676 Commercial Street

 
Grand View

Grand View is a suitable name for this aerie in the far East End, the postcard embodiment of a “cottage” where one might picture some artistic giant. So it was. Grand View served as the summer home of Max Bohm from 1916 until his death in 1923. His wife, Zella (Newcomb) Bohm, also an artist, summered here until 1956, a year before her death. Their artistic legacy continues through their granddaughter, Anne (Locke) Packard, and her daughters Cynthia and Leslie. And Grand View is still in the hands of the Bohms’ descendants.

 
Bohm was born in Cleveland in 1868, attended the Cleveland School of Art in lieu of finishing high school, exhibited his work as a teenager and, at 19, was off to study under Jean-Paul Laurens at the Académie Julian in Paris. (Other Provincetown artists who attended this famous art school were Richard E. Miller of 200 Bradford Street, Oliver Chaffee of 3 Central Street, and Harold Haven Brown of 479 Commercial Street.) Bohm went native. With a vengeance. He moved first to Étaples on the north coast of France and then to the even smaller village of Trépied. Among the students in the classes he taught was Zella Newcomb. They met in 1897 and were married in 1898. Another student, Mary B. Longyear, became Bohm’s most important single patron and was also responsible for stoking his interest in the Church of Christ, Scientist.

“During this period, Bohm typically portrayed peasants, fisherfolk, sailors and other humble types, employing a naturalistic style characterized by simplified forms, strong chiaroscuro and a subdued palette,” Carol Lowery wrote in A Legacy of Art: Paintings and Sculptures by Artist Life Members of the National Arts Club (2007).” Early in the 20th century, he began dividing his time between London and France, but he remained an expatriate until the advent of war on the continent in 1914.

Though Grand View seems the perfect setting for an artist like Bohm, it was not built for him but for — and by — Charles E. Perry and Matilda M. Perry, who once owned large tracts of property in the East End, including 657 Commercial, 663 Commercial and 665 Commercial. The Bohms purchased Grand View in 1919. He had already thrown himself into the local art scene as one of the more active of the early Beachcombers. He played the role of Caliph Haroun al-Raschid in their 1918 musical revue The Streets of Baghdad and was elected and re-elected Skipper of the organization in 1921 and 1922. But the next year, at the age of 55, Bohm died unexpectedly at Grand View. After his body lay in state at the Art Association, Bohm was buried in Town Cemetery.

Zella Bohm (1870-1957) was born in Brownton, Minn., and educated at Carleton College, after which she studied painting in Minneapolis before heading off to France to study with Bohm. Grand View is very much more her place than his. Max Bohm had only four years to enjoy the home. Zella, who lived in Bronxville, N.Y., spent 37 summers here, until she was too infirm to travel.

The Bohms had three children: Max, Elizabeth and Kathryn Esther (1903-1981). Max Bradford Bohm was an architect in New York City and Cincinnati. His projects included the Cincinnati Gardens, among the 10 largest indoor arenas in America at the time of its opening in 1949. He died in 1950, at 48. Elizabeth “Betty” Bohm married Hugo Schwarz of New York City, and became the second grande dame of Grand View. Seventy years ago, hers was among the earliest voices favoring preservation over commercial development. “I wish there could be a zoning law forbidding the tearing down of old houses,” she wrote presciently, in 1964. “With each passing year the Cape’s old houses become more precious — and more of an attraction.” She did not hesitate to pin the blame, either. “Ruining the town for the sake of Fords, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, Plymouths, etc., would not be a solution at all — it would be the destruction of our charming historic place,” she told The Advocate in 1966.

Esther Bohm married William Pillsbury Locke (1906-1979) of Hyde Park, N.Y. They had three children: Geoffrey Gibson Locke, Roger Sherman Locke (b 1931), and Anne Newcomb Locke (b 1933). Geoffrey married Celia Atkinson and Eugenie Kiep. Anne married George Packard. She has lived for many years at 621 Commercial Street. Her daughters — all well known in Provincetown — are Cynthia, Leslie, and Susan Packard.

Roger married Dorothy McDonough, with whom he had a son, Bradford Locke. He next married Nanette St. Pierre. She and Roger now live at No. 682 and rent out Grand View, which they maintain meticulously; one might even say evocatively, since any of its residents over the last century would likely feel very much at home here. The third large abutting Bohm-Locke family parcel, at No. 684, was sold in 2013. ¶ Updated 2014-07-25

 


 

 

 

 

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