509 Commercial Street

Former Crave’s Frames

The picture framing business run by John F. Crave Jr. (1926-2010) was closed with his death, but the bay window storefront has been maintained by the family, as if the simpler-seeming Provincetown past that it embodies so poignantly could somehow be recaptured by just walking through the door. This noble old building is also adorned with a quarterboard from the Pequod, suggesting that Ishmael may have spent some of his retirement years here. (He actually could have, since this building was standing in the 1850s, according to the Historic District Survey, probably in use as a fish storage house.)

A century later, in the 1950s, this was the Knot Hole Shop, selling handmade crafts. After a series of owners, including Reginald and Meara Cabral, the building came into the hands of John Crave Jr. and his wife, Jane L. (Austin) Crave (b 1933), in 1963. Crave was a founding member of the Provincetown Rescue Squad and a volunteer firefighter. His day job for nearly four decades was with Provincetown Light and Power, later Cape and Vineyard Electric, from which he retired as a service foreman. After that, he opened a framing shop. “He framed for many of the local artists and townspeople, working up until his death,” his obituary said. “He was also a great carpenter, and remodeled both his home and beach house.” (“John F. Crave Jr., Provincetown,” The Banner/Wicked Local, 25 March 2010.)

Among their summer guests in the mid-’60s, the Craves included the artists Sigmund Laufer (1920-2007) and his wife Miriam Laufer (1918-1980).


6 thoughts on “509 Commercial Street

  1. I am John’s daughter. Sadly ma passed away in July 2012.

    Thank you for putting in this picture of our family’s beach house and frame shop. Many happy memories there.

    I treasure this building and our home on Bradford Street, which was bought by my mother, Alice Matta Crave, in the 1940s. It was just a small A-frame home. My dad, John F. Crave Jr., built the home into what it is today.

    He also transformed this building into a two-family home with a frame shop in front. Going into the shop, I still feel his spirit and miss him. But I have wonderful memories of being in that shop and him telling folks: “Teaching my daughter the family business.”

  2. Sadly ma, Jane L. Crave (1933-2012), passed away on July 4, 2012. I am trying to maintain our home on Bradford Street and our two-car garage at 221 Bradford Street and our beachhouse/frame shop at 509 Commercial Street as they have been for years.

    When my dad and ma brought the property at 509 Commercial Street, the building was a one-family home. My dad transformed it into the two-family house and frame shop it is today.

    He learned his framing trade from the well-known artist Gene Sparks, who at one point lived with his wife and two of his children (LeeAnn and Mims) in the apartment above our home at 225 Bradford Street.

    The home at 225 Bradford was originally purchased by my birth mom, Alice Matta Crave, of Matta’s 5-&-10-cent store, which in the center of town. She purchased it in the 1940s.

    At the time, 225 Bradford was just a small A-frame style home. My father built it into the two-family home it is today. I have pictures of 225 Bradford when it was just a tiny A-frame, and as dad built it for his growing family.

    He started building it before my mom was killed in a car accident where the lights are on Route 6, coming down from where the Cape & Vineyard Electric company was located. She had just picked up my dad from work. This accident prompted the town Rescue Squad to put into use their newly purchased rescue truck. Dad was a founding member of the Provincetown Rescue Squad.

    I have a clipping and pictures of the accident, obtained by microfiche from The Cape Cod Times.

    Dad remarried, to Jane L. Crave, in 1955 and together they finished building our home.

    Later, dad purchased from Marine Specialities the two-car garage at 221 Bradford. He and ma cut down every tree on that property and transformed it into a beautiful garden using blocks from the inside of the garage. He made pathways and blocked out a large vegetable garden, with flower gardens all around the sides. At the back, he built a patio and then a fish pond. It was common for me to come down on a summer day and find them both out in that garden planting, clipping, digging and moving plants around.

    Dad called it his garden of angels.

    Even my granddaughter got into the dirt with them, planting the seeds for the biggest sunflowers around town. At 6 or 7 years old, she commented to me, “This gardening and planting stuff is hard work, Grammie.”

    One thing she loved to do was to help her great-grandparents plant their famous garden that practiacally fed the neighborhood, and always supplied kale for kale soup through the winter months.

    Sadly, after dad passed away, my daughter and I tried to maintain the gardens, and did for a while until ma got sick. Then we were constantly by her side as she battled her many illnesses. But she still wanted some tomatoes from the garden. My son-in-law tilled the soil and we tried, never having quite the hand at it that dad did, but enough to make ma happy.

    My cousin Paul Galligan and his wife would come visit and they would always work in the yard, cutting, mowing, planting and trimming what needed to be done. For their few weeks, they spent at our home and on the beach enjoying the sun.

    Paul and his sister Patty Elaine practically grew up in Ptown, coming every summer with their mom, my dad’s sister (Ann Crave Galligan), to stay with us. Many great memories of them coming from Boston on the boat the Boston Belle and meeting them at the wharf.

    Today, as Paul sits on the beach in the summer, he can name every boat that goes back and forth to Boston — one of his favorite things to do — watching those boats; now a grown man, but still a child inside, watching those boats and reliving the memories.

    Since ma passed away, my daughter and I are now trying to bring things back to life at 225 and 221 Bradford Street.

    I am hoping for a garden this year. Our new tenant is from Ohio. He looks forward to working in the garden. He is a good fit for this place, my childhood home. We laugh and I tell him stories of growing up here, and my dad’s graden of angels. He gets excited that we are going to bring this overgrown home back to life, and the garden will be brimming with flowers and veggies once again.

    I come and stay at the family home. I walk down to the 509 Crave’s frame shop and pull out framed and unframed work and try to find the owners of things left years ago for dad to frame. Pictures, paintings, etc., long forgotten, gathering dust in that tiny frame shop.

    I have a picture taken of dad at work. I will have to figure out how to add it to this thread of our life.

    Ma collected elephants, dad collected angels. Their final resting place, along with my birth mom, has a collection of angels and elephants and ladybugs — my granddaughter’s favorite — for her great-grandparents.

    After ma passed away, my daughter had her father-in-law build a tiny picket fence for the cemetery, like the one that bordered our Bradford Street home many years before. It was taken down after being hit so many times by cars trying to get down that tight curve into Anthony Street.

    My daughter built a tiny plot of wood covered with sand from our beachhouse. She also made two boxes — one for dad, one for ma — for us to drop in trinkets or memories of our lives. There are two chairs for ma and dad to still enjoy their summer beach home, remembering the boats we had, the fishing we did … our memories.

  3. Thank you David, it did bring me to tears. Maybe it was too soon or maybe it’s because I am so deeply embroiled in the “estate business” at the moment. As I read it back, I tell myself there is so much more I could write about that building and our family. Soon I will.

  4. Thanks for sharing this Patty. Love the post, and as I looked at 509 this past week, imagining how I might buy and make it my primary home, this news paints some lovely color to the space.

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