322-322R Commercial Street

 
Bliss Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt | Dorian Boys | Dorian Studios | Recycled Retriever | Acapulco Gold | Miss Mizepah’s Trading Post

This property, owned by the Edwards family of the Governor Bradford, consists of three distinct buildings: a handsome little Greek Revival commercial shack from the late 19th century; a grand house that longtime residents will associate at once with the legendary Dr. Daniel H. Hiebert (1889-1972), who is pictured at left, and his wife, Emily L. Hiebert (1894-1985); and a fairly nondescript out building, No. 322R, that is currently done up incongruously as a Western trading post.

As Commercial Street developed in the later 19th century, owners of properties with large front yards started to figure out there was gold lying in their lawns: potential retail space. Most homeowners built commercial additions to their existing structures, but others constructed freestanding business buildings smack dab in the middle of their yards. That was apparently the case with No. 322, which dates to about 1880, according to the Historic District Survey.

The first tenant of note in the shed was a barber named John Francis, whose already brisk business must have seen a jump in the summer of 1893, after he installed a ceiling fan. It was Ferreira’s Shoe Repair in the early 1930s, run by Isadore Ferreira. Then, in 1940, a fascinating trio took over the place and opened up the Hand Industries shop. They were: Roger Rilleau (1909-1977), founder of what endures as Rilleau Leather, who had worked with the great international sculptor Isamu Noguchi and with the locally celebrated sandal maker Menalkas Duncan; Frances Sikellanos, a student of Charles W. Hawthorne and able weaver; and “Snider” Enos, a sailor who made belts using sailors’ knots and maritime motifs. (“Craftsmen to Start Unique Shop Here,” The Advocate, 20 June 1940.) There was apparently a considerable rivalry between the town’s top sandal makers, borne out in this notice from 1953: “A false rumor has been spread for the past 13 years that Roger Rilleau worked at sandal making for Menalkas Duncan. The fact is that Mr. Duncan worked for and was paid by Roger Rilleau in 1940 at 322 Commercial Street.”

The current tenant in the 13-by-16-foot building is the Bliss ice cream shop.

The imposing but architecturally mangled main house was the home and office of Dr. Hiebert, the town’s preëminent general practitioner from 1919 until his death in 1972 — by which time the many decades of practice had evidently begun to take something of a toll on his acuity. “It was Hiebert who delivered most of the babies, cared for injured fishermen, counseled the aged and supplied medications to people who didn’t have the money for them,” Peter Manso wrote in Ptown. “Stories about Hiebert number in the hundreds, and it would take Neil Simon or Mel Brooks to do them justice. … He may have disregarded standard operating protocol, but he could always be counted on to show up.”

When Hiebert was a medical student at Boston University, Eugene O’Neill was studying playwriting at Harvard. They both boarded at the home of the Ebel family. It was Hiebert who helped with the birth of Shane Rudraighe O’Neill, O’Neill’s son with his second wife, Agnes Boulton, in 1919. “Dr. Dan Hiebert was big and young and kindly,” Boulton recalled in her memoir.

Hiebert was active in the community as well. He was at one time or another commander of the American Legion post, president of the Lions Club, medical chairman of the Provincetown Civil Defense and Provincetown chairman for several years running of the American Cancer Society’s annual fundraising crusade. He and his wife owned other properties, including Cap’n Jack’s Wharf (known at the time either as Studios-on-the-Sea or Jolly Captain Jack’s Wharf), whose management office was here at No. 322. The Hieberts’ daughter, Ruth (d 2004), who grew up in this house, was also a well-known civic figure. The Hieberts are buried in the Town Cemetery.


 

 

 

 

 


2 thoughts on “322-322R Commercial Street

  1. I operated Half Moon Bay custom leather shop at the small store streetside in this location from 1972-1990 with my workshop in various other locations over the years. The shop specialized in leather clothing.

    During the late ’60s and ’70s, Provincetown was known as location for leather goods and there were a number of shops around town. Prior to being at this location, Half Moon Bay was in the old Whaler’s Wharf building (1971) and in the building on the waterside corner of Commercial and Standish as Peace of Mexico in 1970. Roger Rilleau used to stop by and regale me with tales of his days in the tiny shop. I used to joke it was the most expensive by square foot of any in town.

    After Heibert, Charlie Rogers (Conwell Lumber) and his wife owned the property and they carved out the shops in the front.

  2. My Great Grandfather, John F. Francis (1859 – 1927), was the barber who worked in the “shed” at the front of 322 Commercial St.

    He also was a beekeeper (possibly on Aunt Sukie’s Lane) and sold honey in the comb at the barber shop.

    John purchased several lots on County Road during the original development of Beach Point and built a cottage named “Rebekah” in 1917, which remained in our family until recently (now #539 Shore Rd.)

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