† 84 Bradford Street

1 Prince Street, Provincetown (ND). Courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project (Ferguson Postcard Collection). 

While searching for a place to park, have you ever wondered for whom the Grace Hall Parking Lot was named? Or supposed that Grace Hall was a building that once stood at Prince and Bradford, with some connection to St. Peter’s? (Or do you confine yourself to wondering why it’s so hard to find a parking space?) In any case, Mrs. Hall (±1867-1948) was a founding member of the Research Club, progenitor of the Provincetown Museum, which was born here in 1910.

On 18 October 1910, Mrs. Hall, Mary Sparrow and Gertrude DeWager convened the first meeting of the club at Mrs. Hall’s house on this site. Membership was limited to women of demonstrable Mayflower ancestry, 18 years of age and older. The other charter members were Elizabeth Atwood, Julia (Knowles) Hopkins, Clara Watson and Anna (Hughes) Young, of 10 Carver Street. At first, they set for themselves only the modest and pleasant task of preparing papers on local history. These were published in The Provincetown Advocate, edited by Mrs. Hopkins’s husband, Howard.

Soon, the club’s ambitions grew. Its members began placing commemorative plaques around town, including the first landing marker, which can be found in the rotary at the foot of the West End Breakwater. All the while, they were acquiring objects, possessing enough in 1923 to warrant the purchase of the old Lancy mansion at 230 Commercial Street. They transformed it into the Historical Museum, which it remained until 1961, when the contents were transferred to the Pilgrim Monument, 1 High Pole Hill Road.

Mrs. Hall’s hipped-roof residence was historical enough in its own right. It was built between 1813 and 1817 as the parsonage for the nearby White Oak Meeting House (now 1 Mozart Avenue), home of what were then known as Orthodox Christians, spiritual heirs of the Puritans and Pilgrims. It was last used for that purpose in 1830. The Rev. Nathaniel Stone, an unpopular preacher and an unreliable borrower, skipped town in 1837 rather than pay a $500 debt to Polly Rider, Clive Driver wrote in Looking Back (2004).

Seized to satisfy the debt, the house was later sold by town officials to Thomas Lothrop (d 1881), variously identified as the developer of the Union House, 4-6 Masonic Place, forerunner of the A-House; as the builder of the first wharf in Provincetown; as the town’s first customs official; as the proprietor of a candle factory at 255-257 Commercial; and as a pioneer in the cultivation of cranberry bogs. Driver also identified him as a physician.

His daughter, Rebeka (Lothrop) Fielding, and her husband, Warren Fielding, succeeded in ownership. After Mrs. Fielding’s death in 1914, the property passed to Grace — Grace Hall — who was widowed at a young age when her new husband, Hiram Hall of Dennis, was lost in a shipwreck off the German coast. She died in 1948, leaving no survivors.

The town moved in 1952 to assert eminent domain to acquire the very large Grace F. Hall estate, which wrapped around the Provincetown High School, as the site of the new elementary school (2 Mayflower Lane). The portion closest to Bradford Street, on which the house itself stood, was designated a municipal parking lot. And so a cofounder of the Provincetown Museum is honored: “Curses! Grace Hall is full again!” ¶ Updated 2013-07-25

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