Like so many beachfront properties, the Watermark Inn presents two very different faces to the world. On the Commercial Street side, it appears to be a complex of modest older buildings around a sweet little courtyard, not too far removed from its days as the Colonial Inn Beach House (photo at right). But on the water side, it is a glassy, angular, modern expanse, designed by Kevin Shea, who owns the inn.
The Colonial Inn Beach House goes back at least to the late 1940s, when it was established as the seashore annex of the Colonial Inn at 586 Commercial, now the Ship’s Bell. Marjorie Pell Oliver, the proprietor, sold the properties in 1960 to Raymond Smeraldo of Morristown, N.J., who continued to operate them jointly. He established a restaurant-bar called the Driftwood Room at No. 603 before handing the place over to his son and daughter-in-law, Richard J. and Judith A. Smeraldo, in 1967. The “Colonial Inn” name stayed on at No. 603, while No. 586 changed its name to the Ship’s Bell.
The Smeraldos sold the Colonial Inn to Don Reid Gusler in June 1971. Nine months later, he sold it to Martin Peretz; presumably the Martin Peretz, who was then teaching at Harvard. Peretz sold it three months later for $1 to Edward W. Stack, who sold it the same day for $1 to an entity called Rosy Inc. (The purchase prices suggest a less-than-arm’s-length relation between buyers and sellers.) The restaurant was rechristened Rosy, and operated under that name in the late 1970s. The inn was renamed the Watermark. Shea and his wife, Judith Richland, were given high marks by several guide books for the design and decoration of the rooms. The inn also notes on its Web site that a number of artists are regular guests, including George Hirose, the photographer of Blue Nights, published by the Provincetown Arts Press in 2008.