Cape Cod National Seashore | Herring Cove

Helltown

Helltown, shown on "Bird's Eye View of the Town of Provincetown" (1882), courtesy of the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House.

Helltown, shown on “Bird’s Eye View of the Town of Provincetown” (1882), courtesy of the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House.

Helltown (also rendered Hell Town), a settlement south of Hatches Harbor, grew up in the 1880s. At its peak, it had 33 buildings, 30 dories, and a working population of 125 fishermen, according to a history by Irving Rogers. It was busiest in winter, when Grand Bankers and schooners were at anchor and men fished in closer grounds. Huts so near the water meant a saving of precious time. Rogers implied that Helltown earned its name from hellish working conditions. But when Mary Heaton Vorse asked an old captain why it was called Helltown, she was told, “Because of the helling that went on there.” Licentious Helltown now claims the popular imagination, in which it’s often confused with Long Point.


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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