Provincetown barely got a glimpse of Hillary Clinton when she came to town in July 2015 for a private fundraising event that added a half million dollars to her war chest as she sought the Democratic nomination and the presidency. An image that did make it into the public eye, thanks to Cape Cod Wave, showed the former secretary of state emerging through a high hedgerow by the gnarled trunk of one of the Lower Cape’s most magnificent trees, which stands unmistakably outside the summer home of Daniel Mullin, a high-end Boston real-estate broker (Daniel A. Mullin Associates) and a benefactor of the Fine Arts Work Center.
“In a rousing and at times moving speech, Clinton spoke of L.G.B.T. equality — both celebrating the recent Supreme Court decision and talking about the plight of so many L.G.B.T. individuals who still face crushing discrimination — which drew sustained applause from the crowd,” said Alix Ritchie, one of the fundraising organizers (“Clinton Captivates Cape Tip,” The Provincetown Banner, 9 July 2015).
The paradox of a rousing gay-rights speech being delivered at 9-11 Commercial couldn’t be much richer, since it was once the home of Ralph S. Carpenter, an outspoken enemy of homosexuals, whom he described (in what he said were the words of Archbishop Richard Cushing of Boston) as the “lowest form of animal life.” Sixty-three years after the publication of the virulently anti-gay broadside, “An Appeal to All Decent People in the Town of Provincetown,” signed by Selectman Carpenter, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate was in his house, talking to a largely lesbian and gay audience about the evils of discrimination. Provincetown!
The property was in the Carpenter family’s hands for many years. Neysa Carpenter Garrett, Ralph Carpenter’s great niece, told me she believed the home had originally belonged to Edmund James Carpenter, Ralph’s father and the author of The Pilgrims and Their Monument (1911). At No. 9, on what is now a large yard with a guest house, Sandhurst Cottage once stood.
Ralph Carpenter, who had once managed the Caribbean Sugar Company in Manopia, Cuba, was the developer of the exquisitely picturesque Delft Haven cottage colony, at 7 and 10 Commercial Street, which he could oversee clearly from this house.
Amy Whorf McGuiggan recalled that her first job as a teenager in the early 1970s was cleaning house and running errands for the “gentle and kind” Constance Carpenter. “What I remember most about 11 Commercial Street,” McGuiggan told me, “are the stunning Spanish bells, brought back from Cuba, that hung from wooden frames in the yard. They gave that beautiful corner of Provincetown a distinct look and feel. The Carpenters traded one of their bells for a magnificent Frederick Waugh seascape that graced their living room wall adjacent to a large window that looked out across Provincetown Harbor. Waugh had his bell installed in the belfry of St. Mary’s of the Harbor, the church that had been his devotional project in the last years of his life.”
Mullin purchased the property from the Carpenter family in 1986 for $600,000 — just slightly more than was raised in one afternoon here for Hillary Clinton.
More than 2,000 buildings and vessels are searchable on buildingprovincetown.com. The Building Provincetown book is available for purchase ($20) at Town Hall, Office of the Town Clerk, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown 02657.