472 Commercial Street

Once, organic products were really organic. A highly desirable lubricant for timepieces and precision instruments was an oil ladled from the heads of dead pilot whales (called blackfish) and the most prized binding agent for otherwise volatile perfumes was the waxy substance ambergris, secreted from the intestines of sperm whales and famously worth more than its weight in gold. David Conwell Stull, who lived here, traded in whale oil but was best known as the Ambergris King, so expert in judging the value of a lump of ambergris that he could set the market price.

His refinery was at 465 Commercial Street (now adorned by a replica quarterboard from the whaler Montezuma). “There was a subtle aroma around these premises, as though the ghost of a whale had passed by,” Mary Heaton Vorse wrote. Stull died in 1926 and was buried in Town Cemetery.

Incidentally, nice as the sign is on the front porch, it’s wrong. According to George Bryant (whom I trust on such matters), Sylvanus Cook did not build this house. Rather, it was the home of Nathaniel Cook in the latter 19th century, when it was denominated 433 Commercial. Sylvanus lived on the other side of Cook Street, in what is now 474 Commercial.

In 1966, the old Stull house was purchased by Munro and Mary Moore. “Mun” Moore, an avid sailor, served as a selectman for many terms and was among the founders of the Fine Arts Work Center. He is remembered in the Munro Moore Cup, awarded to the winning Class D boat in the Long Point Race that is part of the annual Great Provincetown Schooner Regatta. Mary Moore, who still owns this house, is the donor relations coordinator of the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.

Though the house itself is a marvel, the best thing about the Moore property may be the front lawn — across the street at 477 Commercial.



3 thoughts on “472 Commercial Street

  1. Re: 472 and 477 Commercial Street.

    You have a blank in the ownership from 1926 until 1966. When D. C. Stull died in 1926, the house went to his daughter, Mary S.(for Stull) MacIntyre. Her husband, William J. MacIntyre had died in 1924, so she was a widow. I understand there was some sort of prejudice against women owning property at that time, so there may have been some other name(s) on the paperwork, but it was her house nonetheless. When she died in 1964, the property went to D. Stuart MacIntyre, her only living son, who was my father. I am David William MacIntyre, born 1937, and a great-grandfather already. As soon as he could get the transfer done, he listed the house, and it was sold to the Moores in 1966. It is so good to see how well the Moores have kept the place up. That covers your blank.

    Re: 465 Commercial Street.

    That building was Bryant’s Market for several years in the late 40s and early 50s. I see a Bryant mentioned, but I don’t know whether he ran it or not. Whoever did was a contemporary of my father (1905-1970), because they played together as children.

    I found your website while chasing information on D. C. Stull. Just for information, there is reference in a book, “There Goes Flukes,” to a ring with an ambergris sample in it. That’s not fiction at all, because I have that ring, and it will eventually go to my son, John D. MacIntyre.

    Feel free to call or e-mail me if you have any comments or questions.

    David MacIntyre
    3413 SE 18th Ave.
    Cape Coral, FL 33904

  2. I made this comment a few weeks ago, but it seems to have disappeared.

    I just noticed the condition of the front walk at 472 Commercial. I know this isn’t because of any lack of interest by Mary Moore, because the rest of the place looks impeccable. I remember the condition of the walk back in the late 1940s was exactly as it is today. It would be a shame to destroy the ambiance by repairing it at this point.

    Well done, Mrs. Moore.

    Dave MacIntyre

  3. I have tried twice to leave a comment about the front walk at 472 Commercial, and it has failed to post. This makes it clear you are no longer interested in anything I have to say, so I won’t bother you any further.

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