323-325 Commercial Street

Old Colony Tap | Victor Powell’s Workshop

Chances are, you’re not neutral about the Old Colony; a legacy dive bar, if such a thing can be imagined. You may embrace it happily as a true surviving vestige of hardscrabble Provincetown and a good place to meet friends, away from the phoniness and pretense of neo-Ptown. Or you may shudder as you go by, especially when it’s evident through the plate-glass windows just who’s drinking long before the sun is over the yardarm. What’s beyond debate is that the Old Colony is a town institution, founded in 1937 by Manuel G. Cook and run since 1955 by the Enos family, who also own the Surf Club.

Before the Old Colony, the building housed the Ocean Breeze Restaurant, run by Leah Crawley. The Gouveia family — including young Grace and “Cul” — once lived upstairs from the restaurant. (“Columnist ‘Cul’ Goveia Dies,” The Banner, 27 November 1997.) For a time in the late 1940s, it was also Mitchell’s Dry Goods Store, run by George E. Mitchell.

In February 1937, The Advocate announced that Manuel G. Cook, whom it described as an orchestra leader, had just opened a new restaurant called the Colonial Tap — not in this building, but next door, at 321 Commercial Street. Whether “Colonial” was Cook’s original name or a mistake by the newspaper, “Old Colony” had been adopted by July of that year, when Cook applied for a common victualer’s license for his business. To gauge from the filings of this period, the Old Colony’s other principals were Frank Cook, Edmund Steele and Joseph Steele Jr.

Why did the Old Colony move? It’s unclear to me whether the opening of the Lobster Pot in 1943 forced the Old Colony out, or whether the Old Colony’s departure paved the way for the Lobster Pot’s opening, but in any case, it was definitely in its current home by March 1944. The bar seems to have been in the hands of Frank E. Days from the 1940s through the early 1950s.

Leonard Edward “Lenny Blue” Enos Sr. (1920-1980), the son of Edward and Mary (Berrio) Enos, and Herman Janard, his partner in J. & E. Fruit and Produce, took over the place in 1954. To judge deductively from the tone of their “New Management” announcement in 1955, the business had not previously been held in sterling account:

The Old Colony Tap is now under the management of Leonard Enos and Herman Janard, both of Provincetown and known to many here. It is their intention to maintain at all times a clean, orderly and pleasant place for their townspeople and guests — one that will be a credit to the town and to themselves.

Enos set the tone for the Old Colony’s enduring décor. James Wingate Parr, whose handiwork can be seen at the Governor Bradford across the street, “painted the walls that weren’t covered with driftwood,” according to a 2002 account. Another artist, Ernesto, executed burnt wood carvings — with a blow torch. Fishermen brought in curios, salvage and tchotchke, including a number of life preservers from odd sources like the World War II merchant ship Lawrence Victory. The approach suited Enos perfectly. “Tourists liked the nautical look of the place, and it didn’t cost a penny to decorate,” The Banner noted. (Ann Wood, “O.C. Will Be Fixed Up, Not Changed, The Banner, 26 September 2002.)

In 1962, Enos annexed — with the selectmen’s somewhat grudging approval — the large building at standing between the Old Colony and the beach in which the Pilgrim Club had operated. This was after his lawyer, John C. Snow, assured the board that the greatly expanded Old Colony would be an asset to the town. First known as the Back Room, it came to better known as the Rumpus Room. It no longer stands. (A fuller history is at 323½ Commercial Street.)

Lucia S. “Lucy” (Bocanfuso) Enos (d 2007) continued to run the Old Colony after her husband’s death, with their son Leonard E. “Lenny” Enos Jr., who continues to operate the place. For many year, the public face of the Old Colony belonged to F. Michael “Moon” Henrique (±1945-2002), who not only tended bar but, quite as importantly, controlled the jukebox. (“F. Michael ‘Moon’ Henrique, 57, Well-Known Bartender, Former Little League Coach,” The Banner, 5 December 2002.)

Upstairs and facing the harbor is the workshop of Victor Powell (Provincetown Artist Registry), self-described as the “only sandal maker left in Provincetown,” which once had several well-known craftsmen in its midst. Powell can claim customers as diverse as the designer Michael Kors and Seán Cardinal O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston.

[Updated 2012-01-05]












13 thoughts on “323-325 Commercial Street

  1. Interesting. One small correction though — my grandfather did not come to Provincetown in 1947 but on February 22, 1920 when he was born to Edward (also native born) and Mary Berrio. Mary was born in Wellfleet.

  2. I love it! I had just seen this site as a fellow townie had posted it on FB. My family on both sides hail from town; my father from Alden St. and my mother from Pleasant St., and the relatives abound, as I recall, reading an obit in the Advocate from very many years ago. My great great grand father, Cap’n Manuel Enos, was the last Cap’n of the fishing schooners that worked the waters around there and off loaded at Hell Town. My mother still has that Advocate.

    Anyways, I still remember my growing up years in the ’70s in town and the O-C. Fond memories they are.

  3. Wonderful … we have a family get-together here every year during the Portuguese Festival and Blessing of the Fleet. The OC is a true Provincetown treasure … full of eccentric art, patrons, and artifacts and one of the best windows to sit in and watch Commercial Street. Thanks for the great photos and history.

  4. The thanks belong to you; congratulations on such an interesting idea and well executed accomplishment!

  5. The last survivor of eccentricity in town! If you appreciate eclectic groups of people, this is where you need to go. I’ve loved this place since I moved here in the early ’80s — it’s a place to feel the pulse of the working class and the art community.

    Long live the Old Colony Tap!

  6. The Old Colony is where you hear the heartbeat of all those who matter in Provincetown. A true family.

  7. Me and my brother and a bunch of buddies from Westchester went to OC Tap for a pop back in the late 80’s and have gone there every year since…the Juke box is the best with great selections and the atmosphere is one of hard working down to earth people…it makes me feel like I am back in time when I’m there having a couple and I actually wish I was …I would love to be back in there when it first opened up back in the day …so keep on visiting the Old Colony Tap and have a great time while you can !!

  8. I came to work for the Enos family in the Jugband in the early 80’s, and my soon to be wife Amy ,an artist worked at the Lobster Pot…Lenny and I had the discussion of how we could keep her around, and he was kind enough to offer the 2nd floor of the OC as a studio/gallery if I had time to work on it…We found a new home, full of generosity and a bevy of fine artist friends that persist to this day….

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