214 Commercial Street

Art House | D. Flax | Frappo 66

A decade after remaking the old Congregational church at 256-258 Commercial Street into the Art Cinema in 1954, George I. Shafir of New York set out to build a movie theater from the ground up: the New Art Cinema, reached through an arcade of shops housed in substantively altered older structures. (No. 214 is idenitified as a floater in the Long Point exhibit at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum.) You can still see the juncture between old and new buildings from the alleyway. The architect was Burnett V. Vickers of Orleans, who also designed an expansion of the Provincetown Inn. The most interesting feature is the carved wood signpost, which Roslyn Garfield told me was the work of the Joan Wye (±1926-2006).

The post also carries the painted initials “BYA’02,” presumably referring to the artist that gave it a brilliant new paint job.

The shops opened in 1966 and the theater followed slightly later.

In 2006, the New Art Cinema became the Art House, a venue for live performances, associated until 2008 with Theatre Go Round. Headliners have included the drag performers Varla Jean, Miss Richfield 1981 and Miss Coco Peru. Seth Rudetsky’s Broadway at the Art House series in 2011 included Charles Busch, Christine Ebersole, Andrea Martin, Andrea McArdle and Adam Pascal.

Current retail tenants include the restaurant Frappo 66, under Stephen J. Frappolli, and Donna Flax’s D. Flax clothing store, which opened in 1987. Former tenants of the complex included the Lagniappe Café and Little Deb’s Cafe. The property lot includes the adjacent 212 Commercial Street and has been owned since 1971 by the New Art Realty Corporation, headed now by Benjamin deRuyter. A new housing complex has recently been built in the rear of the property.

[Updated 24 October 2011]









5 thoughts on “214 Commercial Street

  1. I believe it was Joan Wye not Jane Wye. She was married at one time to Jim Forsberg. There was more than one of these totems in town, but I don’t remember where the others were located. I went to high school with her daughter Carol.

    Thank you, Susan. You’re absolutely right, and I’ve made the change. — David

  2. Another of Joan’s totem-like sculptures was exhibited in the courtyard at Ray and Nicky Wells’ Mews, where there were benches for customers waiting to get into the restaurant. It was involved in a near-tragic accident when a young child, who was somehow related to Jean and Nate Malchman, climbed up onto it and it tipped over, falling on him. The child was injured but thankfully survived.

  3. Cafe Express used to be there. Also in 1979 the shop on the left was Leathering Heights, owned by Peter Roderick. The shop on the right was Pearson’s Stained Glass, after Chris Pearson’s shop burned down with Whaler’s Wharf in 1998.

  4. “…reached through an arcade of shops housed in substantively altered older structures. (No. 214 is identified as a floater in the Long Point exhibit at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum.) You can still see the juncture between old and new buildings from the alleyway.”

    David, I’ve seen photographs from the year or two before the Art House was built and it was an empty lot. There was indeed a house at 214 that was supposedly a Long Point floater, but it looked like a twin of the purported Long Point floater next door at 212 Commercial Street. You can see the two of them, side-by-side, in a photograph on one of your pages for the Gifford House:


    Since there were no buildings whatsoever on the lot when the Art House was constructed, the only way the weathered portion that you’ve identified at “the juncture between old and new buildings” could really be old structures is if they’d been moved to 214 Commercial Street from somewhere else, so they could be incorporated into the new theater building. That doesn’t seem likely to me, though. I think that the shingles merely looked older because they were weathered after a few decades.

    This would be the second address on the map at the Museum that is incorrect (the Jonathan Sparrow house is supposedly at 9 Point Street, but Denise Avallon debunked that for me and identified 54 Bradford Street as the true landing spot of Sparrow’s Long Point house).

    I’ve posted all of my detective work, along with photographic evidence, here on my post for 214 Commercial Street in my Long Point Floaters photo gallery on Facebook:

    The thread that disputes the likelihood of 9 Point Street really being Jonathan Sparrow’s Long Point floater is here:

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