. They will start to renovate the second and third floors of the five-story building.
Soon after the Harts moved their business to the location, the former owner of the building started to show it to potential buyers. That's when a light went off in Rodney Hart's head. Maybe they should buy the building. His motivation was two-fold: He didn't want their rent to go up and he didn't want someone from out of town being a landlord.
"I didn't want to have someone who wasn't from here buy the building and then have what happened over at the Newcomb happen here," Hart said.
On Sept. 6, a fire destroyed the former Newcomb Hotel building at 400 Maine. Unlike the Newcomb, which was basically condemned, the Dodd Building is in good shape throughout. There are some office spaces on the upper floors where you can't walk because of deterioration, but Hart can easily move through his building without the fear of falling through the floor and winding up on a different level.
With the exception of a stray pigeon who might find his way in, there are no insect or pest problems.
The building opened in 1897 -- about nine years after the Newcomb -- and was the tallest building on the square for 30 years. Mercantile Bank opened in the building in 1906 and stayed there until 1960. A fire damaged the building in 1924 and an identical five-story addition was built that year. While the bankers banked on the ground floor, business buzzed above it with people like doctors and dentists also taking up residence in the building at times.
Even after the bank moved out, people still found a reason to go to the Dodd Building. On the third floor, you can still see bumper stickers for the failed state senate run made by Quincy attorney George Lewis in 1980.
Near the Fifth Street side of the building on the second floor, a sign on the door welcomes visitors to Sunshine Cable Radio, 91.7 FM. The old studio, sans equipment, is still intact. It's easy to picture someone spinning some tunes.
Hart is eager to get the rebuilding process going but knows it is going to take a long time to finish. The couple plans to try to keep as much of the old building's charm as possible. That includes keeping as many of the old transom window at the top of each office door as possible. He'd love nothing more than for people who used the building in its heyday to walk in and feel like they've never left.
"It's got character," Hart said of the building.
Thanks to those who helped preserve the building, visitors can still see that today.