The centerpiece of Town Green — a little park with a lot of topography — is a monument to the Pilgrims. It’s titled Signing the Compact, but is better known simply as “the bas relief.” Just as Town Green is better known as Bas Relief Park. The park and the monument date from 1920, the 300th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landfall. The splendid vista of the Pilgrim Monument is no accident. The 170-foot-wide park property, once occupied by houses, was taken by the state under eminent domain for just that purpose. Picture essay and more history »
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»
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.
What better way to herald a 20th-century Portuguese fishing village of 18th-century Yankee heritage and a landfall for 17th-century English immigrants (and perhaps 11th-century Norse sailors), than with a tower out of 14th-century Tuscany? The monument, designed by Willard T. Sears and modeled on the Torre di Mangia in Siena, has symbolized Provincetown ever since its dedication on 5 August 1910. It is a 252-foot-7½-inch exclamation point at the cape tip; a granite landmark embellished by corbeled vaults, high arches and bristling crenels — “not a monument, but a flight,” as William Dean Howells said of the Torre di Mangia, which also inspired towers in Boston (Fire Department Headquarters, now the Pine Street Inn), New York (the 71st Regiment Armory), Baltimore (the Bromo Seltzer Tower) and Waterbury, Conn. (Union Station). More pictures and history»
Part smart art gallery, part historical treasure house, part curio cabinet and part Grandpa’s attic (if Grandpa spent a lot of time in the once-frozen north), the Provincetown Museum is unlike any other. As the front door to the Pilgrim Monument, it is sometimes overlooked by visitors. That’s a pity, because there’s something for everyone here: artwork from the town’s painters, sculptors and artisans; full-scale recreations of a captain’s quarters at sea and on land; a dramatic diorama of the Mayflower; illustrative scale models of Lewis Wharf and of a fishing weir; a charming (but not-quite-to-scale) model of the Long Point settlement; Provincetown’s first fire engine; an antique doll house; and specimens of Arctic wildlife brought to town by Rear Admiral Donald Baxter MacMillan (1874-1970), of 473 Commercial Street. More pictures and history»
Not many buildings look better after a century than they did when constructed. The Lodge does. It’s more picturesque now than when completed in December 1910 to designs by Willard T. Sears, the architect of the monument. It was intended “for the preservation of pictures, furniture and antiquities illustrating the life of the people of the age in which the Pilgrims lived, and incidents in their history,” Edmund J. Carpenter wrote in The Pilgrims and Their Monument (1911). It was also built as a board room for the Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association. A new museum was built in 1962. The Lodge hasn’t been open to the public for many years. ¶ Posted 2013-01-30
Pilgrims’ First Landing Park
The rotary at land’s end is the site of the First Landing Marker, which rises from an apron of commemorative and memorial paving stones. It was originally placed here in 1917 by members of the Research Club, an antiquarian minded group of Mayflower descendants that had been founded seven years earlier at 84 Bradford Street. They based their dubious assertion about the landing spot on a map in an 1865 edition of A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plymouth in New England, by Certain English Adventurers, Both Merchants and Others, published in London in 1622 and better known as Mourt’s Relation, after the typographically corrupted name of the author of its preface: George Morton.