You might call Col. Charles Westcott, U.S.M.C. (Ret.), a washashore. After all, he wasn’t born in Provincetown and he didn’t settle into year-round life here until 1977, when he was in his mid-50s and at the end of a long military career. But to dwell on that technicality is to miss the fact that the colonel’s roots are sunk deeply in this sandy soil — through his boyhood, his marriage and this home, in which he happens to have grown up when it belonged to his grandmother Caroline L. Prevost. In 1945, Second Lieut. Westcott (b 1923) married the artist Carol Whorf (1926-2008), daughter of Vivienne (Wing) Whorf and the watercolorist John Whorf (52 Commercial Street), apprentice to Peter Hunt (432 Commercial Street), student of Henry Hensche (2-4 Hensche Lane) and sister of Nancy Whorf Kelly (14 Howland Street).
Westcott was born in Santo Domingo. His father was a Marine. He didn’t know either of his parents. His mother died in childbirth in Quantico, Va., in 1924. His father died soon thereafter. His mother’s mother, Mrs. Prevost, was chosen to be young Westcott’s guardian. She was related to the artists Frederick and Coulton Waugh, who had persuaded her to move to Provincetown. So the boy joined her here when he was about three or four years old.
The home that Mrs. Prevost purchased at 8 West Vine Street has been dated to about 1820 or earlier, thanks in part to the construction of its roof. “There’s absolutely nothing level in this damned house,” Colonel Westcott told me cheerfully in 2011. The previous owner, Charles Burch, had used part of the building as a store. The number “6” is still visible on the door outside the dining room, suggesting that the store used a different address than the house. The cupboards, shelves and cabinets in the store space were left as they had been in Burch’s day. The last substantial renovation of the house, the colonel said, occurred in 1927, when Coulton Waugh, Jesse Meads, Floyd Clymer and others pitched in to help his grandmother.
Carol Whorf Westcott’s portrait of her husband, left, was painted during a blizzard in 1978 when they were homebound so long, he didn’t shave his beard. She asked him to keep it. Her self-portrait was painted for him at his request when he was stationed in Vietnam.
The young Westcotts, Carol and Charles, bought 8 West Vine in 1949. Burch’s store was used by Nancy Whorf as a studio, and then by John Whorf, from around 1955 until his death in 1959, Colonel Westcott said. Whorf’s widow, Vivienne, lived at 8 West Vine until her death in 1972. Five years later, the Westcotts retired from a military life that had made them perennial wanderers (their six children had been born in four different places; two of them at Camp Lejeune, N.C.) and moved back to Provincetown. One of the dwelling’s many artistic treasures is a three-story doll house that Mrs. Westcott furnished and decorated.
A screen depicts the children. Upper row, from left: Charles Jr. (b 1946), Mary (b 1949) and Mark (b 1951). Lower row: Christopher (b 1952), Matthew (b 1954) and Amy (b 1959).
Mrs. Westcott, who had studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Corcoran School of Art, devoted much of her life to painting, using the studio in which her father and sister had worked decades earlier. Col. Westcott involved himself in the fledgling Center for Coastal Studies, which was then quartered at 59 Commercial Street, very near by. “I would grab the dog and walk around the corner to my job,” he recalled fondly, “and she’d take the car and an easel, and go out and paint.”
Though Mrs. Westcott had died three years before my first visit to 8 West Vine Street in 2011, her presence — and that of her father — were palpable in the house, as they were in the colonel’s joy in recalling their lives together and his inconsolable sorrow that those days had ended. ¶ Updated 2013-10-16
The house in 1976, from the front yard. Photograph by Josephine Del Deo.
The house in 1927, along West Vine Street.
Painting by John Whorf.
Painting by Carol Whorf Westcott.
Stair runner by Vivienne (Wing) Whorf.
Painting by Frederick Waugh at top.