128 Commercial Street

“For a number of years — from perhaps the 1930s to 1959 — this was the parsonage of the Universalist Meeting House at 236 Commercial Street,” the Rev. Alison Hyder wrote, “and as such hosted numerous socials and groups, including the Mission Society, the Get-Together Club and Ladies Auxiliary.” Further elaboration follows, from Denise Avallon. [Updated 2012-10-31]

† 170 Commercial Street

Wesley Chapel
The Christian Union Society, a Universalist group, voted in 1829 to build a meeting house. In 1848, the building was sold to a group of 90 Methodists who had seceded from the church in the center of town and the Christian Union Church became known as the Wesley Chapel.

† 170 Commercial Street

Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church (1866)

The critical dimension of the Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church was the height of its steeple: at 165 feet, it was one foot taller than that of the Methodist church in the center of town, from which this body seceded. The church was built in 1866 on the site of the Wesley Chapel. The centenary in question was the founding of American Methodism in Maryland and Virginia in 1766. In 1908, the congregation’s architectural ambition turned out to be its undoing. More pictures and history»

† 170 Commercial Street

 
Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church (1910)

There are few vigorously original works of architecture in town, so it seems especially grievous that one of the few such structures — the strikingly handsome Shingle-style second Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church — should have been torn down in the late 1940s to allow construction of a banal brick bank box. More history»

236 Commercial Street

 
Unitarian Universalist Meeting House | Formerly Church of the Redeemer

Simply put, the U.U., which has stood here since 1847, is the most beautiful building in town. Indeed, it’s so revered in popular opinion that its steeple is known as the Christopher Wren Tower, after the 17th-century architect whose elegant churches transformed London. It is the only one of the four surviving 19th century churches on Commercial Street that still serves as a house of worship. It also does double duty as a vital secular hub and performance space, with fine acoustics and a restored 1850 Holbrook tracker organ. Don’t miss a visit to the sanctuary. The entire room was painted in trompe l’oeil style by Carl Wendte of Germany with a goal to fool your eye into believing you’re in Greek Temple. 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»

356 Commercial Street

 
Provincetown Public Library

The tower of the Provincetown Public Library is — and always was — a skyline ornament. But it was even more imposing in 1860 when it was built as the Center Methodist Church, with a steeple piercing the sky at 162 feet. The steeple came down after the Portland Gale of 1898, but the church nonetheless inspired Edward Hopper (as discussed by Stephen Borkowski with The New York Times), among other painters. The Methodists sold it in 1958 to Walter P. Chrysler Jr., whose father founded the Chrysler Corporation. He turned it into the Chrysler Art Museum, a fine-art collection now housed in Norfolk, Va. The old church was briefly the Center for the Arts before reopening in 1976 as the Provincetown Heritage Museum, curated by Josephine Del Deo. (Presciently, one of the life-size dioramas in the museum was “The 1873 Library,” whose wax-figure librarian, by Mary Bono, is shown above.) The museum’s astonishing, ship-in-a-bottle centerpiece was a half-scale model of the legendary schooner Rose Dorothea, built by Francis “Flyer” Santos. In 2005, the building began a new life as the Provincetown Public Library, replacing the Freeman building at 330 Commercial Street.

More pictures and history»