Heritage House is a four-bedroom bed-and-breakfast operated Lynn Mogell, an artist and Web designer, and her wife, Sarah K. Peake, who serves as the State Representative for the Fourth Barnstable district, comprising Provincetown, Chatham, Eastham, Harwich, Orleans, Truro and Wellfleet. True to its name, the house claims a considerable heritage, having been constructed in 1856 for Timothy Prosperous Johnson. Its large size was appropriate to the mission of sheltering 10 children. It was later the home of William Wilson Taylor, who personified — until his death in 1954 — Provincetown’s days as a whaling capital.
His father, Capt. Thomas Seabury Taylor, was master of the whaler Rising Sun, one of the last to sail out of Provincetown. Around the age of 20, in the early 1890s, son joined father at sea. “He has had the thrill of looking over the side, after a hard but lucky day, at the carcasses of four whales fastened there for the next day’s trying out for oil,” The Advocate recounted in a 1937 profile of Will Taylor. (“Trying” was the term for rendering blubber.) “Once, off Cape Hatteras, the whale boat carrying four men, his father and himself was towed under by a whale. His father, unable to swim, was kept afloat by the others until all were rescued.” At the turn of the century, he married Lena Sparrow and moved with her to Kingston, Jamaica, where he was assistant branch manager for the United Fruit Company until the catastrophic 1907 earthquake. Captain Taylor had in the meantime gone into the undertaking business, at what is now 309 Commercial Street.
Next door, Will opened what was “little more than a refreshment booth for fishermen who came from the wharf.” Taylor’s Restaurant grew and grew, taking over the space occupied by the captain’s undertaking business, until it was “known up and down the Cape,” The Advocate said. Will Taylor’s reputation rested on more than the food he served. Town Wharf was far from genteel in those days. So he took it upon himself to become the “one-man law-and-order department of the wharf, and by sheer brute force upheld standards of fair play and decency there.” Taylor was also active on the Board of Trade and at King Hiram’s Lodge, of which he was master in 1914. He died in this house.
Dennis DeBerry, proprietor of an art gallery bearing his name, was living in the house in the early 1980s. By the late 1980s, it had become the Heritage House guest house. Mogell and Peake purchased it in 1993. Peake was elected to the Provincetown Board of Selectmen in 2002. Two years later, she and Mogell were among the first same-sex couples to be issued marriage licenses by the town. When the incumbent Representative Shirley Gomes, a Republican, said in 2004 that she would support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, Peake challenged her unsuccessfully, winning the Democratic primary but losing the general election. In 2006, however, after Gomes stepped down, Peake ran again and won.