† 10 Montello Street

Montello Street, Provincetown (1911). Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell: Book 1, Page 5. Courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project (Dowd Collection). 
Among the several houses with an “Oldest” claim older than the “Oldest House” (72 Commercial Street), there once stood an especially picturesque half Cape on Montello Street. Althea Boxell (1910-1988), that obsessive chronicler of Provincetown, refers to it at least three times in her Scrapbooks: Book 1, Page 5; Book 1, Page 68; and Book 2, Page 133. I don’t know that this house stood at No. 10 — and Boxell doesn’t say — but I have a reason for guessing that it may have.

The four images of the “Oldest House” in the Scrapbooks all seem to be based on the same photograph, which Boxell dates at around 1910-1911. Thanks to the Town of Provincetown Web site, it is now possible to consult four historical Sanborn Maps, minutely detailed street atlases, including the 1912 Sanborn Map, published at roughly the same time as Boxell’s post cards.

An examination of Plate 3 shows a property at 10 Montello that seems to conform in many ways to the buildings depicted in the post card: The main house (1) has a small kitchen ell (2) on its right side. Immediately beyond the ell can be seen the gable end of what looks like another ell (3). To the far right is the gable end of a smaller, shacklike structure (4).

Possibly 10 Montello Street, Provincetown (1910-1912). 
Obviously, this isn’t dispositive. And it doesn’t account for the assertion in The Provincetown Book by Nancy W. Paine Smith rhat the oldest house in town was built by Squire Rich on Pleasant Street — unless 10 Montello once had a Pleasant Street address, as might possibly have been the case. ¶ Posted 2013-05-11

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