Cape Cod National Seashore | Back Shore

Peaked Hill Bars stations

Former Peaked Hill Bars Coast Guard Station, by David W. Dunlap (2010).

Former Peaked Hill Bars Coast Guard Station, by David W. Dunlap (2010).

Peaked Hill Bars Coast Guard Station (1917), courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project.

Peaked Hill Bars Coast Guard Station (1917), courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project.

Near the site now occupied by the Margo-Gelb Shack, the U.S. Life-Saving Service built the Peaked Hill Bars Life-Saving Station in 1872. After it was decommissioned in 1914, Sam Lewisohn, a leading art collector in New York, acquired it for Mabel Dodge, an art patron whose Greenwich Village home was an important salon. She spent time here with the painter Maurice Sterne, whom she later married. James O’Neill bought the station in 1919 as a wedding present for his son, Eugene, and daughter-in-law, Agnes Boulton. In six summers here, O’Neill wrote Anna Christie, The Emperor Jones, and The Hairy Ape. The critic Edmund Wilson and the writer Hazel Hawthorne Werner took turns renting it from 1927 through 1930, when Eugene O’Neill deeded it to his son. Months later, in January 1931, the steadily eroding dune cliff undermined the station. It dropped over the edge at a crazy angle and floated out to sea.

Peaked Hill Bars Life-Saving Station (1906), courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project.

Peaked Hill Bars Life-Saving Station (1906), courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project.

The second Peaked Hill Bars station (top right) was built in 1914, roughly on the site of Frenchie’s Shack. Within a year, the Life-Saving Service merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the Coast Guard. By the time the station opened, forces were rendering it obsolete: engines replaced sails, communications improved, and the Cape Cod Canal opened, diverting traffic from the Back Shore. The station itself was moved about 300 yards inland in 1930 to protect it from the fate of its predecessor. It was decommissioned in 1937 but reactivated briefly during World War II. It burned down in 1958. The concrete base is still in place, forming a poignant memorial to the surfmen.


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.

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