198 Commercial Street

Ranch Guest Lodge

Across the street from the Pied, a landmark of lesbian history, stands the Ranch, a 20-room gay landmark that is — happily — not much changed since it was opened in 1960 by Alton J. “Al” Stilson (1923-2010). Cheerfully rebuking buttoned-up, tasteful A-gaydom, the Ranch makes it clear that frisky guests are expected and welcome; beards, chaps and all. “The lusty vibe pervades the entire establishment,” OutTraveler said. Off the Ranch, Stilson may not be much remembered, but he played a very important role in 1977, when the Ranch was only one of three guest houses — the Coat of Arms and George’s Inn being the others — to participate in the first Carnival parade. A year later, the proprietors of those three houses formed the “founding nucleus” of the Provincetown Business Guild, Sandra L. Faiman-Silva wrote in The Courage to Connect: Sexuality, Citizenship and Community in Provincetown (University of Illinois Press, 2004).

The building was constructed in 1882, according to the Historic District Survey. It served for a time as the office of Dr. John M. Crocker (1845-1917), onetime owner of The Provincetown Advocate, in which role he championed construction of the Old Colony Railroad. Beginning in 1952, Reginald W. “Reggie” Cabral and his mother operated an antiques store here called the Aladdin Lamp.

Stilson bought the property in 1959 and opened the Ranch the next year. At the same time, the artist Paul Bellardo opened a gallery at 198 Commercial to showcase his work and that of other artists and craftsmen. He offered daily demonstrations, summarized by The Advocate in July 1960 as: “Paul Bellardo throwing on the potter’s wheel, Hal ‘Whitt’ Whitsitt at the jeweler’s bench designing in 14k gold, Paul Vargas modeling ceramic sculpture and jon dee designing in sterling silver.”

Stilson sold the property in 1995 to Park H. Davis. It is now owned by an entity called Ranchwood, whose president and treasurer is Howard B. Burchman, proprietor of the Tucker Inn on 12 Center Street. The assessment on OutTraveler called the Ranch “an almost corny bunkhouse geared toward the leather/Levi crowd but welcoming all men who will appreciate its down-home, rustic flavor.

Clean, small rooms with names like Stud Stall and Bull Pen offer brass beds, natty quilted bedspreads, photos of beefy men, and rugged wood paneling. … All of the rooms have shared baths, and the general feel is that of a festive, manly dormitory. The larger room with the bay window fronting the street has mirrors on the ceiling. … Call it Early American Homo.

Genuine Early American Homo. An endangered style, and critical to the story of Provincetown.





One thought on “198 Commercial Street

  1. At this location was also John Lucas a barber. In the June 16, 1932 Advocate:
    “John Lucas celebrated his 85th birthday quietly at his home saturday June 11th.
    Mr Lucas has been in his busines as barber for sixty years, and in his particular location on Commercial St at the corner of Carver St, he has shaved & cut the hair of his customers for 53 yrs.”

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