3 Dyer Street

3 Dyer Street, Provincetown (2012), by David W. Dunlap. 
3 Dyer Street, Provincetown (2008), by David W. Dunlap.Ahab? Arrrgh! Here there lived a whaling captain, one John A. Dunham by name, master of the William A. Grozier, whose leg was bitten off by a shark in the West Indies after he’d fallen overboard from a dory. Captain Dunham (1847-1912) did not even know what had happened until he’d clambered back into the boat. The house remained in the hands of the Dunham family until 2008, when Bradley L. Horner purchased it. The transformation since then — including the reopening of the front porch — has been remarkable, as these before-and-after photos attest.

Captain Dunham was the son of Capt John Thomas Dunham (1815-1882), the keeper of the first Long Point Light, from 1850 to 1862, and Abbie Dunham (±1825-1891). The younger Captain Dunham made at least 35 whaling voyages, lasting months at a time. He sailed first aboard the schooner Ellen Rizpah, from 1875 to 1885; then the famous schooner Alcyone in 1886 and 1887. Every year thereafter until 1903 — sometimes twice in a year — he took her out into the Atlantic to hunt for whales. In 1904, he was succeeded at the helm by his son, Capt. George Leonard Dunham (1877-1919), who was later lost at sea. John A. Dunham’s wife, Margaret A. Dunham (1856-1945), survived him by 33 years. Their children included Edith (Dunham) Christopher (1875-1959). The Dunhams are related to Capt. Henry N. West (1838-1876) and are buried in the West family plot at Gifford Cemetery.

From at least the 1930s through the 1990s, 3 Dyer Street was operated by the family as an accommodation. It was listed under “Rooms and Bath” in the Modern Pilgrim’s Guide of 1934. Kenneth H. Dunham (b ±1904), the grandson of the whaler and great grandson of the lighthouse keeper, managed the property in the 1950s and ’60s as the Dunham House. In the 1980s and ’90s, it was called the Dunham Guest House. Old-fashioned, reasonable, friendly and informal were adjectives used by Gillian Drake in 1992 to describe the place in her Complete Guide to Provincetown. At the time, it was owned and operated by Alice Dunham and her son, Jack, a tennis pro.

Historic District SurveyAssessor’s Online Database ¶ Posted 2012-12-16


3 Dyer Street, Provincetown (2010), by David W. Dunlap.


3 Dyer Street, Provincetown (2012), by David W. Dunlap.


2 thoughts on “3 Dyer Street

  1. My mother, Margaret A. Mayo, and her family lived in the Dunham House when they first arrived in town. My mother’s room was the one over the porch. She loved hearing the fishermen walking to their boats early in the morning. She could also see the harbor.

    Her father (my grandfather), John Campbell Williams, was a Provincetown native. He had gone to Boston during the Police Strike of 1919 and joined the force. There, he met and married Catherine MacPherson from Prince Edward Island, Canada. They lived in Dorchester with their three children: Margaret (my mother), Mabel and John Francis. My grandfather John served on the harbor detail, given his seafaring past in Provincetown. He used to pick up his wife and children at the beach in Dorchester and take them for rides around the harbor.

    Then he was called to Provincetown to become the chief of police. As a child, my mother spent alternate summers on Prince Edward Island and in Provincetown. Here, she lived on Point Street with grandfather John’s mother (in other words, my great-grandmother). She was the local midwife and delivered most of the children in the area.

    My grandmother Catherine was one of three sets of twins out of 13 children total. Her grandparents spoke Gaelic. I remember grandmother Catherine using some Gaelic phrases she learned in her childhood. She would spend hours reciting poems she’d memorized. She taught one to my daughter, who remembers it vividly.

    My grandmother and her twin each lived to be 100.

    My mother lived two months shy of 101. I was her main caregiver for the last five years of her life.

    I would be happy with 95 years, thank you.

  2. My mother’s grandmother lived at 17 Race Road, not Point Street. It looks just as it had when she lived there. Her name was Marion Campbell Williams (1844-1914). Her husband was John Francis Williams (1832-85); my mother’s brother was named after him. Yes, I visited their grave site today in the old Winthrop cemetery behind the fire station.

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