Among the ever-diminishing number of larger-than-life figures in Provincetown, Robert E. Cabral (b 1926) can definitely be counted in the front ranks. Through Cabral Enterprises, he has owned and controlled Fisherman’s Wharf for nearly half a century. And to the extent that a landlord’s business interest may have sometimes have diverged from the public or civic interest, Cabral has never been shy about staking his ground and holding it. “Assert yourself,” is the lesson he said he learned as a Seabee, as recounted in the video interview series, Witness to War.
Son of William P. “Captain Bill” Cabral (b ±1899) and his wife, Mary (Taves) Cabral (b ±1900), and younger brother of Reginald W. “Reggie” Cabral (1923-1996), Robert grew up working on his father’s party boats and, until World War II, had never been over the Bourne Bridge, but simply envisioned that his life’s work would be in the fishery. In ±1948, he married Yvonne (Flores) Cabral (±1930-2008), the daughter of Frank and Palmeda (Lema) Flores. Their son Vaughan R. Cabral (b 1955), who also lives here, has followed his father in the business of managing Fisherman’s Wharf.
Though the Cabrals reclaimed a wreck of a burned-out pier, almost every move they’ve made over the years — whether to do with construction, parking or docking — has been scrutinized and debated. They’ve blamed their upland competitors with trying to shackle them unfairly and government officials with making them jump through regulatory hoops that other businesses are spared. “Everything I’ve ever done down there has been opposed,” Robert Cabral said in 1996. Their critics answer that the Cabrals have tended to act without obtaining all the needed approvals beforehand — no small matter.
The Cabrals bought their property on Pilgrim Heights Road in 1980 and built this 4,400-square-foot house in 1985. Given who developed it, it is fittingly one of the most distinctive and prominent homes in the neighborhood. In fact, its oblique angles recall the buildings Cabral Enterprises constructed on Fisherman’s Wharf.
In the video interview, Cabral expressed wistful remorse that he stayed in Provincetown once the war opened his eyes to a much wider world, including the burgeoning areas of Santa Monica and Ventura County in California. But had he not stayed, who would have rebuilt Fisherman’s Wharf and kept it going? Perhaps there would have been fewer confrontations down at the pier, but the town would have been much the poorer.
• Assessor’s Online Database ¶ Posted 2013-06-24