Not for William F. Halsall (1841-1919) would any chicken-coop garret suffice as a painting studio. No; Halsall, an English marine painter of the old school, needed the space to create vast canvases, the equivalent of Cinemascope in their day. And so he set up shop around 1899 in what had been a short-lived shirt factory. He was the first of several important artists to work here, followed by Ross E. Moffett (1888-1971), Charles Anton Kaeselau (1889-1972) and — perhaps most importantly because he is the most undeservedly overlooked, Niles Spencer (1893-1952) — a precisionist and modernist whose work is an appealing mix of Charles Sheeler and Stuart Davis. In addition, the old shirt factory was the home in the 1930s of the Artists’ Lithograph Printing Studio. More pictures and history»
The plaque says the one-room public school that once stood on this site was constructed in 1828, but the Provincetown Historical Association’s Walking Tour No. 1 puts the date much earlier, in 1795. The guide said that public education was financed from leasing the fishery. Before the Grey Schoolhouse and two others were built, classes were held in meeting houses. School masters would board in pupils’ homes. ¶ Posted 2012-12-11
In local theatrical history, the Provincetown Playhouse was a landmark second in importance only to Lewis Wharf, 571 Commercial Street, where Eugene O’Neill’s Bound East for Cardiff was first performed in 1916. (How important? Enough to draw the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, to a performance of Mrs. Warren’s Profession in August 1961.) But in true Provincetown fashion, the structure had more than one use and more than one distinction. As a maritime landmark, it served as the shop in which the surf-cleaving boats of the United States Life Saving Service were perfected, sparing the lives of untold numbers of coast guardsmen, who were as much in peril at a shipwreck as the crew members and passengers they were trying to rescue.
Best known for his stewardship of the Flagship Restaurant, Manuel Francis “Pat” Patrick (d 1964) also managed the Bradford Inn from 1929 to 1937. The three-story building had been a hotel since the 1860s and was once known as the Monument House, run by Harry Clark. (The uphill road to the Pilgrim Monument began just outside.) More history»
Elevated high above the little village it served, the Town Hall of 1854 was clad in the very architecture of democracy — Greek Revival — though in its nobility, it could just as easily have been mistaken for a house of worship. With a pinnacle that could be seen far out to sea and a tower clock available for the citizenry to consult, Town Hall also served as a utilitarian landmark. What a splendid symbol of municipal government! And what a dumb idea for a public building: constructed of hard pine and situated well out of reach of any fire apparatus. You know what happens next, and on 16 February 1877, it did. Town Hall burned down, taking with it many of the records that would have made historical research so much more fruitful. Having paid $350 for High Pole Hill, the town was not about to walk away from its investment, though it would take another 30 years for the proper replacement to be found. ¶ Posted 2013-01-25
When you reach the end of Race Road, keep going. You’ll be on Ice House Road, a picturesque and rural pathway headed toward Shank Painter Pond, one of the harvesting sites for the natural ice industry, which flourished — weather permitting — from the later 1800s to the early decades of the 20th century. At the end of Ice House Road, you’ll come to a three-acre shoreline tract that belongs to the Provincetown Conservation Trust. From here on, it’s a matter of serendipity, but with any luck, you’ll be able to spot at least one of the foundation walls for the enormous ice house that was maintained by John Darrow Adams (±1895-1958) and depicted by the great Provincetown painter, Ross Moffett. More pictures and history»
Temporary Town Hall (2008-2010)
This was the seat of municipal government when Town Hall underwent its cellar-to-rooftop renovation. Or rather, these were the seats of municipal government, since the arrangement involved five trailers joined together in the Jerome Smith parking lot, opposite the Provincetown Skate Park. Roughly 40 town employees began reporting here for work in November 2008. The inside was no less Spartan. Quarters were almost ship-like in their compact economy. But somehow, the republic survived. ¶ Posted 2013-02-13
“Does this train stop at Provincetown?” So the apocryphal story began about an exchange between passenger and conductor on the Old Colony Railroad. “Well, lady,” the conductor answered, “if it doesn’t, there’s going to be an awful splash!” That was because the trackage of the Old Colony ended about 1,200 feet into the harbor, on Railroad Wharf. Passengers actually never got that far. (The depot was at 132 Bradford Street.) The terminal spur was intended as a means for fishermen to get their product to market with as little delay and exposure as possible; right from the boat up to the train carriage. The postcard above, clearly a pastiche, gets something fundamentally wrong. One track branched into two as it ran out to the end of the wharf; two tracks did not merge into one.
Round Barn (Hawthorne School of Art)
The Round Barn was among the several distinctive — “zany” might actually be a better adjective — out buildings scattered around the campus of the Hawthorne School of Art. The school was opened in 1994 at 25 Miller Hill Road, to which this lot was once joined, by the Pop artist Peter Gee (1932-2005) and his wife, Olga Opsahl-Gee (b 1945). She is seen at right adjusting one of the outdoor sculptures in 2008, the last year of the school’s existence. The structure itself was not a Provincetown native but was reportedly trucked here from New York State, where it had been built in the mid-19th century as an apple barn. More pictures and history»
Among the several houses with an “Oldest” claim older than the “Oldest House” (72 Commercial Street), there once stood an especially picturesque half Cape on Montello Street. Althea Boxell (1910-1988), that obsessive chronicler of Provincetown, refers to it at least three times in her Scrapbooks: Book 1, Page 5; Book 1, Page 68; and Book 2, Page 133. I don’t know that this house stood at No. 10 — and Boxell doesn’t say — but I have a reason for guessing that it may have. More pictures and history»
Old White Oak Meeting House
The “Old White Oak” — built of that wood, harvested from nearby hillsides when one still could harvest lumber at the Cape end — was Provincetown’s second church. It was constructed in 1773 and dedicated on 20 February 1774. At the time, just before the Revolution, the Orthodox Christianity of the Puritans and Pilgrims was the established religion of the colony, and as such, the construction of the meeting house was a municipal endeavor. The call to the Rev. Samuel Parker was made, in fact, at a Town Meeting in December 1773. Parker was promised an annual salary of £67.13s.4d “to settel in sed town, and preach ye gospel to ye inhabitants.” More pictures and history»
One day, “Colonel Corn” set out from his little estate off the State Road to make a trip downtown. He must have dozed off, because the old nag was proceeding slowly but heedlessly down Arch Street — until Officer Veara shouted out to the Colonel that he was going the wrong way on a one-way street. “Tell it to the horse,” Colonel Corn said, by way of reply. “He can’t read.”
You can’t make this stuff up and, happily, because this is Provincetown, you don’t have to. More history»
Church of St. Peter the Apostle (1874)
Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam. The words of Jesus, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, can be seen clearly in the scroll held by the right hand in the figure of St. Peter at the church that bears his name. “You are Rock, and on this rock I will build my church.” There could be no more fitting a patron for Provincetown than Peter, the fisherman, to whom Jesus gives the keys to the kingdom of heaven, which the figure holds in its left hand. The church building was completed and blessed on 11 October 1874 during the pastorate of the Rev. John J. Maguire (d 1894).
Out at the boundary between town and dune, a pumping station was constructed in the late 19th or early 20th century. The stack was a landmark in its own right. More pictures and information»
It’s hard to believe that it simply vanished without a trace: a zoo that was operating near the center of town only 40 years ago, headed by a man who would go on to direct zoos in Syracuse and New Bedford. But I have yet to discern any physical evidence of the Shankpainter Zoo (though some vestiges might be here), nor have I ever seen any photos (though they surely must exist). More history»
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»
A plan of the Provincetown Golf Range with present-day buildings superimposed as white outlines. Covering much of the miniature golf course is the former Clem & Ursie restaurant. The Hole in One still exists, I believe, and is now Chach.
Provincetown Golf Range | Provincetown Miniature Golf | Hole in One
But for the Cape Cod National Seashore, Route 6 might have become home to Provincetown’s highway attractions. As it was, they gravitated to the sparsely settled Shank Painter Road: the zoo, the giant nightclub, the sprawling service station, the drive-in bank, the circus grounds, the driving range and — of course — the miniature golf course, sine qua non in the Eisenhower era. The project was the inspiration of Matthew J. “Matt” Costa (±1925-2002), who had earlier developed the Meadows Motel, 122 Bradford Street Extension, and Antone Duarte Jr. of Truro. Costa would later build the Dairyland at 85 Shank Painter Road, on the site of the miniature course. More pictures and history»
The namesake of School Street was replaced by the School Street Parking Lot (7 Tremont Street). Entry to be written.
Galeforce Ranch Colony Motel and Cottages
Joseph Alves (±1905-1963) ended retail deliveries from Galeforce Farm, Provincetown’s last working dairy, in 1952. But he and his wife, Irene (Raymond) Alves (±1906-1967), had an entirely new chapter ahead of themselves at their sprawling property along Bradford Street Extension. They soon opened the Galeforce Ranch Colony, seven cottages clustered at the intersection of West Vine Street. More pictures and history»
High and Grammar School
In 1890, Herman Jennings, wrote in Provincetown or, Odds and Ends From the Tip End: “When the [old] Town Hall was built on High Pole Hill in 1853, the High School was then permanently established and held in that building until the building was burned [in 1877]. The school then was kept in the vestry of the Congregational Church [256-258 Commercial Street] until the present High and Grammar School Building was erected in 1880, the town appropriating $8,000 for the purchase of land and the erection of the building. In this school, the higher branches are taught in connection with several of the foreign languages.” More pictures and history»
The town jail in the 19th century was way out in the farmland of Winthrop Street. It was built in 1845 and served as the principal holding facility until the construction of the current Town Hall, which had detention cells in the basement. Rest of the entry to be written.
(On the 1880 atlas plate, note that on the opposite side of Winthrop Street, south of Bradford Street, is the property of B. H. Dyer. This is currently Dyer’s Barn, 9 Winthrop Street.)