396 Commercial Street

 
John Derian New England

One of the handsomest houses in Provincetown is this hipped-roof, Federal-style home from 1798, with its gorgeous (and slightly later) Ionic portico. It was in the Cook and Small families for many decades, then in the Hall family from 1938 to 2007, when it was introduced to John Derian, a purveyor on East Second Street in Manhattan of découpage objects, textiles, furniture, rugs, art and ephemera. “I know it was totally the wrong thing to say to the real estate agent,” Derian told David Colman of Martha Stewart Living in 2009, “but I kept walking around saying: ‘I love this house. I love this house.'” You can’t blame him.

No. 396 was sometimes referred to as the “Tory chimney house,” since its chimney was painted white with a band of black around the top, which was at one time a signal that the owners were loyal to the British crown. How that would have played out six years after the Treaty of Paris has never really been explained to my satisfaction. Until Derian moved in, the chimney was also adorned with the numerals “1789,” which always made the house a landmark of sorts; even for people who didn’t recognize its other distinctive architectural features.

The building was purchased in 1938 from Hope A. Moffette by Preston Grant “Pat” Hall (1908-1991) and his wife, Mary Cross (Maria da Cruz) Hall, proprietors of the Souvenir Shop at 286 Commercial Street, the former Star Theater.

Here in the East End, their own home served through the 1970s as an accommodation known as Preston Hall — “Modern comfort in Colonial setting.” Across the street, at No. 397, they ran the Gift Box shop, the Cinnamon Sands apartments and Pat’s Parking Lot. These properties passed in turn to their daughter, Elena Curtis Hall, who owns the Ernden Gallery across the street and Cinnamon Sands, but is probably best known to present-day visitors as the “parking lot lady.”

She sold No. 396 to Derian, who uses it as a second home and as a seasonal branch of his store. He took pains to preserve a great deal of the original building fabric, like walls of horsehair and seashell plaster. For his painstaking conservation, Derian and his Provincetown house were featured in Martha Stewart Living of September 2009 and in this “Home Tour” slide show, “John Derian’s 18th-Century New England Home.” The New York Times described the shop in 2008, when Clint Craig was the store manager (Rima Suqi, “Wnen Summer Rentals Demand Accessories,” The New York Times, 26 June 2008):

Stylishly crammed into just 360 square feet … is everything one might need to spruce up a summer rental: pieces from Mr. Derian’s popular découpage line, sheets by Matteo and John Robshaw, brightly colored lanterns from Turkey, votive candle holders from Paris, poufs and vintage trays from Morocco, pottery by Asier de Villatte and linoleum cuts by Hugo Guinness.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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