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.