479 Commercial Street

 
Anchorage

The name Anchorage perfectly described this house, since it served as the ancestral hearth of the four generations of artists in the Brown-Malicoat family, easily the largest and perhaps the most influential of the 20th-century art dynasties in Provincetown. This was the home, at least as far back as the 1920s, of Harold Haven Brown (1869-1932); his wife, Florence Bradshaw Brown (b 1868); and their daughters, Beatrice Bradshaw Brown (±1899-1952) and Barbara Haven (Brown) Malicoat (1903-1987), who’s shown in this picture with her husband, Philip Cecil Malicoat, posing before the Anchorage bulkhead with their children.

Paterfamilias was Harold Brown, a native of Malden, Mass., who had studied with Jean-Léon Gérôme at the École des Beaux-Arts and also at the Académie Julian, before becoming the director of the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis in 1913. In that role, he met Charles W. Hawthorne as Hawthorne traveled through the country recruiting students for his summer art school. He urged Brown to visit Provincetown as “the closest to a seaside town in France that you will find in this country,” according to The Malicoats: Four Generations of a Family Creating (2009). He and his wife and their daughters, Beatrice and Barbara, became year-round residents in 1924, at this address. Brown was a painter, illustrator and print maker, whose map of Provincetown, drawn for the Art Association, of which he was the director, is a special delight.

Delight, indeed, runs through the work of all of the Browns. Materfamilias, Florence Bradshaw Brown, who was educated at the Art Students League in New York and had also studied in Paris, was responsible for charming illustrations of children and of children’s topics. In the late 1920s, she was assistant director of the Art Association, working closely with her husband “with the desire to make the Art Association more useful to the town as a whole,” as he put it in the 1928 director’s report. In the winter and spring, Florence Brown conducted elementary design and drawing classes for adults on Monday nights and for children on Saturday mornings. The classes were held in her studio, “owing to the lack of heat in the Art Association building,” her husband reported.

Among Beatrice Brown’s earliest books was A Paris Pair: Their Day’s Doings, with illustrations by her sister, Barbara, which E. P. Dutton published in 1923. She was also an organist and served as the choir director at St. Peter the Apostle before dying in this house in May 1952, at the age of 53. Barbara Malicoat, too, was a prolific artist and illustrator. Her maps and line illustrations of Provincetown for the Walking Tours series were every bit as beguiling as her father’s.

Four months after Beatrice’s death, Barbara and Phil sold 479 Commercial Street to Maurice C. “Brig” Brigadier and Anna (Myers) Brigadier (1908-1989), an imposing couple in their own right. Anna Brigadier, a Manhattan native who had studied at the Art Students League — I sometimes think there should be an entry on this Web site for 215 West 57th Street — was an outspoken and unapologetic abstractionist: “I am very intolerant of people who, when speaking of modern art, say, ‘Children can do as well.’ A child may stumble on something through sheer accident. The artist arrives at the final resolution of a painting through the conscious effort of selecting and rejecting. This requires the ability to make decisions based on knowledge and experience. And this is no accident.” (Frank Crotty, “Noted Provincetown Artist Asks ‘Why Try to Imitate the Past?’,” The Advocate, 13 November 1958.) Brig, a lawyer, was president of the Provincetown Property Owners Protective Association in the early 1960s, at the time of the tremendous battles over the creation of a national seashore. Contrary to the inference you might make from the group’s name, Brigadier was a strong advocate of the national seashore. Jeanne Bultman tried to recruit in 1961 to testify at a legislative hearing in Boston. “Someone from the N.Y. group must appear,” she wrote in a Jan. 1 letter. “It should be a strong talker like you.”

William D. and Peyton E. Budinger bought the Anchorage in 1988 from the Maurice C. Brigadier & Anna M. Brigadier Irrevocable Trust, through an intermediary. They sold it to Ellen S. Freeman in 2002. She sold it in turn, in 2008, to the 479 Commercial Street Property Trust of Topanga, Calif., and its trustee, Jonathan Murray. This may (or may not) be the Jon Murray who is the chief executive officer of Bunim/Murray Productions, which blazed a trail in popular culture in 1992 with The Real World series on MTV. In recent years, the house has been restored to an almost preternatural perfection. It’s like an apparition in its manicured clarity. John Dowd has made it the subject of his painting, On the Bay (above).


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “479 Commercial Street

  1. This is very interest to me. Barbara Bradshaw was I know was her as my Aunt. My Grandfather And When I was just a baby Barbara sent me a book called A DOLL’S DAY. And I was named after her.
    My name it Florence Bradshaw. I also have 2 small black cars she sent me. One is a large Building and the other of the birth of Nativity. My Father was adopted when he was born and I always wondered about Barbara. I knew she had 2 daughters and that both had worked on the book I had.
    If any one reads this and can give me any idea of her and if she ever talked of my Father and Grand
    Father. I know he died here in California and is buried here. I have read all I can about her.

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