76 Commercial Street

Frederick Waugh – Hans Hofmann Studio

Doric columns, serious and sturdy, hold up a prominent pediment that marks this exceptionally handsome facade from the early 1800s. For a century or so, 76 Commercial Street was owned by the Nickerson and Freeman families. 

The house was purchased in 1927 by the seascape painter Frederick Judd Waugh (1861-1940), who was described by Mary Heaton Vorse as the “outstanding marine painter in America — with perhaps the exception of Winslow Homer” (whom Waugh admired). It was Waugh who constructed the studio on Nickerson Street, directly behind the main house, though it has long been identified most strongly with Hans Hofmann. Waugh used beams and planks from a shipwreck, as well as enormous structural brackets known as ship’s knees that can frequently be seen doing second duty in Provincetown houses. The studio was completed in 1928.

Hans Hofmann (1880-1966), who had left Germany when Hitler came to power, at first worked and taught at the Hawthorne Class Studio on Miller Hill Road. After losing the lease there, he moved down the hill for one season to Fritz Bultman’s studio at 8 Miller Hill Road. He purchased the Waugh studio and home in 1945 (“Waugh Home Sold to Hans Hofmann,” The Advocate, 30 August 1945). In the house, Hofmann’s wife, Miz, “created spectacular interiors using red, yellow, blue and white paint,” according to the Walking Tour by Josephine Del Deo, George Bryant and others. Regarded as an outstanding teacher, Hofmann conducted Friday afternoon critiques that drew large crowds. He died in 1966 and is buried in Truro.

With the creation in 1983 [?] of what is called the Hofmann House Condominium, paradoxically enough, the Hofmann house and studio were divided into separate units under different ownership, so one can no longer experience them together. In 1990, Donard Engle, a clergyman from Akron, Ohio, purchased the studio portion. Engle invited a friend, Todd Westrick, who is a landscape and architectural designer, to visit Provincetown in 1998. By Westrick’s own recollection, his jaw dropped when he saw the studio. “It needed love and attention, it needed preservation, but it was utterly captivating,” he told Donna Paul of Preservation magazine (“Artful Restoration,” January-February 2011). “And I’m a sucker for a project,” he added. A project is — indeed — what he got. Westrick has been working since then on a faithful restoration and conservation effort whose result is a space that Hofmann and Waugh would have no trouble at all recognizing. Hofmann would even be able to spot paint speckles from his classroom and studio days. “I am a steward of this building,” Westrick said in Preservation, “and I have a deep level of respect for it.” He became a co-owner in 2007. There are a few before and after photos on the Web site of his company, Westrick Co.

The Hofmanns’ house was purchased in 1985 by Daniel Lovette, who has been associated with Scott Dinsmore of Scott Dinsmore Antiques. Robert Randall Bourne, an artist and landscape gardener, lives in the house, which abounds in art. Inspired by Hofmann’s bold palette, Bourne planted the front yard with tall, large-faced sunflowers (Sally Rose, “Spreading a Little Joy,” The Banner, 23 April 2009). They were so distinctive, especially against the white house, that they became the subject of artwork in turn: Hans Hofmann House, by George Hirose, in his book Blue Nights (Provincetown Arts Press, 2008). ¶ Posted 2011-07-12





























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