12 Carver Street

Brass Key Guesthouse
Now designated the Gatehouse as part of the large and eclectic Brass Key Guesthouse compound, 12 Carver Street was built in the 1850s. William H. Young and his family lived here and next door, 10 Carver Street, where their lives are discussed more fully. The Rev. James F. Albion of the Universalist church lived here in the late 1920s. In the 1930s, Mrs. Fred H. Graham [?] held weekly duplicate bridge contests here, the results of which she would chronicle for The Advocate in a column called “Tops and Bottoms.” (This seems the perfect point on which not to comment.) More pictures and history»

193A Commercial Street

Pied Bar

A landmark of women’s history, 193A Commercial has been a social center of lesbian life — and gay life generally — since the early 1950s, when it was the Ace of Spades Club. (The club famously refused admission in 1961 to the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.) “Allegedly the longest continuously running lesbian bar in the United States, the Ace of Spades played a critical role in Provincetown’s history as the first and, for many years, the only social institution at Land’s End that catered specifically to women,” Karen Christel Krahulik wrote in Provincetown: From Pilgrim Landing to Gay Resort (New York University Press, 2005). More pictures and history»

247 Commercial Street

Crown & Anchor

On a summer’s night, the Crown & Anchor can’t be missed. In fact, it can’t be ignored. Not only is it one of P-town’s most prominent facades, with its grand columned portico and tower, but performers from the Cabaret — usually in drag — boisterously regale passers-by. The hotel business is a sideline; this is the town’s “largest entertainment complex,” true to its roots in the mid-19th century, when Timothy P. Johnson built the Central House (its first name) as a public hall for shows and entertainment, a bowling alley and — quite as important — a saloon. More pictures and history»

256-258 Commercial Street

Former Congregational Church of the Pilgrims | Former Art Cinema | Saki | John Dough’s | Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop | Red Eye Coffee | Toko Indo

Your first reaction on standing in front of this building may well be: “So where’s the church?” It’s hard to make out, what with all structural additions that have grown by accretion — and like topsy — in what used to be the church’s ample front yard. But if you step across Commercial Street for a slightly better perspective, you’ll quickly recognize the shape and volume of a 19th-century house of worship. More pictures and history»

303 Commercial Street

Post Office Café & Cabaret

Though Land’s End Marine Supply is strongly identified with the east end of downtown, this was its birthplace in 1940 — founded by Joseph E. Macara (1904-2000) — and was its home for four years. Years before that, it was Silva’s Fish Market. After Land’s End moved out, the building was home in the early 1960s to the Wreck Club, run by Manuel Souza. The longtime commercial tenant has been the Post Office Café & Cabaret, one of the busiest nightclubs in town. It does not get its name from having once been the Provincetown post office. Rather, as a 1975 business directory explained, its first-floor décor came from a former post office in Ossining, N.Y., also known as the home of the Sing Sing penitentiary. More pictures and history»

312-314 Commercial Street

Governor Bradford

Familiar as the Governor Bradford may seem — and if you first set foot in town within the last half century, it’s always been here — there are noteworthy things to record: It’s still in the hands of the Edwards family, which has run this restaurant and its predecessors since the 1940s. The Bradford itself is a relative newcomer among Provincetown’s heritage businesses, having opened in 1960. It has a terrific collection of domestic and maritime artifacts and an enormous (but well concealed) mural by James Wingate Parr. More pictures and history»

313-315A Commercial Street

Former Post Office | Equipped | Cape Cod Times Provincetown Bureau | Lily Pond | Coffee Pot | Red Shack | Surf Club Restaurant and Bar

Together with No. 309, flanking Lopes Square, these buildings serves as a kind of gateway for the many thousands who arrive aboard the Boston boats. The Coffee Pot is a popular local hang-out and the Surf Club, until recently, held on to a rough-and-tumble, old-Provincetown patronage, many of whom came to hear the Provincetown Jug & Marching Band. The Surf Club formed an anti-gentry triumvirate with the Old Colony Tap, also owned by the Enos family, and the Governor Bradford. (In these joints, you’d never hear the word “triumvirate.”) More pictures and history»

323-325 Commercial Street

Old Colony Tap | Victor Powell’s Workshop

Chances are, you’re not neutral about the Old Colony; a legacy dive bar, if such a thing can be imagined. You may embrace it happily as a true surviving vestige of hardscrabble Provincetown and a good place to meet friends, away from the phoniness and pretense of neo-Ptown. Or you may shudder as you go by, especially when it’s evident through the plate-glass windows just who’s drinking long before the sun is over the yardarm. What’s beyond debate is that the Old Colony is a town institution, founded in 1937 by Manuel G. Cook and run since 1955 by the Enos family, who also own the Surf Club. More pictures and history»

336 Commercial Street

Sage Inn and Lounge

After the disastrous fire of 1990, Donald R. Edwards, whose family founded and still owns the Governor Bradford, rebuilt the Pilgrim House. While it occupies roughly the same footprint, in its new incarnation, the property was more about entertainment than accommodation, though it did have 20 guest rooms. More pictures and history»

359 Commercial Street

Mews Condominium | Luxories | Harbor Lounge | Patty Deluca Gallery | Century 21 Shoreland | Sophia Reznick Gallery | SS Cherry Vintage Clothing | Anathan Benson Group | Native Art

The nature of this charming cul-de-sac inspired the name of the Mews Restaurant and Café, which opened here in 1961 as the Inn at the Mews and remained until 1993. It then moved to 429 Commercial Street while keeping its name, which is now somewhat hard to understand at first glance since the current restaurant property looks nothing like a mews. The restaurant was established by Nicholas “Nicky” Wells (d 1985), a real estate developer, and his wife, the artist Ray Martan Wells (1908-2011). They are the namesakes of Nicky’s Park and of the Ray and Nicky Wells Conservation Area. More pictures and history»

463 Commercial Street


The Flagship, with its renowned and utterly improbable dory bar, is one of those cherished institutions that’s missed even by people who never knew it. Built and used at first by the artist E. Ambrose Webster (pictured at left) as an instructional studio, it was for many years the place to dine and drink in the East End. Its history is interwoven with that of the Beachcombers next door, at 465A Commercial. Part pier shed, part foundry, part wharf, part studio, it’s hard to tell where the Flagship leaves off and where the Beachcombers begin. For a time in the 1930s, the Flagship catered the Beachcomber dinners, making the distinction between them even tougher to discern. But the spirit of the Flagship endures, though it’s a private home now. And as long as there’s a dory bar in place, there will always be a Flagship.

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4-6 Masonic Place

4 Masonic Place, Provincetown (2012), by David W. Dunlap. 
4 Masonic Place, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap.Atlantic House (A-House)

Though other venues occasionally rival or eclipse it in popularity, notoriety or renown, the Atlantic House has been — amazingly enough — a nexus of nightlife in Provincetown for more than half a century, ever since it was purchased in 1949 by the Cabral family, which continues to own it. April Cabral-Pitzner, one of Reginald W. Cabral’s daughters, is the current proprietor. The A-House is on almost every gay visitor’s first-time itinerary, whether he comes back a second time or not. And while most patrons probably have more urgent matters than civic history on their minds when they step into one of the three bars here, it also happens that this one of the longest-lived establishments in town. Even if you don’t remember much the next morning, this is still a place rich in memories. Imagine, for instance, the summer of 1955, when Billie Holiday, Eartha Kitt and Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song, all headlined in the Cabaret Room within a month of one another. (Could most jazz clubs on West 52nd Street have made such a boast?) Oh, yes; on the other week that August, the legendary drummer Gene Krupa topped the bill.

4 Masonic Place, Provincetown (1955). Adevrtisements in The Provincetown Advocate from 18 August 1955 (Kitt), 1 September 1955 (Fitzgerald), and 4 August 1955 (Holiday). From Provincetown Online: The Advocate Live!, by the Provincetown Public Library. 

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67 Shank Painter Road

67 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown (1978). Advertisement in the Provincetown Art Association and Museum Summer Catalog 1978. Courtesy of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. 
(Formerly) Piggy’s Dance Bar

To see Piggy’s in the daylight is like staying past last call, when fluorescent lights suddenly drain a room of anything resembling magic. For magic is what suffused this unprepossessing building in the 1970s, say those who knew it. Straights danced with gays. Lisbons danced with Bravas. Fish cutters danced with matte cutters. Piggy’s offered an exuberant — often bacchanalian — cross-section of town.

67 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown (2010), by David W. Dunlap. 

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† 68 Shank Painter Road

68 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown (2011), by David W. Dunlap. 
Phil Baione (Baiona). Public Faces, Private Lives. "Improper Bostonians: Lesbian and Gay History From the Puritans to Playland." The History Project.Weathering Heights

Philip N. “Phil” Baiona (Bayon) must have paged through The Provincetown Advocate of 5 June 1952 with a mix of triumph and terror. Inside, the paper was reporting the “huge success” of opening night at the Weathering Heights Club, where Baiona — proprietor of the 12 Carver Street bar in Boston — was beginning his second season as manager, owner and chief attraction. The top story on the front page, however, sounded an ominous note: “Selectmen Clamp Down on Gay Spots With New Regulations to Curb Evils.” That crusade — to rid the town of homosexuals — would color almost every year of Baiona’s tenure at Weathering Heights, through the 1960s. Baiona turned out to be too much, too soon for the fundamentally conservative folk of Provincetown, and Weathering Heights was made a scapegoat of the people’s inchoate fears that their values and their livelihoods were under simultaneous assault by a bunch of “fairies” from Boston and New York. More pictures and history»