If 615 Commercial Street demonstrates — at least to some eyes — that it’s possible to build contextually without resort to traditional form, No. 617 makes perhaps an even more sophisticated case: that traditional forms can be used in a way that still renders a building indisputably contemporary. This is not your grandfather’s three-quarter Cape, though it has a kind of ancestral sternness and simplicity to it. That, too, is fitting because it was built in 1987 and is occupied by David Lothrop Mayo (b 1940), whose roots in town run generations deep. His grandfather, Frank Lothrop Mayo (d 1957), was the keeper of the Peaked Hill Bars Life-Saving Station.
His father, Herbert Franklin Mayo (1907-1966), was the proprietor of the East Harbor cottage colony on Beach Point. Herbert met Margaret A. Williams (1908-2009), the daughter of the Chief John F. Williams of the Provincetown Police Department, at Provincetown High School. She was to become his wife and the mother of David and Katherine. She also started her life over again after her husband died suddenly at the age of 59, working for a quarter of a century at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum.
As a wedding gift, Margaret and Herbert Mayo were given the house at 610 Commercial Street by his cousin, Capt. Alfred Atkins Mayo (±1871-1958), whose own father was lost at sea. Mary Heaton Vorse referred to Captain Mayo in Time and the Town (1942) as “one of the greatest fresh fishermen who ever sailed from Provincetown.” She continued: “He owned one of the most beautiful vessels in the harbor, a great sloop called the Iris. The exploits of the Iris, the risks she took and the fish she caught, are part of fishermen’s legends in Provincetown. Mayo has a nose for fish that has never been surpassed.” Pilings that are still visible on the beach outside 617 Commercial mark the spot where Captain Mayo had a pier, at which he moored the Iris; a boat house and a storehouse where he kept nets and traps.
Appropriately enough, the walkway to David Mayo’s house is paved in oyster shells, reflecting what he admits to be his “fatal addiction.”