There was a day — and not too long ago — when there would have been few things as common in town as a Portuguese family living at the west end of Commercial Street. Now, there are few things as unusual. But some longtime families remain; a quiet, enduring and modest presence in the midst of growing (if tastefully understated) ostentation. Roxanne “Jill” Pires (b 1944) exemplifies that tradition, living in a home just beyond the Turn that has been in her family’s hands for more than 60 years.
Pires traces her home’s history back to the days in the 19th century when it served as Thomas W. Dyer’s paint store. This was the property of Bridget M. Quinn at the turn of the 20th century, at which time it was denominated 93 Commercial Street. In the course of a renovation, Pires uncovered — and kept exposed — some of the very old, wood-pegged timber framing of the original structure, which has been considerably modified over the years.
Her grandfather, Manuel Lourenço Pires (1876-1958) was born in Olhao and came to the United States as a 15-year-old. He moved to Provincetown in 1901 and was a fisherman. His daughter, Maria Anne (Pires) Langley, lived at 169 Bradford Street, a house also known as 10 Dyer Street. His son — Jill’s father — was Capt. Manuel Lawrence Pires Jr. (1917-±1992).
Manuel Jr. was a crewman in the 1930’s aboard the dragger Stella, with his cousins Ferdinand R. “Fred” Salvador and Louis Salvador. In 1937, he married Winifred Fredina “Winny” O’Donnell (1912-1970), of 6 Atwood Avenue, the daughter of John J. O’Donnell. The young couple first made their home at 171 Commercial Street. They also lived at 1 West Vine Street before buying this house in 1946 for $5,000. Their five children were Nancy (Pires) Hager, Penny (Pires) Armitage (d 2005), Michael Pires, Thomas Pires and Jill — the baby of the family.
By the 1940s, Manuel Jr. was skipper of his own vessel, a 48-foot scalloper named the Alberta II. In April 1949, having arrived in the early morning hours loaded with 100 bushels of sea scallops, the Alberta II was caught in a freak storm, with southeast winds lashing her at 50 miles an hour. She broke free from the Cape Cod Cold Storage wharf — within sight of the captain’s house — and was pummeled ashore, with a hole stove near the starboard bow (“Scalloper Goes Ashore, Damaged in Freak Gale,” The Advocate, 21 April 1949). A complete loss, she remained in place until 1951, with the mast still showing above the water. In the 1950s, Pires sailed with Ferdinand Salvador on the C. R. & M. (later the Nancy & Debbie) and on the Michael Ann (later the Chico-Jess).
Jill Pires lived in New York and Europe before returning to Provincetown in the early 1980s to care for her father, who died a decade later in this house. She was a waitress and bartender before working in customer service for Cape Air. She’s now retired, in a house whose walls are filled with scenes of Provincetown. Old Provincetown. ¶ Updated 2012-12-19