Cape Cod National Seashore | Long Point

Cape Cod Oil Works

Cape Cod Oil Works (1891), courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Cape Cod Oil Works (1891), courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Aerial view of Cape Cod Oil Works remnants, by David W. Dunlap (2010).

Aerial view of Cape Cod Oil Works remnants, by David W. Dunlap (2010).

Atwood’s Wharf in the Long Point settlement saw second duty as part of the Cape Cod Oil Works, established by Jonathan Cook in 1875, which extracted everything usable from the carcasses and excreta of whales and fish. To this day, the ruin of a brig hull, as elegant in its skeletal outline as an elongated wishbone, can be seen alongside the few remaining pilings of the wharf. It forms a ghostly shape against the sand in the aerial photo directly above. The historical photo (top), brought to my attention by Dieter Groll, shows the vessel fitted out as a fertilizer screening house in 1891. The note at the bottom says: “Condemned by Dr. Moore 2/6/19.”


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.

CCNS Long Point | Cape Cod Oil Works

 

Atwood’s wharf saw second duty as part of the Cape Cod Oil Works, established by Jonathan Cook in 1875, which extracted everything usable from the carcasses and excreta of whales and fish. To this day, the ruin of a brig hull, as elegant in its skeletal outline as an elongated wishbone, can be seen alongside the few remaining pilings of the Atwood wharf. Picture essay and more history »

Cape Cod National Seashore | Long Point

Darby Memorial

Darby Memorial and Long Point Light, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

Darby Memorial and Long Point Light, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

Charles Darby arrived in Provincetown by motorcycle in the 1930s, as Amy Whorf McGuiggan tells the story. In short time, he became a year-rounder, an exhibiting painter and a beloved member of the Beachcombers. Drafted in 1942, he was a radio operator with the 77th Troop Carrier Squadron. On 17 October 1944, returning from a supply mission, his plane crashed into a hillside in southern England. The crew was killed instantly. Darby’s grief-stricken father proposed to the Beachcombers that a plaque, fastened to a stone, might be set on a dune overlooking the sea. “It would, in some small way, tie more closely Charles to his beloved Provincetown,” he said. A cross was built of an old railroad tie by the artists Philip Malicoat, Roger Rilleau, and John Whorf (McGuiggan’s grandfather). It stood outside the Art Association at first, but was moved to Long Point in the early 1960s, fulfilling the father’s wish.


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.

Cape Cod National Seashore | Long Point

Civil War batteries

Civil War batteries on Long Point, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

Civil War batteries on Long Point, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

During the Civil War, concerned about the Confederate navy trying to blockade the harbor, the federal government erected a three-gun earthwork battery at the tip of Long Point and a five-gun earthwork battery about 1,800 feet to the southwest. Because the Long Point batteries never saw wartime duty, townsfolk called them Fort Useless and Fort Ridiculous. They were under the charge of Sgt. John Rosenthal and were not decommissioned until 1873, after which the barracks were brought over to 473 Commercial. Both fortifications are discernible as flat-topped mounds. The battery near the lighthouse is where the Beachcombers erected their memorial to Staff Sgt. Charles Darby.


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.

CCNS Long Point | Forts Useless and Ridiculous

 

During the Civil War, concerned about the Confederate navy trying to blockade the harbor, the federal government erected a three-gun earthwork battery at the tip of Long Point and a five-gun earthwork battery about 1,800 feet to the southwest. Because the Long Point Batteries never saw wartime duty, townsfolk called them Fort Useless and Fort Ridiculous. More pictures and history »

Cape Cod National Seashore | Long Point

Long Point Light

Long Point Light, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

Long Point Light, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

The current lighthouse — a 38-foot-high tapering brick tower whose green beacon flashes a welcome to Provincetown Harbor every four seconds — was constructed in 1876, replacing a 50-year-old structure. Today, only the nearby oil house remains of a larger complex that once existed around the tower, including a keeper’s house, a fog bell enclosure almost as tall as the lighthouse, and a boat house. These were sold off in 1952, after the light was automated. Today, the lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard but licensed to the American Lighthouse Foundation, which cares for it.


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.

CCNS Long Point | Second Long Point Light

 

The current lighthouse — a 38-foot-high tapering brick tower whose green beacon flashes a welcome to Provincetown Harbor every four seconds — was constructed in 1876. Today, only the nearby oil house remains of a larger complex that once existed around the tower, including a keeper’s house, a fog bell enclosure almost as tall as the lighthouse, and a boat house. More pictures and history»

Cape Cod National Seashore | Long Point

Long Point settlement

Model of Long Point settlement at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

Model of Long Point settlement at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

Long Point floater plaque, by Claude and Hank Jensen.

Long Point floater plaque, by Claude and Hank Jensen.

Long Point was not Helltown, though many people today conflate the two. Long Point was a settled hamlet built close to the fishery, where mackerel, shad, and bass were plentiful and could be hauled in with sweep seines. John Atwood put up the first building in 1818, followed by Prince Freeman and Eldridge Smith. There was ample room for salt evaporation works, an industry led by Eldridge Nickerson. In 1822, Long Point recorded its first birth: Prince Freeman (another one). Smith’s son, Ed Walter, was born in 1851. By 1846, there were enough families to warrant a school, which doubled as the church. A post office and bake house were built. John Atwood Jr. had a wharf and a general store. The population reached 200. Universalism attracted its earliest adherents on the Cape tip through the proselytizing of Elizabeth and Sylvia Freeman. The celebrated naturalist Louis Agassiz arrived in 1852 to call on Nathaniel Atwood, a skilled ichthyologist.

CCNS 21 03

Above: Outline of Lobster Plain, by David W. Dunlap (2010). Below: House locations around Lobster Plain, courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project.

Above: Outline of Lobster Plain, by David W. Dunlap (2010). Below: House locations around Lobster Plain, courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project.

More than 50 buildings were scattered around a water body called the Lobster Plain, whose T-shaped outline can still be discerned from the air. But when the fishing grounds were exhausted, the settlement was abandoned rapidly. Buildings were floated across the harbor on scows. Only two homes and the school house remained by the mid-1860s. The last known surviving inhabitant, Capt. Ed Walter Smith, died in 1960. “Floaters,” typically marked with handsome blue-and-white plaques by Claude and Hank Jensen, are concentrated in the West End. It’s my impression that more homes claim a Long Point provenance than could possibly have occupied that narrow spit.


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.

CCNS Long Point | Settlement

 

Among Provincetown’s more inscrutable ornaments are these pretty blue-and-white enameled plaques, found mostly in the far West End. They indicate that the houses to which they’re affixed were contructed in the early 19th century out on Long Point and later floated over to town on scows. (Or, at least, that the owners once believed their houses had come from Long Point.) These “floaters” are vestiges of a community that once lived as close to the fishery as anyone could get — without being in a school. More history and interactive map»