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»
It wasn’t too many years ago, certainly into the 21st century, that your paper placemat at the Mayflower Café still identified Cape Cod as the “Summer Home of President Kennedy.” Things are like that at the Mayflower; suspended pleasantly in time, and great fun for that reason. You’re seated in deep booths, surrounded by Nancy Whorf’s murals and Jake Spencer’s caricatures, and you can still get chewy dinner rolls and hot Indian pudding à la mode. By the time John F. Kennedy was elected president, the Mayflower had already been in business 32 years. And it has just kept on going. It is today — as it was in 1929 — owned and run by the Janoplis family, which explains the presence of a Greek flag and a Tsolias figurine at the bar. More pictures and history»
Known in the 1980s as the Gull Walk Inn, it is currently the Secret Garden Inn.
This was once a two-story building and it housed Malchman’s clothing store for a brief spell in the early 1920s. The longtime commercial tenants in the 1950s and 1960s were Jim’s Camera Shop, run by Jim Cummings, in the east storefront, and the Provincetown Liquor Mart, run by Manny Lewis, in the west storefront. The photo store evolved into the Town Camera Shop. One if its best-known employees was Ruth J. “Kitty” Dewey (1919-2006), an artists and activist. More pictures and history»
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»
In the late 1950s and ’60s, this was the Nutt Hutt, a name that ranks among the best. As the title strongly suggests, it was where Provincetowners could buy fresh almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts and walnuts, as well as candies made by the Pennsylvania Dutch. It shared quarters for a time with the White Whale Pantry. Nutt Hutt was established by Beverly L. Spencer (±1923-2007), who also owned the Apple Tree Cottage at 534 Commercial Street. (“Beverly L. Spencer, 84,” The Banner, 26 April 2007.) In recent years, this was Cape Cod Sweat & Tee Outlet and is now Michael’s Custom Jewelers, named for Michael Burris.
Alfred Small Wharf
Living up to its name, this pier was a mere 300 feet long. In his three-part series in The Advocate on the town’s piers, Irving S. Rogers said that this wharf handled mostly building materials of lumber.
Most famously, this was Patrick’s News Store — or Newsstand or News Dealer — where out-of-town newspapers like The New York Times could be purchased; a commodity especially prized in the pre-Internet days by longterm visitors who wanted to keep up with events off Cape. (The actor Burgess Meredith was one such customer in 1957, during the period in which his career was crippled by the Hollywood blacklisting.) The business was founded by Joseph Patrick in the late 19th century, when it was chiefly a grocery and fruit store. More pictures and history»
Fittingly, the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce is situated just about dead center at the commercial heart of Commercial Street: Lopes Square. It was constructed as the Board of Trade Building and originally stood ever so slightly offshore on pilings, reached by a short gangway. Because town criers have long had a formal or informal relation to the board or the chamber, I’m using this entry to briefly cover their history. (Kenneth Lonergan, the most recent town crier, is pictured here at the centenary of the Pilgrim Monument.) More pictures and history, plus the town criers»
New York Store Condominium | Cotton Gin | Lewis Brothers Homemade Ice Cream | Recovering Hearts (2 Standish Street) | Earth (2 Standish Street) | Ptown Mini Mart (4 Standish Street) | Art’s Dune Tours (4 Standish Street)
“Weirmen ask for the crack- and snag-proof rubber boot, the best make in the world,” the New York Store declared in 1899. Not to say that milady couldn’t find shirtwaists, capes, ribbons and laces. The New York Store had it all. It stayed in business through nine decades and its name endures on the building that housed its flagship. (There was at one time a branch store at 161 Commercial Street.) Just why it was called the New York Store is something of mystery until some knowledgeable reader lets me know. More pictures and history»
John’s Foot-Long Hot Dogs | Whale Watch General Store
Two of the most familiar faces in Provincetown — sturdily beautiful Portuguese faces — have been watching the comings and goings in Lopes Squares for at least a half century between them, from one of the longest continuously operated dining spots in town. They are Marian (Cook) Goveia and Shirley Baker of John’s Foot-Long Hot Dogs, and they are civic treasures. More pictures and 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.
Manuel N. Lopes was born on Christmas Day of 1892 in Olhao, Portugal. A little more than 25 years later, on 18 July 1918, he was killed in the Battle of Château-Thierry, southwest of Soissons, France — fighting for the United States of America. In between, he had come of age in Provincetown, the son of Manuel Peter Lopes (d 1919) and Mary Theresa (Souza) Lopes (±1861-1946) and the brother of Mary J. Salvador, Mary C. Macara and Mary S. Santos. The younger Manuel was a fish dealer as a civilian. As a soldier, he was honored posthumously for “gallantry in action and especially meritorious services.” And he and four other Provincetown men who had died in the Great War were also honored in 1938 by having squares named after them.
Familiar as the Governor Bradford may seem — and if you first set foot in town within the last half century, it’s always been here — there are noteworthy things to record: It’s still in the hands of the Edwards family, which has run this restaurant and its predecessors since the 1940s. The Bradford itself is a relative newcomer among Provincetown’s heritage businesses, having opened in 1960. It has a terrific collection of domestic and maritime artifacts and an enormous (but well concealed) mural by James Wingate Parr. More pictures and history»
Former Post Office | Equipped | Cape Cod Times Provincetown Bureau | Lily Pond | Coffee Pot | Red Shack | Surf Club Restaurant and Bar
Together with No. 309, flanking Lopes Square, these buildings serves as a kind of gateway for the many thousands who arrive aboard the Boston boats. The Coffee Pot is a popular local hang-out and the Surf Club, until recently, held on to a rough-and-tumble, old-Provincetown patronage, many of whom came to hear the Provincetown Jug & Marching Band. The Surf Club formed an anti-gentry triumvirate with the Old Colony Tap, also owned by the Enos family, and the Governor Bradford. (In these joints, you’d never hear the word “triumvirate.”) More pictures and history»
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»
Among the boldest of Provincetown’s A-frames, No. 317 was built between 1985 (Assessor’s Online Database) and 1988 (Historic District Survey). It stands on the site of the Mayflower Gift Shop. The tax lot is one of the more curious in town because it includes not only this building but the waterside half of 315 Commercial Street, including the Surf Club. The Enos family has owned the property since 1965. It is the home of Hersheldon’s Leather, which dates to the mid-1970s and takes its name from its two principals, Rita S. “Hersh” Schwartz (b 1947) and Sheldon T. Schwartz (b 1949). More history»
For a time in the 1950s, this was the Glory Hold, an arts and crafts store boasting that it was “up the lane” in “one of Cape Cod’s oldest houses.” Paintings, small sculptures and costume jewelry was offered for sale. The building is now owned by the Edwards family of the Governor Bradford.
It’s a delicious paradox, in every sense, that the defining feature of this revered landmark is something that should be anathema on ye olde Cape Cod: a blazing, overscaled, gaudy neon sign. But where would downtown be without it? The Lobster Pot is coming up on its 70th anniversary without signs of slowing down. Judging from the lines outside, it can reasonably be called the quintessential town restaurant; the one where, sooner or later, everyone winds up eating. Equally remarkable is its continuity: all this time in the hands of only two families — Adeline (Santos) Medeiros LaFrance (d 2001) and her husbands Ralph Medeiros (±1911-1965) and Richard LaFrance, followed by Mary Joy McNulty (b 1938) and her sons Timothy F. (b 1962) and Shawn P. (b 1966). More pictures and history»
Bliss Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt | Dorian Boys | Dorian Studios | Recycled Retriever | Acapulco Gold | Miss Mizepah’s Trading Post
This property, owned by the Edwards family of the Governor Bradford, consists of three distinct buildings: a handsome little Greek Revival commercial shack from the late 19th century; a grand house that longtime residents will associate at once with the legendary Dr. Daniel H. Hiebert (1889-1972), who is pictured at left, and his wife, Emily L. Hiebert (1894-1985); and a fairly nondescript out building, No. 322R, that is currently done up incongruously as a Western trading post. More pictures and history»
Old Colony Tap | Victor Powell’s Workshop
Chances are, you’re not neutral about the Old Colony; a legacy dive bar, if such a thing can be imagined. You may embrace it happily as a true surviving vestige of hardscrabble Provincetown and a good place to meet friends, away from the phoniness and pretense of neo-Ptown. Or you may shudder as you go by, especially when it’s evident through the plate-glass windows just who’s drinking long before the sun is over the yardarm. What’s beyond debate is that the Old Colony is a town institution, founded in 1937 by Manuel G. Cook and run since 1955 by the Enos family, who also own the Surf Club. 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»
Hong Ting Wong, an artist and one of Provincetown’s best known restaurateurs in the 1930s and 1940s, operated the Cape Cod Tea Garden in this little building next to the old Arnold’s store. Besides chow mein, once could also buy Wong’s paintings. “The subjects include portraits, still lifes and Provincetown scenes, and are spoken of with keen regard and admiration by members of the Art Colony,” The Advocate stated. (“Wong Exhibits Paintings,” The Advocate, 2 July 1931.)
Once upon a time, in the 1930s, this was Mrs. Joseph Silva’s rooming house. More recently, it was the Café Blasé. Not long after opening his first restaurant in Portsmouth in 2002, Joachim Sandbichler, an Austrian native and investment-banker-turned-restaurant manager, opened Patio American Grill here. Todd Schiller is the executive chef.
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»
Arnold’s Bicycle Shop | Shirts ‘n’ Stuff
Arnold F. Dwyer (±1918-1998) was the namesake of this heritage business, founded in 1937 and at this location since 1938. Arnold’s was originally housed in what had been the Long Point school house and the Provincetown post office, but that large and notable structure was destroyed by an arsonist in 1949. It began as a radio and bicycle shop, then expanded into a houseware, appliance, bottled gas, home furnishing and real estate rental business, then contracted again to the bicycle trade. More pictures and history»
Prudent Provincetown. Why have three buildings for three functions? In 1873, as a gift to the town, Nathan Freeman built a mansard-topped structure that housed the Public Library on the first floor, a Y.M.C.A. on the second floor and a photo studio on the third. More pictures and history»
Prudent Provincetown. Why have three buildings for three functions? In 1873, as a gift to the town, Nathan Freeman built an excellent Second Empire-style home for the Public Library (first floor), a Y.M.C.A. (second floor), and a photo studio used by William May Smith (third floor). The library’s most colorful steward was Abbie Cook Putnam. For having battled Eugene O’Neill, she found herself the namesake of an adulterous character who kills her own child in Desire Under the Elms. The library was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Two years later, under Alice O’Grady Joseph, it was extensively renovated. But it soon grew cramped again. Not without controversy, the library moved in 2005 to the former Heritage Museum at 356 Commercial. Today, as the Freeman Building, No. 330 houses Provincetown Community Television (PTV) and the Provincetown Tourism Office. It is a multipurpose building again.
More than 2,000 buildings and vessels are searchable on buildingprovincetown.com. The Building Provincetown book is available for purchase ($20) at Town Hall, Office of the Town Clerk, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown 02657.
Deja Vu | Burger Queen
The long commercial history of this building is easily traced back to the 1870s, when this was the store of W. H. H. Weston, manufacturer and dealer in stoves, pumps, metalware and glassware; and the building itself was denominated 306 Commercial Street. The business was assumed in 1898 by Herbert Engles. During the mid-20th century, this was the home of Isadore Ferreira (1903-1966) and his wife, Philomena (Cordeiro) Ferreira. Ferreira was born in São Miguel and arrived in town at 17 to open a shoe repair business. More pictures and history»
Café Edwige, Edwige at Night | Wild Rice
Edwige was the name of the mother of one of the original owners of Café Edwige, which has been around since 1974 — a very long time by contemporary Provincetown standards. In the 1930s, Pilgrim Cleansers and Dyers were here. During the early days of President Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” Johnny “Mott” Viera opened the New Deal Tavern in 1934. It moved next door in the mid-1940s. Joseph E. Manta then opened Joe’s Store — “A General Store brought up to the modern minute.” 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»
This large residential project, completed in 2011, was born into controversy since the developer, William A. Bonn of Coral Gables, Fla., had not received permission from the Historic District Commission to tear down the existing building on the site, the former Provincetown Boat Works — though he had been authorized to do so by the buildings commissioner. More pictures and history»
Hong Ting Wong (b ±1898) stands out among the most interesting of that wonderful local species, the artist-restaurateur. He studied under Charles W. Hawthorne and was said to have been a promising pupil. Though life took him in another direction, he was still showing his paintings in his first restaurant, the Cape Cod Tea Garden, at 327 Commercial. His second restaurant, Wong’s Cozy Den Coffee Shop, was at 347 Commercial. On returning from World War II, he opened his chef-d’oeuvre, Wong’s Restaurant. More pictures and history»
The Fo’csle was the spiritual ancestor of the Old Colony Tap; the premier dive bar in its day (said admiringly). In Shock Value, John Waters recalled The Advocate taking a picture of Dorothy Karen “Cookie” Mueller, a Dreamland regular, at the Fo’csle and using it to illustrate an article on alcoholism, with the caption, “Skulking in the depths of drunken depravity.” And to think: the Fo’csle was the cleaned-up version of the predecessor tavern, the New Deal, which wouldn’t even have let Mueller through the door. It maintained a men-only policy until 1959. 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»
This multitenant commercial building occupies what was once the front yard of the Pilgrim House. Its north facade is taken up with a trompe-l’oeil mural in which Amelia Earhart stands on the balcony, with Maya Angelou around the corner and Getrude Stein up in the attic. More pictures and history»
After the disastrous fire of 1990, Donald R. Edwards, whose family founded and still owns the Governor Bradford, rebuilt the Pilgrim House. While it occupies roughly the same footprint, in its new incarnation, the property was more about entertainment than accommodation, though it did have 20 guest rooms. More pictures and history»
Hilliard’s Wharf cut a most unusual profile on the waterfront. It didn’t run perpendicular to the shore but was canted discernibly to the southwest. According to Napi Van Dereck, this served to make the wharf more easily approachable by ships heavily laden with lumber, since they could count on prevailing southwesterly winds to ease them into port. Some pilings still remain from this historic structure. Originally 600 feet long, the wharf was unusually wide, and so could accommodate a large number of fish flakes. 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»
Lands End has so much stuff, and so many different kinds of stuff, that it’s tempting sometimes to wonder: if you can’t find it at Lands End, do you really need it? Joseph E. Macara (±1905-2000) first hung out the Lands End shingle in 1940 at 303 Commercial Street (now the Post Office Café & Cabaret), but constructed this store almost as soon as World War II ended. It opened in September 1946 and the main facade on Commercial Street is remarkably unchanged, though the building itself has grown to gargantuan proportions (at least by Provincetown standards). The Advocate credited the original design to Macara; his wife, Helen (Thomas) Macara (d 1999); and the builder, Maline Costa, who also established and ran [?] the Moors. More pictures and history»
Full disclosure: the entry discussing Sanette Groenewald’s Karoo Kafe will be inherently biased, because it’s consistently been among our favorite restaurants here since it opened in 2002. (That’s not the editorial “us”; that’s me and my husband Scott.) How often in any American town can you get casual South African food prepared by a chef who had her own restaurant in Cape Town for two years? And get it at reasonable prices, in an inviting and imaginative little dining room, with friendly, pleasant service? More pictures and history»
Until 1960, this building was owned by John M. and Mary E. Silva, who lived in the rear property, No. 342R, where they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1965. Silva was at one time the owner of the dragger James M. Burke. The Commercial Street building was purchased from the Silvas by Alice F. Urann (±1909-2003). With her husband, Sumner T. Urann, she ran Alsum’s Heritage Shop, a gift store, at this address through the 1970s. (Al[ice] + Sum[ner] = Alsum.) Their daughter, Eileen F. Hernandez, still owns the building, which now houses the Sarah Jessica Fine Arts gallery, owned by Jennifer Ellingwood and managed by Hal Gold.
Les Garrick sent the following email on 16 June 2020: “While fact checking my beach plum book manuscript, I found in The Advocate archives that Alsum’s opened on June 21, 1947; we visited the shop in September 1969 and purchased some beach plum jelly, our first experience and certainly not the last we had we this fruit. We were attracted to the small shop because of the sign ‘Beach Plums Wanted’ in the window.”
In January 2012, Shop Therapy and Spank the Monkey moved from this building to 286-288 Commercial Street. • Shop Therapy and the Spank the Monkey jewelry store are the latest of Ronald “Ronny” Hazel’s free-form, in-your-face retail enterprises. If it’s good taste you’re looking for … well, what the hell are you doing in Provincetown? While it’s true that the whole settlement sometimes seems on the verge of becoming a tasteful enclave, that’s only a contemporary phenomenon. Shop Therapy harkens to an older, endangered Ptown; sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. There are certainly virtuous citizens who would say, “Good riddance,” but without Shop Therapy’s crude, rude vitality, Commercial Street might become too damn refined for its own good. More pictures and history»
Bill Evaul Studios and Gallery
The building was constructed in the middle decades of the 19th century and was shown as a paint shop in 1858. In the early 20th century, the property was owned by Jeremiah Atwood Rich (d 1932), who conducted the J. A. Rich grocery store for 50 years. (“Funeral Is Held For Mrs. M. J. Rich,” The Advocate, 17 June 1937.)
Hong Ting Wong (b ±1898), the artist and restaurateur responsible for the Cape Cod Tea Garden, at 327 Commercial Street, and Wong’s Restaurant, at 334 Commercial Street, also operated Wong’s Cozy Den Coffee Shop in this building in the late 1930s, serving fried chicken, chicken chop suey and chicken chow mein. More pictures and history»
Once upon a time, in the mid- to late 1960s, the East End had a book store every bit as good as the Provincetown Bookshop in the center of town. The East End Bookshop was owned and run by the photographer Molly Malone Cook — partner of the fine poet Mary Oliver — and it possessed both literary and artistic heft. Among its customers and visitors were Norman Mailer, Robert Motherwell and Henry Geldzahler. Its setting was a house built in the second half of the 19th century that was expanded over the years into a courtyard complex once known as the Quadrangle and now as Designer’s Dock. More pictures and history»