CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shacks


A man may stand there and put all Provincetown behind him. Along the Back Shore — or Back Side or Great Shore or Great Back Shore or Great Beach — settlement meets sea, and the built environment is humbled. The Pilgrim Monument looks distant, almost inconsequential. There is no place for human-engineered grandeur against the mighty Atlantic Ocean and the treacherous Peaked Hill Bars. Instead, snugness, modesty, and adaptability are rewarded. Structures perform the most elementary services of salvation and shelter. Visiting the dune shacks »

CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shack 1


C-Scape is the best known of the shacks. It’s fairly easy to reach; it was well documented in the 2009 picture book, Dune Shack Summer, by Suzanne Lewis; and it’s open for occupancy to a limited number of writers and artists, through the nonprofit Provincetown Community Compact, run by Jay Critchley and Tom Boland, which has managed the shack since 1996 under agreement with the Park Service. More pictures and history »

CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shack 2

Leo’s Place

The Noones brothers and Edward “Jake” Loring are credited with this shack, begun in the latter 1930s as a place for fishing and socializing. Howard Lewis, an upholsterer, bought it in 1952 or 1953. Leo Fleurant lived here year-round from 1963 until his death — in the shack — in 1984. In 1994, the Park service leased the shack jointly to Emily Beebe and Evelyn Simon, who continued to refer to it as “Leo’s Place.” It can be seen clearly from the Province Lands Visitors Center. More pictures »

CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shack 4

(Professors Row)

Jake Loring, the operator of Loring’s Taxi, and Dominic Avila, a carpenter, built this cottage as a Back Shore resort in 1935. It was acquired in 1953 by David William Adams, a professor at Western Michigan University, and Marcia (Cargill) Adams. Subject to a stipulation of settlement with the government, it can be occupied by the family until 2014. More pictures and history »

CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shack 5

Mission Bell (Professors Row)

“Mission Bell” is the popular name for this cottage, although the bell in question — a useful navigational landmark out in the dunes — was salvaged in 1955 not from a mission but from a one-room schoolhouse in Michigan. It’s the shack closest to the Somerset wreck. More pictures and history »

CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shack 6

Malicoat Cottage

The Malicoat cottage — the only one of the 18 that is still privately owned — aligns exactly with the family’s property at 312-320 Bradford Street, which once ran all the way to the Atlantic. The artist Philip Cecil Malicoat (1908-1981) built his first shack in 1948 or 1949 on what he believed to be the oceanside extension of his parcel. More pictures and history »

CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shack 7


“Euphoria” is the larger of the two shacks that belonged to the writer and preservationist Hazel Hawthorne Werner (1901-2000) — if the adjective “larger” can be fairly applied to a 16-by-12-foot structure. It was built around 1930, apparently by the coast guardsman Frank “Spucky” Silva, who also built Thalassa (Shack 14). More pictures and history »

CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shack 9


Fittingly, the most modest of the dune shacks casts the longest shadow, for this 8-by-12-foot structure is linked to Harry Kemp (1883-1960) — the Poet of the Dunes and, as the biographer William Brevda called him, the Last Bohemian. The shack’s earliest incarnation was as the hen house at the Peaked Hill Bars station. It was rebuilt by the surfman Frank Cadose, then owned by Frank Dears Henderson of the Coast Guard, who rented it to Kemp beginning in 1927 or 1928 and eventually gave it to him rather than listen any longer to Kemp’s ceaseless complaints. By the 40s, Kemp had largely squandered what slim reputation he’d enjoyed in serious circles. He had become a caricature: an ever eccentric, often besotted, unabashedly self-promoting poet — beloved by many, but just tolerated by others. More pictures and history »

CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shack 13

Frenchie’s Shack

Josephine (Couch) Del Deo, the town’s most influential preservationist, was a leader with Ross Moffett in the fight during the 50s and 60s to create a national seashore. She was still fighting, in 2010, to ensure that the shack she shared with her husband, Salvatore Del Deo, an artist and one-time restaurateur (Ciro & Sal’s and Sal’s Place), would be on the National Register of Historic Places, despite the fact that it dates to 1976. The original shack was built 30 years earlier for Jeanne “Frenchie” Chanel; chanteuse, naïf, “mystic, spiritualist, part bird, part creature of the unknown instincts man has lost,” as Del Deo wrote. More pictures and history »

CCNS Back Shore | Dune Shack 14


“Thalassa” (θαλασσα) is the primal spirit of the sea and the name Hazel Hawthorne Werner gave to the smaller of her dune cottages. It was built in 1931 by the surfmen, and brothers, Louis and Frank “Spucky” Silva, who salvaged its windows from Eugene O’Neill’s life-saving station, gave it a front porch (now gone) and called it “Seagoin’.” More pictures and history »

CCNS Back Shore | Somerset Wreck


In 1778, Peaked Hill Bars bested a dreaded symbol of British imperial power: H.M.S. Somerset, the 64-gun ship-of-the-line that had terrorized the people of Boston and Charlestown, figuring in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” as “A phantom ship, with each mast and spar / Across the moon like a prison-bar, / And a huge black hulk, that was magnified / By its own reflection in the tide.” More pictures and history»

† CCNS Back Shore | First Peaked Hill Bars Station


In the mid-19th century, this unsheltered stretch was peppered with rude huts, built by the Massachusetts Humane Society, where shipwreck survivors might ride out the storm. But most crew members marooned on the sand bars couldn’t even get as far as the beach, perishing instead as their vessels were torn apart beneath them. So the government took a more proactive role, begininng in the 1870s, through the U.S. Life-Saving Service. More history

CCNS Back Shore | Second Peaked Hill Bars Station


The second Station Peaked Hill Bars was constructed in 1914, roughly a quarter mile east of the first station, as a replacement. Within a year, the Life-Saving Service merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the new U.S. Coast Guard. With its off-center lookout tower, this building resembled the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station. More pictures and history

† CCNS Herring Cove | First Bath House

Herring Cove Bath House

In 1953, the Herring Cove Bath House opened, an event consequential enough to draw Governor Christian A. Herter. Designed by Mario Caputo of Boston, the state-built bath house was a handsome-enough modernist structure with a glass-block facade. It could have passed for a small-town airport terminal. More pictures and history »

CCNS Herring Cove | Second Bath House

Herring Cove Beach House 2, Cape Cod National Seashore (2013), by David W. Dunlap. 
Herring Cove Beach House 2, Cape Cod National Seashore (2013), by David W. Dunlap.Seen from across Herring Cove, the National Park Service’s new Herring Cove bath house pavilions, which opened in 2013, seem almost to be levitating over the beach. Well, indeed they are. Several feet. The entire complex is on pilings, allowing surge waves to pass underneath, as well as to allow the entire complex to be moved farther upland if necessary. That is one of several attractions designed into the $5 million project by its architect and project manager, Amy Sebring, of the park service’s design and construction division. More pictures and history»

CCNS Herring Cove | New Beach


There are few beaches along the Atlantic from which you can watch the sun set. Herring Cove Beach (formerly New Beach) is one of them. In the 19th century, much of the upland area of the modern-day beach lay under the waters of Lancy’s Harbor. Nearby was a small settlement of fishermen’s huts, called Herring Cove. Picture essay and more history»

CCNS Long Point | Cape Cod Oil Works


Atwood’s wharf saw second duty as part of the Cape Cod Oil Works, established by Jonathan Cook in 1875, which extracted everything usable from the carcasses and excreta of whales and fish. To this day, the ruin of a brig hull, as elegant in its skeletal outline as an elongated wishbone, can be seen alongside the few remaining pilings of the Atwood wharf. Picture essay and more history »

CCNS Long Point | Forts Useless and Ridiculous


During the Civil War, concerned about the Confederate navy trying to blockade the harbor, the federal government erected a three-gun earthwork battery at the tip of Long Point and a five-gun earthwork battery about 1,800 feet to the southwest. Because the Long Point Batteries never saw wartime duty, townsfolk called them Fort Useless and Fort Ridiculous. More pictures and history »

CCNS Long Point | Second Long Point Light


The current lighthouse — a 38-foot-high tapering brick tower whose green beacon flashes a welcome to Provincetown Harbor every four seconds — was constructed in 1876. Today, only the nearby oil house remains of a larger complex that once existed around the tower, including a keeper’s house, a fog bell enclosure almost as tall as the lighthouse, and a boat house. More pictures and history»

CCNS Long Point | Settlement


Among Provincetown’s more inscrutable ornaments are these pretty blue-and-white enameled plaques, found mostly in the far West End. They indicate that the houses to which they’re affixed were contructed in the early 19th century out on Long Point and later floated over to town on scows. (Or, at least, that the owners once believed their houses had come from Long Point.) These “floaters” are vestiges of a community that once lived as close to the fishery as anyone could get — without being in a school. More history and interactive map»

CCNS Province Lands | “Hippie House”


This fascinating structure, nestled on a wooded hillside north of Shank Painter Road, embodied the best traditions of outlaw construction in Provincetown: it was built where it shouldn’t have been, without any evident authorization to be there, of materials no one would use to build a house, by a person or persons unknown, at some indistinct time in the past, to serve an undefined purpose, which it did with surprising robustness. More pictures and history»

CCNS Province Lands | Visitor Center and Amphitheater


The signature National Seashore building is the hexagonal Province Lands Visitor Center of 1967-69, which replaced the Grand View Tower of 1955. It was designed by Benjamin Biderman of the Park Service’s Eastern Office of Design and Construction. F. Clifford Pearce Jr. also worked on the job. More pictures and history»

CCNS Province Lands | Municipal Airport (PVC)


More than 300 acres were taken out of the Province Lands to permit construction of the Provincetown Municipal Airport (PVC), a project begun in 1947. Burns & Kenerson were the original architects. The single runway — 7/25 — is 3,500 feet long. The first scheduled flights to and from Boston, operated by John C. Van Arsdale (1919-1997), began in late 1949 on Cessna Bobcats. More pictures and history»

CCNS Province Lands | “Tiresome Tabernacle”


The Tiresome Tabernacle was built by the artist Jay Critchley in 2001 not far from the new Wastewater Treatment Plant, 200 Route 6. A commentary on energy wastefulness and environmental recklessness, it consisted originally of an eight-foot stack of used car tires atop a five-foot platform in a sunken pit. The platform remains, looking like a mysterious altar. More pictures and history»

CCNS Race Point | Life-Saving Station Museum


The Old Harbor Life-Saving Station was built in Chatham in 1897, based on the handsome “Duluth” prototype designed by George R. Tolman, examples of which proliferated along the Atlantic coast and Lake Superior. More pictures and history»

CCNS Race Point | First Race Point Light


The sight of it can indeed make the pulse or heart race. But the “race” in Race Point refers to the strong currents around the small peninsula on which first lighthouse was built in 1816. The Race Point Light Station was originally a 20-foot rubblestone tower with a revolving light. Joshua Dyer was the first keeper.