The best vantage from which to appreciate 3 Carver Street is outside the old aquarium. It rises on a small bluff over the jumbled business street, looking like a great white Greek Revival ghost, understated but imposing. For much of the early 20th century, this was the home of Frank Knowles Atkins, a Provincetown native whose grandfather, Samuel Knowles, ran the stage coach service to Orleans.
Atkins’s wife, Emma W. (Cook) Atkins, was the daughter of the whaling master Capt. John Cook. Atkins was bequeathed Knowles’s livery business, at what is now 293 Commercial Street, and moved it to his grain, fuel and building depot at 137 Bradford Street. On the site of the stable, he built the Pilgrim Theater, described by The Advocate as “the second movie palace of the town” and a showcase for “many of the early ‘flickers’ of the silent era.” (It no longer stands.)
Atkins was credited in his 1940 Advocate obituary with having started the first motorized “accommodation” service; the accommodation being an omnibus that made its way up along and down along through town, picking up and discharging passengers. Until World War I, he also made a line of artists’ paints. In about 1933, he and his sons — Samuel K. and John L. Atkins — transformed the Bradford Street depot into a gasoline filling station, which it remains to this day, as Tedeschi Food Stores-Mobil.
In the late 1940s, 3 Carver Street was operated as a guest house known as The Grays. The property was acquired in 1967 from Dr. Daniel H. Hiebert by Robert A. and Barbara M. Baker. Bob Baker designed and built furniture, which he displayed in a shop at Kiley Court, and also worked as an odd-job carpenter. When neighbors complained in 1967 about the noise from the power tools Baker operated in his yard, Mrs. Baker remonstrated, quite presciently:
With all the tasteless shops in the center of town and with all the noise which comes from summer amusement, I would think that people who are supposed to have the good of this town at heart would be willing to support a genuine craftsshop run by fellow townspeople. … If Provincetown becomes inhospitable to people working at genuine crafts, like furniture building, the town will have to resign itself to becoming the amusement center of the Cape.