CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shack 12


Grace E. Bessay was a fierce preservationist. Her venue was federal court, where she battled the government for years over its condemnation of the “Grail,” among the most distinctive of the shacks.

It was built in the 1920s by Raymond A. Brown, a surfman and carpenter. The property came to Bessay in 1981 from Andrew D. Fuller, with whom she had shared it since 1969, when it was purchased from Dorothy Fearing. In court, Bessay survived a challenge to her assertion of adverse possession but she couldn’t persuade the judges that her shack was a bona-fide dwelling; not without electricity, plumbing, a septic system and a foundation. On pain of immediate eviction, she signed a 25-year use and occupancy agreement in 1991, including her friends Peter Clemons and Marianne Benson in her stipulation. After her death in 1996, they were recognized as the Grail’s legitimate residents.

3 thoughts on “CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shack 12

  1. Hi, I just wanted to say I love your site. I have actually been lucky enough to have grown up in one of these Shacks. My family has put out a book titled Traditional Dune Dwellers: A Way of Life on the Backshore of Provincetown and Truro, available at Blurb.

    My family has devoted their lives to the preservation of the Dune shacks and show their devotion through this book, with beautiful historic pictures, and also my father, Peter Clemons is an artist devoted to painting the dunes and shacks and all that is precious on the backshore. Please check out our book and Facebook page @Backshoregallery!

    Thank you for this website!

  2. I agree with your “distinctive” comment but am not sure where the “largest” came from. People tend to think our dune shack is big, but at approximately 370 square feet, it is very much a little shack. Several years ago, the C.C.N.S. measured all of these places, so I think you will find data that backs me up when I say we are not one of the largest.

    Also, I might suggest using the government’s term for our semi-ownership, and the correct word is “stipulation.” Grace Bessay included us in her stipulation, which is very different from putting us in her will when it comes to how we are treated down the road.

    Both these issues will seem small to readers of your text, but we have reasons for wanting the words to reflect the accurate nature of our standing with the federal government.

    Thanks, David; your project is amazingly good.

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