In its first 150 years of existence, this substantial house was owned by only two families: the Morris-Snow family until 1947, and the Vasques family from then untl 2004. Happily for posterity, the Snow family included a photographer, Louis, who thought to take pictures of the inside of family’s home around 1900, creating an especially priceless glimpse into the domestic life of the mercantile class. (One word: wallpaper!) Three views of the house were reproduced by Irma Ruckstuhl in the wonderfully revealing Old Provincetown in Early Photographs, followed by three photographs of the Obadiah Snow & Son store at 259-263 Commercial Street.
The house was constructed in about 1850 by Lewis Morris, who was subsequently lost at sea. It passed through his daughter to three generations of Snows: Obadiah Snow (1825-1906), Morris’s son-in-law; Elijah Olin Snow, Obadiah’s son and successor to the Commercial Street store; and Olin’s son, Louis Morris Snow, who was the photographer. Louis sold the Washington Avenue property in 1947 to Salvador Rodriques Vasques Jr. and his wife, Marguerite (Thomas) Vasques. Vasques was the owner and captain of the dragger Reneva. Their children held on to the house until 2004, when they sold it to Michael J. Istvanko and Ronald W. Harrison. Istvanko is the vice chairman of Fenway Health in Boston.
In December 2013, Salvador R. Vasques III shared some wonderful reminiscences with Building Provincetown:
“I was born at Dr. [Thomas] Perry’s house at 234 Commercial Street (the old Union Square shops). Dr. Perry had a birthing room in his house. We lived upstairs at 416 Commercial Street. We moved to 6 Washington Avenue when I was 7 years old.
“I have so many fond memories of growing up there. In my childhood, my brother, John; sister, Marguerite; along with my mother, would walk down Washington Avenue, cross Commercial Street, walk down the town landing to the beach in front of Dyer Street, and join other family members to spend the afternoon at the beach. But we couldn’t go to the beach until after the Guiding Light TV serial, nor could we go alone.
“An unusual feature of the house was that there was a door in the parlor that opened out to Washington Avenue, but there was no door stoop. We grew up being told that it was a door to carry out a coffin, as the coffin was not able to come in the front door. I do remember that my grandmother was laid out in the parlor and that door was used. When my parents renovated the parlor, the door was removed.
“Another memory is when I was exploring in the attic, I discovered an old painting in the eaves, of a scene of a boat unloading fish onto a horse and wagon along the Back Shore. The artist is E. Augustus Pechain, 1871. (The name is difficult to read and maybe the spelling is incorrect.) I also found a copy of The Provincetown Banner, June 1856, Volume I, Number 1.”
¶ Updated 2013-12-04