583 Commercial Street

While nothing beats the sheer artistry of a Conrad Malicoat chimney, this whimsically diminutive version of the Pilgrim Monument certainly deserves mention as being among the very best smokestacks in town. The house belonged for many years to Herschel Alt (±1897-1981), a widely recognized expert in mental health and child welfare, and his wife, Edith (Seltzer) Alt, who was his co-author on the book Russia’s Children, a 1959 study of child welfare under the Soviet state, said to have been the first available to readers in the United States. The Alts traveled widely through the Soviet bloc at a time when just about no Americans did except for diplomats and spies. He also wrote Residential Treatment for Disturbed Children and Forging Tools for Mental Health, served the United Nations and the Israeli government, and was the executive director of the Jewish Board of Guardians in New York. The Alt family sold the property in 1985 to the 583 Commercial Street Realty Trust, of which the prominent lawyer Christopher J. Snow is the trustee. He is also a trustee of the Pilgrim Monument. The house stands directly opposite the foot of Snow Street.

2 thoughts on “583 Commercial Street

  1. I learn something with nearly every item added to Building Provincetown. I have never noticed this chimney but I suspect I’ll never fail to notice. Thank you — again!

  2. This house is also listed in the 1930 census as owned by writer Hutchins Hapgood, living there with his wife Neith Boyce, their son Charles, and daughters Miriam and Beatrix. The Hapgoods were fixtures in Provincetown from about 1913 on, and were renting 621 Commercial Street when the first plays by the yet-unformed Provincetown Players were performed on July 15, 1915, with one of the plays being Boyce’s “Constancy.”

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