54 Commercial Street

 
Stephen Nickerson, who built this house on the shoreline around 1790, is thought to have been one of the wealthier residents of town. There was no Commercial Street at the time. The house simply faced the harbor. The 1807 House, as it was known until 2009, took its name from the year in which it was supposed that Nickerson moved the building upland to its current location at 54 Commercial Street, thereby creating space to service his whaling business. 

Commercial Street was cut in front of the house sometime after 1835, which is when the Barnstable County commissioners approved the transverse road. The historian Clive Driver said the house was moved after, not before, the opening of Commercial. Amiable legend — who wouldn’t want to claim such a noble association? — has it that this house was one of four waystations in town on the Underground Railroad, helping fugitive slaves to safety. But Driver said in Looking Back that “there is no documentation whatever for this assertion.” In the 1930s, this was known as the Vernon Inn and it offered “Delicious Meals, Modern Rooms, Private Bathing Beach.” Court Prentice and Dean Macara were the current proprietors of the 1807 House, which had eight guest rooms, five of them apartments. They ran it from 1995 to 2009.

The Long Point exhibit at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum lists this house as a floater. [8 July 2011]

 


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