Alfred “Fall River” Perry, originally Perreira, opened the Wagon Wheels diner shortly after World War II, Joseph Andrews recalled. (Though it’s not a very clear reproduction, you can actually discern the wagon wheels flanking the stairway to the diner entrance.) It stood at the intersection now occupied by Victor’s, when this part of the West End was almost rural, given the presence nearby of the large Galeforce Farm.
Alfred “Fall River” Perry was succeeded at this site by Joe “The Barber” Ferreira, who opened what was “probably the only Dairy Queen franchise in America that served kale soup,” Amy Whorf McGuiggan wrote. The DQ morphed into Silva’s Seafood Connection, whose spokesfish is seen in the picture, run in its last years by the brothers David Silva and Paul Silva. After turns as LiCata’s and the Beach Grill, it was razed to make way for condominiums and Victor’s restaurant.
Mary’s Snack Bar (Mary Spaghetti’s)
From the 40s through the 60s, this side shack (c1880) was Mary’s Snack Bar, run by Mary Souza. Open until 3 a.m., it was a popular rendezvous with “night prowlers,” as The Advocate put it. Reportedly among those prowlers once were Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. What made it popular among the nocturnal set, of course, made it anathema to the neighbors, including Clarence Kacergis, who had Souza hauled up for censure by the Selectmen in 1959, saying he could not sleep. Mary’s claims to fame were clamburgers and pepper steak, but the joint was also known as Mary Spaghetti’s, suggesting another specialty of the house — besides general uproar. ¶ Updated 2012-11-13
More pictures »
Governor Bradford School
This elegant, wood-framed, Queen Anne-style building was home to the Governor Bradford School beginning in 1892 and where grades five and six were conducted after a 1931 systemwide reorganization. First to fourth grades were in the Western and Center Schools; seventh onward in the High School. In 1935, it burned down in the middle of the night without any loss of life.
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. More history»
Village Hall was built in 1832 as a secular meeting place, but was renamed Marine Hall after Marine Lodge No. 96 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was chartered here in 1845. They bought the building the next year. The Masons met here from 1845 to 1870 and the structure also served as Mrs. Stearns’s private school. In 1870, John Atwood Jr. convened a meeting to organize the Board of Trade (now the Chamber of Commerce). In 1886, The Provincetown Advocate began printing here on steam-driven presses. The Odd Fellows built a new headquarters next door in 1895. After the 1950s, Marine Hall was demolished and replaced by a parking lot.
Central School House
The Central School House was one of three district schools built in 1844 — along with the Western and Eastern (still standing) — each to serve a three-grade cohort: primary, intermediate and grammar. Henry David Thoreau may have been referring to this building when he described a school house “filled with sand up to the tops of the desks.” Its site is now a parking lot, associated with one of the more brutal crimes in recent history: the execution-style shooting in 1996 of Linda Silva, an investigator for the Department of Social Services. Seven years passed until the arrest of a suspect, Paul Dubois, whose request for child custody had been opposed by Silva. Dubois was convicted of first-degree murder in 2004.
The Dunlap house? Admittedly, the name “Mrs. Dunlap” on the 1880 atlas caught my eye for personal reasons, even though I know we couldn’t be related. (It’s a long story.) One possibility: perhaps she was the widow of John Dunlap, who seems to be the only person of that name in accounts of town life in the 19th century. Dunlap shows up in three public records: as a two-term Selectman, first elected in 1838; as a one-term Representative, elected in 1840; and then, in 1850, as an agent of the whaler R. E. Cook, which was under the command of Captains Cook, Nickerson and Tilson. It is not far-fetched to think of “Mrs. Dunlap” — if she were a contemporary of John Dunlap — as a woman, say, in her late 60s or early 70s by the year the atlas was published.
Old Colony Railroad Passenger Depot
For better or worse, Provincetown was firmly joined to the mainland on 23 July 1873, when the Old Colony Railroad inaugurated train service from Boston. The passenger depot stood on Bradford Street but the tracks continued down Standish, across Commercial, and all the way to the end of Railroad Wharf, giving fishermen a relatively fast overland route to Boston. Three short spurs branched from the main line at Conwell Street. One ended at an engine house and turntable near Center Street and Railroad Avenue. Each day, four trains ran — or, at least, crawled — up and down the Cape. Picture essay and more history
Derelict, this 200-year-old Federal house is a three-dimensional lesson in construction technique, showing how broad vertical planks were used to enclose the house, with horizontal clapboarding on top to weatherproof the walls. At least three generations of the Gaspar family lived here: Antone Gaspar, a fisherman born in Fayal, Azores; his sons Manuel J. Gaspar and Joseph Gaspar; and Joseph’s son, Warren E. Gaspar. The house has been empty at least six years.
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
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 »
Almost dead ahead from the breakwater once stood the Wood End Life-Saving Station of 1896. This “Duluth”-style structure was similar to the Old Harbor station from Chatham that’s now at Race Point. Perhaps the best known commander at Wood End was Capt. George H. Bickers (b 1858), who joined the Life-Saving Service at 33 after a career of coasting and whaling. In The Life Savers of Cape Cod, Bickers was credited with having ensured that numerous wrecks off Wood End occurred without fatalities. (Bickers is pictured here in a painting by Alice C. Bevin.) After his time, Wood End was witness to the most awfully protracted maritime disaster off Provincetown in the 20th century: the sinking of the submarine U.S.S. S-4 on Dec. 17, 1927. The station was demolished by the federal government in 1961.
Commanding a view as far as Wellfleet, the Louis Hollingsworth home was known as the Castle or Castle Dune; also as Pilgrims’ Landing (still visible on the gateposts). It was next owned by George Paine. Anton von Dereck had an art metal studio here. In 1936, the property was bought by Dr. Carl Murchison, a well-known psychologist at Clark University. He and his wife, Dorothea, collected works by artists connected with the town. Ross Moffett estimated there were 250 paintings and 150 prints and other works. Almost all were lost in 1956, when the house burned down. The Murchisons, vowing to rebuild, created Provincetown’s most distinctive work of mid-century modernism.
On what is now a parking lot and town landing at 55 Commercial Street stood Western Cold Storage, the westernmost of Provincetown’s cold storage facilities; enormous, industrial-strength fish processing and freezing plants which once lined the waterfront. Only one, the Ice House, survives. The Western was built in 1917 and only operated for a year before shutting down. The town seized the property for non-payment of taxes and tore down the building in 1937, leaving a parking lot in its wake that has been there ever since. The Long Point exhibit at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum indicates that a floater house also occupied this site.
According to Steve Silberman, whose family vacationed here for 40 years, “The original guest house bore the name the Galley, and then the Viewpoint, and was owned by the cookbook author Hazel Meyer and her partner Alice Bartoli, and then by Donald and Joan Morse, before being bought and torn down by the current owners.” In the 1950s, the Galley Shop was operated at this address by “Cap’ns” Dick Knudson and Jim Flag. More pictures and history»
The 1,000-foot-long Union Wharf, constructed in about 1830-31, was one of the largest and most important wharves in town. A marine railway at the end drew vessels up to a building with a large notch in its gabled roof to accommodate bowsprits, so that the hull could be brought that much higher and closer. More pictures and history»
In the early 20th century, this was the home of William Kilburn Nickerson (±1856-1932); his nephew [?], Charles Nickerson Rogers (1880-1945); and Charles’s widow, Joanna F. “Ma”(Moore) Rogers. William Nickerson was the son of Jesse Nickerson, a whaler and an officer of the Boston-Provincetown packet. The younger man worked for the Old Colony Railroad as it was building an extension of the rail line from Wellfleet to Provincetown. He stayed on the line after it was acquired by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, working as a fireman and as an engineer. Nickerson also ran a livery stable whose vehicle took President Theodore Roosevelt through town when the Pilgrim Monument was dedicated. More pictures and history»
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»
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»
The Oldest Shop, which was torn down in 1966, can be thought of as Provincetown’s Penn Station; not in terms of grandeur, certainly, but as that beloved landmark everyone assumed would always be around — until it was razed in the name of economics. Noting the objections that greeted its demolition, The Advocate said in an editorial: “The group of protesting citizens could well form the nucleus of an historical society or of any organization dedicated to the preservation of old historic Provincetown landmarks. And there are still more than a few to be saved though they are fast disappearing. Let’s preserve — not memorialize!” More pictures and history»
Between 271 and 273 Commercial Street is the narrow path that was once known as Hollyhock Lane. More pictures»
One of the best-known photographs of a town in thrall to the fishery was this view, taken around 1880, showing a handsome home surrounded by fish-drying racks known as flakes. I believe this house stood on the lot of what is now the Mayflower Café, based on its description by Althea Boxell as Elisha Tilson’s house, located up Small’s Court and behind Lewis’s New York Store. More history»
After the discontinuation of freight service to Railraod Wharf, the right-of-way south of the passenger depot and railyard was no longer needed. On the north side of Commercial Street, the Janoplis family — of Mayflower Café renown — constructed the Blue Moon Restaurant in 1930. Victor M. Lewis, proprietor of Lewis’ New York Store next door, acquired the underlying property on the west side of Standish Street in 1939. He and Samuel Janoplis were unable to come to any agreement and Janoplis tore this building down.
In continuous operation for 75 years at the time of its closing in 1965, the Mayflower Gift Shop was perhaps the longest-lived gift shop in Provincetown history. The shop was opened in 1890 by Irving L. Rosenthal, whose father, Sgt. John Rosenthal, had been in charge of the Long Point Batteries (better known to posterity as Forts Useless and Ridiculous). Irving’s son John F. “Jack” Rosenthal took over the shop. In 1938, the younger Rosenthal modernized the front of the building and rehabilitated it a second time after World War II. During the war, he headed the Provincetown Civilian Defense program. On 15 June 1942, Rosenthal supervised the reception and care for 42 survivors from vessels that had been torpedoed off the coast. More pictures and history»
One of the liveliest nightspots stood until about 30 years ago between the Old Colony Tap and the beach. This large building, known as 323½ or 323R, was reached from a narrow alleyway. In the 1930s, it was the White Whale and Mooring Mast nightclub, run by Frances Bell. It may also have been Maline Costa’s first bar and short-order restaurant, the Shed, before he opened the Moors. In the early 1940s it was the Cape End Club. In May 1945, it reopened as Frank DeMello’s Pilgrim Club, with dining, drinking and dancing to the sounds — over the years — of Sam Robinson’s Harlem Boys, the Duke Boyce Trio and the King Levister Quartet. On the inset photo, you can make out the “Pilgrim Club” sign stretching over the entrance to the alleyway between the Old Colony and Lobster Pot. More pictures and history»
During the Long Point diaspora of the mid-19th century, the settlement’s most prominent public buildings — the school house and post office — are both reputed to have made the voyage across the harbor. The post office wound up at 256 Bradford Street, the school house at 329 Commercial Street, where it remained until a disastrous fire in 1949, serving in its latter years as the home of the appliance and bicycle shop of Arnold F. Dwyer (±1918-1998), which is still in business, though on a far more modest scale. More pictures and history»
Provincetown Boat Works
The most common route to demolition in Provincetown’s historic district seems to follow these lines: applicant obtains permission to rehabilitate old building, applicant discovers that old building is too structurally compromised to save, applicant tears down old building. The case of the Provincetown Boat Works, a three-story waterfront building from the 1970s, took its cues from that increasingly familiar scenario. More pictures and history»
The Pilgrim House did not accommodate the first visitors, for whom it was named. But it did open for business around 1810 and counted Henry David Thoreau among its guests. (Not an especially satisfied guest, as a page from his 1857 journal makes amusingly clear.) The original structure, set so far back from the street that there was room for a gazebo or bandstand in its front yard, might have dated to the late 1700s. Though much transformed, it managed to last until October 1990, when it was destroyed in a four-alarm blaze that required more than 100 firefighters from seven Cape towns to extinguish and injured more than a dozen people. More pictures and history»
The headhouse of Hilliard’s Wharf housed a ship chandlery and was the headquarters for a fleet of Grand Bankers and whalers, including (presumably) the Emily Hilliard of 1866. It was replaced by Lands End Marine Supply.
James A. “Mack” (or “Jimmie”) McGuire (1873-1960), was the last sail maker in Provincetown. The Rose Dorothea was among the many vessels for which he’d made a full suit of sails by hand: 240,000 stitches over 1,600 yards of canvas. From a personal perspective, I’m astonished to think that McGuire was still in business within my lifetime, though just barely; 1952 was the end of his career. That was the year Joseph E. Macara replaced the sail loft, which he owned, with the marine supply annex to Lands End. (The photograph shows the sail loft in relation to the front building of Lands End.) More history»
Blanche Lazzell Cottage
It’s been a full decade now, but it’s still hard to think that a building of such historic significance — the longtime waterfront studio of Blanche Lazzell (1878-1956), one of the most significant artists of Provincetown, which was depicted on the cover of 1989 monograph Blanche Lazzell — could have slipped under the radar and on to the rubble pile in 2002. More pictures and history»
On the site where Nicholas and Ray Wells would build the Mews in 1962, the Dutra family ran a waterfront fueling station for many years. Their vessels included the Millie, shown above, and the Elsie Howard. You can see the big bright Texaco star on the landside shed, though Millie is in Mobiloil livery. Leno Perry Dutra (d 1954), ran the business, succeeding his father, Joseph P. Dutra.
Anthony C. Tarvers and his family operated a liquor store in a long, skinny structure at No. 362 from the 1930s at least through the later 1960s. This odd little building also seems to be the one that Althea Boxell had in mind when she described a shop in which the artist Arthur V. Diehl (1870-1929) once worked. In Boxell’s 11th Scrapbook, she notes that Diehl “painted a dollar bill on the floor so real, everyone tried to pick it up.” The building can be seen at the left-hand edge of Diehl’s handsome Provincetown cityscape of 1913, which is centered on the adjoining house at 364 Commercial Street. Helen and Napi Van Dereck own both the Diehl painting and the property, a tax lot encompassing No. 362 and No. 364. More pictures and history»
“One always stops at Lizzie’s on the way home from the movies!” Althea Boxell didn’t often interject such enthusiastic commentary in her remarkable scrapbooks, so we might take this emphatic notation in Book 1 as a sure sign of the popularity of E. I. Livingston Fountain Service, run by one Elizabeth Isabel “Lizzie” Livingston (±1879-1945) of 217 Bradford Street. In 1959, as Jo’s Soda Shop, the establishment played a small role in the great drama of a 45-foot beached fin whale, a story so memorable it was retold 15 years later by Jim Young in When the Whale Came to My Town. More pictures and history»
A modest home with a grand name, Solomon’s Temple commemorated its occupancy by Capt. Solomon Bangs (1821-1905), a weir fisherman, and his enterprising wife, Rosilla Bangs (1823-1908), the founder of Bangsville, a tent and cottage colony in the area now known as Mayflower Heights [?]. “Uncle Solomon’s home was a three-story structure with a large front yard,” Josephine Patterson recalled in 1942, “not landscaped with a lawn and flowers, but gleaming white with an expanse of fish flakes, upon which was spread to dry the fish he had salted when he returned from his fishing traps.” Rosilla Bangs introduced herself to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, when the chief executive came to town to lay the cornerstone of the Pilgrim Monument. More history»
Charley Austin Cook Wharf
Grand Bankers, as the boats that fished the waters off Newfoundland were known, would unload at this 400-foot-long pier.
“By the freezer, by the freezer, by the beautiful freezer. You and me, sir; you and me, sir; oh, how happy we’ll be, sir.” These aren’t real lyrics but they certainly would have applied to Brown’s Bathing Beach, a popular East End recreation spot around the turn of the 20th century. Unless one remembers that the waterfront was first and foremost an industrial precinct, it may be hard to understand why people would have gone bathing just a few wards from the Consolidated Weir Company’s enormous cold storage plant — as if they had anywhere to go that wasn’t cheek-by-jowl with some freezer plant or active wharf. More pictures and history»
This ordinary house in the Historic District stirred up an extraordinary amount of recrimination in 2006 when it was torn down by its new owners, Richard L. Bready, chairman and chief executive of Nortek Inc., and his wife, Cheryl. The drama followed a predictable arc: the Breadys were permitted to “replace the wood shingle roofing, flashing and exterior trim; and add new windows and doors, wood siding and deck.” (Pru Sowers, “Historic House Razed,” The Banner, 11 January 2007.) More history»
There was never a better-named pier in Provincetown. Indeed, there may never have been a better-named pier anywhere in these United States than Whorf’s Wharf. Originally constructed in 1850 and then expanded, the wharf reached roughly 400 feet into the harbor, almost directly from the spot now occupied by Fanizzi’s restaurant. It also reached into the Provincetown skyline, thanks to a towering windpump on the property, shown in a photograph below. More pictures and history»
Provincetown’s first guest house, with Provincetown’s first swimming pool, was also Provincetown’s Pennsylvania Station: the beloved landmark that no one believed could be torn down for an inappropriate and overscaled development — until it happened. In fact, it happened at about the same time that preservationists were rallying fruitlessly in New York to save Penn Station, in the early 1960s. And it had something of the same result of spurring civic resolve against further fiascoes. More pictures and history»
Constructed for Jesse I. Kendall, this East End cottage was later acquired by the abutting Vernon Inn, at 542 Commercial, for use as an annex to the main house. These buildings were demolished in the 1960s to make way for the second phase of development of the Surfside Arms and Motor Inn, 543 Commercial. The lot is bordered on the east by Kendall Lane.