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.

More pictures and history»

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.