Known through the 2012 season as Dexter’s Inn (after Dexter S. Ross, a cofounder of the Provincetown Business Guild in 1978), this 15-room hotel is scheduled to reopen in 2013 as the Salt House Inn, under the ownership and management of David Bowd, who is otherwise the chief operating officer of André Balazs Properties (the Mercer and Standard High Line hotels in New York and the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood being among their best-known holdings), and his partner, Kevin O’Shea, founding principal of Kevin O’Shea Designs, an interiors firm. O’Shea and Bowd were responsible for the sensitive and sympathetic transformation of the former Martin House restaurant at 157 Commercial Street.
In the 1880s, this property was owned by David Conwell (1818-1898), an agent and investor who represented and — in some cases had a financial stake in — many whaling and cod-fishing vessels. In 1869 alone, Conwell’s roster included the whaling schooners Allie B. Dyer, Clara L. Sparks, E. [Eleanor?] B. Conwell, Mary E. Nason, N. G. Knights, Olive Clark, and Winged Racer; and the codfishermen Alice Raymond, Powwow and East Wind. He was the namesake of the David Conwell wharf, 389-395 Commercial, and almost certainly of Conwell Street.
More than a century ago, the complex of structures that compose the inn was a business known as Nickerson’s Accommodation, run by William K. Nickerson. I don’t believe this was an “accommodation” as we now understand the term (meaning a hostelry like the Salt House Inn), but an accommodation in the form of transportation, such as that run by the Paige Brothers. The fact that Nickerson’s business was just a few yards from the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad tracks would seem to point to the same conclusion.
Ross bought the property from E. Raymond Bailey in 1977, the first year of the annual Carnival parade, designed at first to attract gay tourist dollars in late August, as the summer season began waning. Three guest houses were the first sponsors. The next year, Ross joined with Ed Arruda, Ed Brady, Paul Christo, George Littrell, Donald Robertson and Arpina Stanton to form the Provincetown Business Guild, whose members are not necessarily gay themselves but are, in the organization’s words, “committed to the economic and cultural development of GLBT tourism.” (Laurel Guadazno, “Provincetown Loves a Parade,” The Banner, 19 August 2004.) Ross sold the property in 1987 to Jean Paul Masse and Denis Pelletier. Masse sold it in 1991 to Mary Taylor and Maureen Doneathy. They sold it in 1994 to Juanita M. Martin. She sold it in 1996 to John R. Actman, Dennis Cole and John D. Quaglia, as the Noble House Realty Trust.
Despite the frequent ownership changes, Dexter’s was recommended by Fodor’s in 2003 as offering “simple and pretty rooms at some of Provincetown’s more reasonable prices.” Bowd Realty bought the property from Noble House in 2011, and O’Shea continued to run Dexter’s under its old name as he planned its renascence as “the town’s first boutique inn.”
The Salt House is the title both of a novel by Hazel Hawthorne Werner, who owned the dune shack “Euphoria,” and of a later memoir of life in that shack by Cynthia Huntington. O’Shea said on his Web site that he has “used early 19th-century dune shacks and the rich decorative history of Cape Cod in a unique way to create a design that is both rich in texture but fresh and minimal” as the Salt House Inn takes form.