10 Cudworth Street

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap. 
Jessica Grace Lema, 10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.Joseph Lema Jr. (1910-2004) knew that his bride’s heart was set on this sweet little house near St. Peter’s Church. Now, 1939 was scarcely a year for extravagant financial gestures, but Joe so loved his new wife, Jessica (Grace) Lema (1911-2012); so loved her that he sacrificed his black roadster with orange wire wheels to finance the purchase. And one day, he came home to their apartment “downtown,” at 394 Commercial Street, showed her the keys he had in his hand and said, “Let’s take a look at our house.” That lovely romantic gesture has been amply repaid. Mrs. Lema was still living at 10 Cudworth Street 72 years later when I had the privilege of meeting her — one of Provincetown’s oldest citizens in one of its oldest houses. That’s just how it should be.

The house is astonishingly intact, from its birthing room to its plank doors with gravity latches. And, in a conversation arranged by Susan Leonard in April 2011, Mrs. Lema explained that she and her husband liked it that way. The house serviceably allowed them to raise a family of three children, and the Lemas never saw much of a need to alter it. Can you imagine? Talk about sustainable architecture! The vertiginously steep staircase sent shivers through me. “Surely you don’t use that,” I said. “Oh, no,” Mrs. Lema assured me, at the age of 99. “I haven’t been on those stairs in six months.”

Mrs. Lema was born in Cambridge on 10 October 1911. (“10/10/11,” she pointed out, is very easy to remember.) Her father, Capt. Manuel Joseph Grace, had come from Pico in the Azores, where the family name was Gracia. He skippered a fishing schooner. Her mother was Rose Elizabeth (Costa) Grace, a bookkeeper who lived in Provincetown and East Boston. The family moved to the Cape end when Mrs. Lema was a baby and lived at 158 Commercial Street, next to the landmark Grozier House. Her mother made braided rugs, and Alice Grozier was a steady customer. Mrs. Grace would also take her rugs and quilts over to Boston, to show them at Jordan Marsh, and always returned with a ribbon for excellence, Mrs. Lema said. At the time, long before the Boatslip was constructed, the bay side of Commercial Street was a large expanse of open land and beach known as Grozier Park. Young Jessica Grace could play at the beach while her father — sidelined from the fishery by kidney disease — watched from the house. “He could sit at the window and tell you what the weather would be,” Mrs. Lema recalled.

Capt. Manuel Joseph Grace. From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.Rose Elizabeth (Costa) Grace. From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.
 
Mrs. Lema picked up her mother’s craft, but not nearly as enthusiastically. Regarding the handsome braided rug in the living room as we talked, she said frankly, “It took me 25 years to make, because I’d get sick of it and put it away for a while.” What she did excel in — and enjoy — was making prints, tinting lithographs and cutting mattes. She attended the Massachusetts College of Art and worked as a nanny for Tod Lindenmuth’s wife, Elizabeth Boardman Warren, after graduation. “She taught me to print,” Mrs. Lema said. “From then on, I did all her printing, all her mattes.” She also tinted lithographs for Dorothy Lake Gregory.

In the 1930s, young Joe Lema was working at Nelson’s Market (now Far Land), 150 Bradford Street, and paying a great deal of attention to a girl who happened to be a friend of Jessica’s. “My friend and I were going out to the beach and he came along in the roadster,” Mrs. Lema recalled. “We climbed into the rumble seat. She turned to me and said, ‘Joe’s teaching me to drive.’ I was a bit shy but I said to him, ‘I’d love to learn how to drive.’ He said, ‘I’ll be by at 8 o’clock tomorrow.'” The driving lessons ended. And when the roadster was sold to help finance the house purchase, the Lemas took to using Clarence Nelson’s yellow pick-up truck to get around town. “For six months,” Mrs. Lema said, “we didn’t go the movies or buy any clothes.”

Painting by Jessica Grace Lema. From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.When she was pregnant with Jessica (b 1940), Mrs. Lema was told by her doctor to give up her strenuous work on the printing press. Two other children followed: Joseph in 1942 (“Joseph Anthony, not Junior”) and Elizabeth in 1943. Henry Hensche drew a lovely portrait of young Elizabeth that was still hanging in Mrs. Lema’s living room when I visited.

Joe Lema’s career at Nelson’s was interrupted by a stint in the Army toward the end of World War II, but though his travels took him far from the Cape (Alaska), he did not venture far from his trade (meat inspector for troop provisions). He served as a meat inspector for troops stationed in Alaska. He was swept into office as a Selectman in 1957, during the election that upheld the newly instituted Selectmen-Town Manager form of government. At the age of 60, when retirement thoughts are beginning to form in some people’s minds, Lema opened the Joe Lema & Sons [?] Market on Main Street in Wellfleet, where he worked for the next 34 years, until selling the business to Marshall Smith, who now maintains it as the Wellfleet Marketplace. Lema died not long thereafter. (“Joseph Lema Jr., 93,” The Banner, 4 March 2004.)

Mrs. Lema lived to see her 100th birthday, but no more. She died 4 May 2012 in an assisted-living facility not far from Jessica’s home in Delaware, leaving not only three children, seven grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, a step-great-grandchild and one great-great-grandchild, but a house that spoke eloquently of family. Almost 30 years earlier, Jessica had described the feeling that washed over her whenever she returned to 10 Cudworth Street. She said it was a

“feeling that can only be experienced by someone raised by quiet, kind, unassuming parents who provided a stable life before my journey into the world. It is the feeling that no matter what adventure I choose in whatever part of the world; what disappointment or pain I suffer; whatever failure may occur; I will always be important, loved, worried about and, most of all, cherished. I play no businesswoman roles here. A little girl emerges before she must return to the ‘real world.'”

Historic District SurveyAssessor’s Online Database ¶ Posted 2012-12-10


 

Jessica Grace (1928). From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.

 

Drawing by Jessica Grace. From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.

 

Painting by Jessica Grace. From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.

 

Joseph Lema Jr. at center. From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.

 

Jessica and Joseph Lema From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.

 

Joseph Anthony, Joseph Jr. and Elizabeth Lema. From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.

 

Elizabeth Lema by Henry Hensche. Courtesy of Jessica Grace Lema.

 

Jessica Lema (1948). From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.

 

Jessica Lema (1959). From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.

 

Jessica and Joseph Lema. From "Nana and Poppy: A Provincetown Love Story," by Jessica Grace Lema and Jessica Lema Clark. Courtesy of Jessica Lema Clark and Elizabeth Lema Perrillo.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

10 Cudworth Street, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.

 

19 thoughts on “10 Cudworth Street

  1. What a wonderful testament to a wonderful woman/family. I cried when I read it.

    The “For Sale” sign is gone. I wonder who bought it.

    • Ruth Anne O’Donnell here, still wiping the tears from my eyes and will be blowing my nose all day, I’m sure, after reading this history.

      Having grown up in the West End of town with the “uneducated roughnecks and bullies” (Mary-Jo Avellar’s description), it’s hard to think of Jessica’s description of life as even close to how I grew up. The house reflects her demeanor, even as a teenager, and “the quiet, kind and unassuming parents who provided the stable life that always made her feel loved, worried about and most of all cherished.” … Boo-hoo some more.

      I hate to think of that house being spoiled.

    • We’ve just learned that a couple from New York raising three children have secured a mortgage and will have 10 Cudworth as a summer home very soon.

      It is very sad. I was born in the house and I brought my children every summer to visit and soon after grandchildren enjoyed the summers and all that Provincetown has to offer. I miss my mother every day and will miss the crooked floors, warmth in winter, and breezes blowing through the house in the summer.

      Thank you, Ruth Anne. I, too, hope the new owners will cherish the “oldness” of our house! So many happy memories …

      • Jessica
        I can’t begin to tell you how much this story moved me. I will always remember your home as a place of safety, a place of family, a place of love. Liz and Joey and I spent countless hours in that dining room while Uncle Joe and Aunt Jesse sat quietly in the living room with the door closed… always close enough to ensure that we were safe and far enough away to let us revel in the joy of being teenagers. I was last in Provincetown about a year before she died and I stopped in to surprise her. I am so grateful for that afternoon with her… I adored and admired her and she lives in my memory as one of the most important influences on my life. I was truly blessed to have been a part of her family.
        John Fields

      • Jessica,

        How to explain . . . .

        I “found” my way to this website. At first, it was an intellectual challenge. Then it was “following my heart”.

        I was stationed at North Truro AFS in 1966. I believe your sister, Liz, was my first love (Is that her in the drawing/photo?) I believe the article stated she was born in 1943 which makes me wonder if I have the right Liz (I was born in 1947 and thought she was approx. the same age). On the other hand, the photos of the house and your mother look familiar to me. I spent a number of wonderful times sitting at the kitchen table with Liz and your mother. I don’t remember meeting you or your brother.

        I don’t know whether this will reach you . . . . I wonder if Liz is still alive? I wonder how she is, etc. Does she remember me? (If it helps you might remind her that she attended my brother’s wedding with me in Mansfield, Ma).

        I’ll try sending this out into the universe in an “old man’s nostalgic” attempt to rekindle some memories. I can be contacted at gehrlich_1999@yahoo.com.

        Greg

  2. What a lovely tribute to the Lema family and their home. Thanks again David … for bringing to life the rich history of our unique little town. Your words and images braid a beautiful rug.

  3. Ditto what David Mayo said … lovely to think of such permanence, satisfaction and fulfillment in a beautiful home and family.

    • As the new homeowner of 10 Cudworth I will always cherish the stories and welcome any additional history anyone can add about this home …

      Wish the braided rug was here but guess it’s my time to start a new one …

  4. I am the first born granddaughter of Jessica and Joe Lema, Victoria Harding Johnston, and I now live in Washington State. I can tell you that those walls brought peace and love to our family time and time again. It was the love from our wonderful grandmother “Nana” and grandfather “Poppy” that was a solace to my soul. I thank you for sharing this story about our family and will treasure the words. I am so grateful to God for the loving grandparents who were a consistent and steady presence in our lives as we journeyed on this Earth and I look forward to seeing them again.My Nana used to say, “for such a small person (she was barely 5 feet) look what I’ve started….”when she left this Earth she was ready to “go home” she told me and now she is with Poppy there and I stand on that certainty that I will see her again.

    Blessings,

    • Thank you so much, Ms. Johnson. I consider myself very lucky indeed to have been able to meet your grandmother. What a treasure she was!

    • Thank you, my darling daughter! We had many happy moments in nana’s and poppy’s house. Love, Mom

    • Victoria,

      I’m attaching a note I sent to your grandmother (?) as I too live in Washington state and, in case, you can be of any help.

      Greg

      Jessica,

      How to explain . . . .

      I “found” my way to this website. At first, it was an intellectual challenge. Then it was “following my heart”.

      I was stationed at North Truro AFS in 1966. I believe your sister, Liz, was my first love (Is that her in the drawing/photo?) I believe the article stated she was born in 1943 which makes me wonder if I have the right Liz (I was born in 1947 and thought she was approx. the same age). On the other hand, the photos of the house and your mother look familiar to me. I spent a number of wonderful times sitting at the kitchen table with Liz and your mother. I don’t remember meeting you or your brother.

      I don’t know whether this will reach you . . . . I wonder if Liz is still alive? I wonder how she is, etc. Does she remember me? (If it helps you might remind her that she attended my brother’s wedding with me in Mansfield, Ma).

      I’ll try sending this out into the universe in an “old man’s nostalgic” attempt to rekindle some memories. I can be contacted at gehrlich_1999@yahoo.com.

      Greg

  5. I am so glad that Jessica Lema Harding sent me this site. I am just a niece by marriage but Aunt Jess was like the mother I never had. I spent lots of time with her as we both aged and she helped me by listening and sharing ideas and thoughts that came from her experience in life. I, too, miss my visits and her beautiful old home. I still drive by now and wish she was there for me to have one more talk. She will always be in my heart and I loved that I have become a part of her family. I feel like I have sisters that I never had before.

    • Roberta, You were so kind to both mom and dad. They loved having you visit. Thank you for the memories. Your sister, Jessica

  6. David, Thank you so much for highlighting this family. Mr. and Mrs. Lema were like a second family to me, and, yes, their home was certainly my safe haven. After my husband and I were married and we went back to Ptown for a visit, they were the first people I wanted him to meet. They are all gone now and are missed deeply, but I still have all the memories made there and still consider Jessica to be my best friend. Another testiment to the family! Still friends after so many years!

    • Dear Peggi, You are such a good friend and we have such good memories growing up in Provincetown. What a wonderful life! Jessica

  7. Jessica as A classmate with our friendship over the years and some of the latter years spent with your mom and her knitting will be treasured with memories forever. You were always there when needed. Through our research when we took our trip to our native islands of Portugal we learnt a great deal of our family and culture. May we never loose contact with one another. Always,Janice

  8. Janice, Thank you for your kind words. Our lives have changed but not the friendships we’ve had since childhood. Jessica

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