The White Porch Inn, which opened in 2007 under the proprietorship of Thomas G. Shirk, cultivates a casually refined image. But 7 Johnson Street was once a rather more raffish establishment known as the Coat of Arms. And in that period, under Arpina (Eghigian) Stanton (b 1924) and her husband, Dr. Harry H. “Skip” Stanton (1928-2001), it was among the groundbreaking establishments in town, as one of only three guest houses to join in the first Carnival parade in 1977, thereby declaring quite publicly that it served and cultivated a gay and lesbian clientele. (The others were the Ranch, 198 Commercial, and George’s Inn, 9 Court Street.) These formed the nucleus of the Provincetown Business Guild.
“At that time, Provincetown was not as lenient as it is now,” Arpina Stanton was quoted as saying by Sandra L. Faiman-Silva in The Courage to Connect: Sexuality, Citizenship and Community in Provincetown (2004). “Anything that was a little bit different bothered them. We got a little razzing along the way, but they all followed us to the Boatslip and had a wonderful time.”
Skip Stanton, also known as Doc, seemed perfectly cast as a Provincetown wash-ashore: he went from medical school to the Army to a short-lived musical career on Broadway to the Virgin Islands Hospital, before landing in Provincetown with his wife and opening the Coat of Arms. Oh yes, he also worked on the research vessels Atlantis II and Knorr, run by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He and Arpina bought this property in 1971 from Charles R. Migatz. She sold it in 2005 to Shirk, four years after her husband died. (As a footnote in the history of innkeeping in Provincetown, the Coat of Arms was where Ken Janson and Robert C. Vetrick spent their first night together in 1983. Four years later, they opened the Ampersand Guesthouse at 6 Cottage Street.)
Shirk completely renovated the main house and the garage (that is to say, the “carriage house”) and reopened the inn in 2007 with nine rooms redecorated in what the White Porch Web site calls “beachy chic.” As an additional amenity to guests, Shirk established the In(n) Art program, a constantly changing exhibition of artwork. Most of it is for sale. “In this relaxed and easy-going environment, guests have the opportunity to enjoy the pieces, over a glass of wine or two, while learning about and possibly becoming attached to a certain piece through this experience,” the Web site says. Shirk also owns the White Porch Gallery in the Wynwood area of Miami. And — befitting the heritage of this guest house — he is also a member of the Provincetown Business Guild.