650 Commercial Street

Provincetown Arts Press

Provincetown Arts, founded in 1985 by Christopher J. Busa (b 1946) and Raymond S. Elman (b 1945), is more than a chronicle of the contemporary art scene — though in its depth and density, this annual magazine serves as a rich portrait of culture on the lower Cape at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. It is also the connective tissue that links the present generation of artists, writers and poets to those of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, when Provincetown enjoyed a national reputation as an important art colony. Because Provincetown Arts is not the sort of magazine you throw away, back copies can be found in or around practically every guest room in town, so it serves the further function of introducing even casual visitors to the idea that art in this town is taken Very Seriously. If the publications of the Provincetown Arts Press conjure the picture of an architecturally Very Serious headquarters, however, think again. Far more appropriately, the magazine and the press occupy an attic studio. This is Provincetown, after all.

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651 Commercial Street

The refraction and distortion of light were themes that deeply engaged the Chicago artist Richard Aberle Florsheim (1916-1979), so it seems fitting somehow that we cannot be absolutely certain when we look at 651 Commercial that we are seeing his house. Some of its bones are still there somewhere, but a gut rehabilitation in 2003 for Lise Motherwell and Robert Steinberg, the current owners, left some preservationists with the sense that another historical property had been all but demolished under the rubric of renovation. As to the property’s most renowned owner — perhaps the first thing to be said about Florsheim is what he wasn’t. Contrary to local legend, he wasn’t an heir to or a beneficiary of the Florsheim Shoe Company fortune; at least, not directly. More pictures and history»

654-656 Commercial Street

Rego Automotive Service and Repairs

With the possible exception of Manhattan Island, there may be no settlement in America more inimical to the automobile than Provincetown. (And if you think that’s an exaggeration, just try driving along Commercial Street on a Friday or Saturday evening in summer. Drop me a line if you ever get to the West End.) So how are we to interpret the seemingly paradoxical fact that at the gateway formed by Commercial and Bradford Streets, visitors have long been greeted by an automotive service center? Just another bit of Provincetown whimsy? Or a warning to motorists: “Abdandon all hope, ye who enter”? More pictures and history»

655 Commercial Street

A few decades ago, psychiatrists almost outnumbered artists in the East End. (Gratuitous joke omitted.) Dr. Paul Lowinger (b 1923) of Wayne State University in Detroit (many years later the author of The Clintons Meet Freud) lived here with his wife, Margaret, and their three children during the 1960s. Not long after he moved to the University of California at San Francisco, Lowinger sold this property in 1977 to Dr. Paul Samuel Pressman (1929-2003), who was also a psychiatrist. The house remains in the Pressman family.

657 Commercial Street

Ocean Lodge Cottage

Ocean Lodge was one of several East End cottages built by Charles E. Perry. His widow [?], Matilda M. Perry, lost the property during the Depression when Dr. Daniel Hiebert foreclosed on the mortgage that he held. The house has been owned since 2010 by Cheryl A. Bready, who also owns 531 Commercial Street, which she and her husband built to replace the older 531 Commercial, causing one of the more public preservation controversies of recent years.

659 Commercial Street

Mariposa Cottage

“One of the older members of the summer colony,” was how The Advocate described Mary E. T. (Noble) Crane (1850-1932) of Marblehead, Mass. She spent many years in this cottage, which the Crane family called Mariposa — Butterfly in Portuguese (and in Spanish). Her daughter Adele (b 1887) continued to use the cottage into the 1960s. It was purchased in 1999 by the Rev. Teri Motley, who is a member of the Walker family through her mother, Louise (Walker) McCannel.

661 Commercial Street

Sunny Waters

Another psychiatric redoubt in the East End, this was the summer home beginning in 1959 of Dr. Norman E. Zinberg (±1922-1989), a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, who had “long been recognized as a pioneer in studying the ways in which marijuana, heroin and other drugs affect human behavior,” The New York Times said in his obituary. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York credited Zinberg’s counsel with winning a tough legislative battle in 1988 over a bill meant to reduce drug use through treatment and education. The Zinberg family sold the house in 1993 to Fraser Lemley, the founder and chief executive officer of the Sentry Auto Group of Ford, Lincoln and Mazda dealerships in Medford, Dorchester and Shrewsbury.

663 Commercial Street


No matter the seeming transience of the summer colony, there are still several East End cottages that remain in the hands of the families who owned them more than a century ago. This is one of them. It was purchased from Matilda M. Perry in 1910 by Wesley G. Carr and Esther W. Carr of Mansfield, Ohio, and has been home over succeeding generations to Wesley G. Carr Jr., Sheridan G. Carr (±1922-2012) and Lanny (Carr) Dawley.

664R Commercial Street

Talk about living over the store! As soon as the foliage disappears on the short bluff overlooking Michael Shay’s Rib and Seafood House, 350 Bradford Street, this handsome 1949 ski-chalet style home emerges into clearer view. It looks from a distance like an especially well-preserved specimen of postwar architecture. Its survival may be explained in part by the fact that the property has been owned at least since 1959 by the Santos family, owners and operators of Michael Shay’s and its predecessors at the foot of the bluff: Captain’s Galley, Howard Johnson’s and Basil’s Place. Basil is Basil P. Santos, Michael is his son and Shay is Michael’s wife.

† 665 Commercial Street

“Our first summer cottage built at the East End of the town was the Fellows cottage, erected by Mr. and Mrs. Fellows of Natick. It was constructed on the site of the present Florence Waterbury cottage, the old Fellows cottage being removed to a new location opposite the Atkins cottage in the East End.” (“Wooden Sidewalks, Whalers, Fish Flake Recalled in Paper by Research Member,” The Advocate, 26 January 1939.)

665 Commercial Street

Around the neighborhood, this magnificently situated “cottage” has long been known as the Fabian house — after its owners, Dr. Abraham A. Fabian (d 1958) and Dr. Alice E. Fabian (d 1993). But around the world, it would be much more quickly recognized as the “Cape Light house,” since it is the cover photograph of the groundbreaking 1978 portfolio of color photography by Joel Meyerowitz. Not only is the Fabian house shown on the cover, it is featured a half dozen times within the book, including a most memorable picture — Porch Lightning (1977) — of a lightning strike on the harbor viewed from within the warmly sheltered enclosure of the ample front porch. More pictures and history»

676 Commercial Street

Grand View

Grand View is a suitable name for this aerie in the far East End, the postcard embodiment of a “cottage” where one might picture some artistic giant. So it was. Grand View served as the summer home of Max Bohm from 1916 until his death in 1923. His wife, Zella (Newcomb) Bohm, also an artist, summered here until 1956, a year before her death. Their artistic legacy continues through their granddaughter, Anne (Locke) Packard, and her daughters Cynthia and Leslie. And Grand View is still in the hands of the Bohms’ descendants.

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676 Commercial Street

676 Commercial Street, Grand View, by David W. Dunlap (2014).

676 Commercial Street, Grand View, by David W. Dunlap (2014).

Grand View is the ideal name for this postcard-perfect “cottage,” which was the summer home of the painter Max Bohm, who studied with Jean-Paul Laurens at the Académie Julian in Paris and remained an expatriate until World War I. He lived here beginning in 1916, and died in this house in 1923. His wife, Zella (Newcomb) Bohm, also an artist, summered here until 1956, a year before her death. Their daughter Elizabeth “Betty” (Bohm) Schwarz was the next grande dame of Grand View and an early preservationist, too.

676 Commercial Street, Grand View, by David W. Dunlap (2012).

676 Commercial Street, Grand View, by David W. Dunlap (2012).

Their other daughter, Esther (Bohm) Locke, had three children: the artist Anne Newcomb (Locke) Packard, of 621-623 Commercial; Geoffrey Gibson Locke; and Roger Sherman Locke, who lives next door at No. 682 with his wife, Nanette St. Pierre-Locke. The home, splendidly and lovingly maintained, remains in family hands.

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.

682R Commercial Street

Whistle Path Woods

This has nothing to do with just putting your lips together and blowing. Whistle Path is a footpath winding through the northwest corner of these woods that was used by so many cranberry pickers on their way between town and dune bogs in the 19th century that engineers on the Old Colony Railroad were compelled to sound a warning where their tracks crossed the path. As the configuration suggests, the seven-acre Whistle Path Woods were once part of a “great lot” running from Provincetown Harbor to the Atlantic Ocean. The 80-acre parcel was purchased in 1919 by the artist Max Bohm, whose home and studio, Grand View, 676 Commercial, is still the most imposing human-created feature on the site. Continue reading

690 Commercial Street

Bay Colony Condominium

In 1976, when the 18 buildings that compose the Bay Colony complex were so new that the siding hadn’t yet weathered, Josephine Del Deo took the photograph above for the Massachusetts Historical Commission Inventory. She captioned it rhetorically, “Along the Harbor Shore — The Future?” She didn’t mean this hopefully. More than 35 years later, we can answer her: yes and no. More pictures and history»

698 Commercial Street

Harbor Hotel

What was it that Mom used to say … “Keep something around long enough and it’s sure to come back into fashion”? (Or was it just, “Keep something around long enough?”) In any case, as unlikely as it would have seemed a few years ago, Provincetown’s old Holiday Inn survived long enough — after an intermediate phase as the Best Inn and the Cape Inn — to be appreciated for a midcentury vibe, permitting its renascence in 2011 as the Harbor Hotel, under the ownership of Finard Properties of Boston and Turnstone Property. “The hotel’s architecture, with its long horizontal lines and abundant glass, allows it to be repositioned as a sleek, stylish resort,” their prospectus said in 2010.

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