18 Pearl Street. Courtesy of Lucy B. Siegel.
While the term “captain’s house” may conjure something tall, white, and porticoed overlooking the harbor, there are plenty of ship masters’ homes tucked quietly away upland. Capt. John Bell, the master of the schooner Antarctic, purchased this property in 1872. Town records suggests the house was built in the 1850s.
On 31 October 1883, while domiciled here, Captain Bell and his crew departed on a nine-and-a-half-month voyage across the Atlantic in search of sperm whales. We’re lucky to have a day-by-day journal of that trip, recorded by George S. Johnson, and digitized by the University of Delaware Library.¹ In it, Antarctic first encountered whales on her 10th day at sea, at a point roughly 730 miles south of the Cape.
A page from the log of the schooner Antarctic, whose master, Capt. John Bell, lived at 18 Pearl Street in the late 19th century. Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, MSS 097, Item 044.
Title to 18 Pearl passed in 1911 to the captain’s daughter, Angie Bell, a practical nurse, housekeeper, and baker. She sold the house in 1941 to Oakley Austin Spingler (1908-2003) and his wife, Zilpha Bell (Nelson) Spingler (1916-1988). Miss Bell lived until 1953.
Zilpha, a Provincetown native, had married Oakley, from Newport, R.I., in 1937. He was a Gulf Oil dealer, an officer of the Highland Fish and Game Club (president, from 1947 to 1949), and an artist whose watercolor of a railroad crossing is part of the town collection. During the early years of the Cold War, he also served as an air-raid warden.
Oakley Austin Spingler painted this watercolor of a railroad crossing. Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 1710.
For $7,000 (about $65,000 in 2019 dollars), the Spinglers sold the property in 1955 to the fisherman Francis J. “Barshie” Santos (1925-1988) — not to be confused with the boatbuilder Francis “Flyer” Santos — and his wife, Veronica M. Santos.
Jacqueline D. “Jackie” Kelly and Karen L. Harding bought 18 Pearl from Mrs. Santos in 1982, for $53,000 (about $145,000), and opened the Greenhouse guest house.
As the house appeared in 2012, when it served as the annex to the Black Pearl Inn at 11 Pearl Street. Photo by David W. Dunlap.
It became the Irving House under the proprietorship of John P. Ransom Jr. and Michael F. Beattie, who purchased the property in 1993 for $175,000, roughly $310,000; accounting for inflation. They sold it in 2004 for $677,500 (or about $920,000) to Guy Plourde-Vargas, proprietor of the nearby Black Pearl Inn, who turned 18 Pearl into an annex of the main guest house, and painted it an eye-popping vermillion, to match 11 Pearl Street.
Lucy B. Siegel of Manhattan acquired No. 18 from Plourde in 2017. She paid $875,000, and returned the property to use as a single-family home.
¶ Last updated on 16 August 2019.
¹ Journal of a Whaling Voiage in the Atlantic Ocean on Board Schr Antarctic, by George S. Johnson, 1881-1884. Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, MSS 097, Item 044.