247 Commercial Street

Crown & Anchor

On a summer’s night, the Crown & Anchor can’t be missed. In fact, it can’t be ignored. Not only is it one of P-town’s most prominent facades, with its grand columned portico and tower, but performers from the Cabaret — usually in drag — boisterously regale passers-by. The hotel business is a sideline; this is the town’s “largest entertainment complex,” true to its roots in the mid-19th century, when Timothy P. Johnson built the Central House (its first name) as a public hall for shows and entertainment, a bowling alley and — quite as important — a saloon. 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»

286-288 Commercial Street

Former Star Theater | Former Board Stiff | Hocus Pocus

In January 2012, Shop Therapy and Spank the Monkey moved to this building from 344-346 Commercial Street. • Forensic architectural investigation is often aided by obvious clues. The false front on the two-story building at 286-288 Commercial Street looks nothing like its gable-roofed neighbors. That’s because it was built in 1910 as a theater — the Star Theater — Provincetown’s first movie house. The theater was developed by Albert Zerbone (±1872-1959), who’d come to New Bedford from the Azores when he was four years old and began his career as an exhibitor in Provincetown by showing movies at the Masonic lodge. Zerbone’s projectionist was his cousin, Antone Joseph Viera. The theater was leased beginning in 1918, to Frank Knowles Atkins (±1877-1940), prorietor of the town’s second movie house, the Pilgrim Theater, at 293 Commercial Street. More pictures and history»

† 293 Commercial Street

Pilgrim Theater

Frank Knowles Atkins (±1877-1940) was the heir to the Samuel Knowles livery stable at this location, which had been established by his grandfather. He moved the livery business to Bradford Street and then built the Atkins Theater, which The Advocate described as the second movie palace in Provincetown and “at one time the finest on this part of the cape.” The newspaper said that here “were shown many of the early ‘flickers’ of the silent era.” (“Old Theater Is Coming Down,” The Advocate, 5 May 1938; “Frank Atkins Dies After Busy Career,” The Advocate, 2 May 1940.) Victor Lewis purchased the theater and renamed it the Pilgrim. He closed it and then, in 1938, demolished it. More pictures»

303 Commercial Street

Post Office Café & Cabaret

Though Land’s End Marine Supply is strongly identified with the east end of downtown, this was its birthplace in 1940 — founded by Joseph E. Macara (1904-2000) — and was its home for four years. Years before that, it was Silva’s Fish Market. After Land’s End moved out, the building was home in the early 1960s to the Wreck Club, run by Manuel Souza. The longtime commercial tenant has been the Post Office Café & Cabaret, one of the busiest nightclubs in town. It does not get its name from having once been the Provincetown post office. Rather, as a 1975 business directory explained, its first-floor décor came from a former post office in Ossining, N.Y., also known as the home of the Sing Sing penitentiary. More pictures and history»

† Wharf at 571 Commercial Street

Lewis Wharf

You can’t see the most culturally important wharf in town. It’s long gone. But the cairn-mounted plaque next to 571 Commercial Street explains why this is still a place of pilgrimage: “In 1915, on a wharf extending from this site, a fish shed owned by Mary Heaton Vorse was converted to a theater by a group later named the Provincetown Players. On July 28, 1916, the Players staged Bound East for Cardiff, the first production of a play by a young and then unknown author, thus launching the career of Eugene O’Neill as a playwright and changing the course of modern drama in America.” More pictures and history»

† 2 Gosnold Street

2 Gosnold Street, Provincetown (ND). Published by Cape Cod Photos. Courtesy of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum (Salvador R. Vasques III Collection, No. PC 3210). 
2 Gosnold Street, Provincetown (1958). Courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project (Municipal Collection).Provincetown Playhouse on the Wharf

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.

2 Gosnold Street, Provincetown (ND). Published by Cape Cod Photos. Courtesy of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum (Salvador R. Vasques III Collection, No. PC 3216). 

More pictures and history»