Visiting the Sand Dunes in Provincetown, Cape Cod

Dune buggy Tour looking out over Pilgrim Lake

Dune buggy Tour looking out over Pilgrim Lake near Provincetown

Before there was a National Seashore, four wheel drive vehicles could traverse the sand dunes at the tip of Cape Cod, traveling back and forth to visit dune shacks and go fishing. Tourists would pull over to the side of the highway and get out of their cars to run up and down the dunes as they approached Provincetown. This postcard from the 1960s shows a Dune buggy tour on the sand dune above Pilgrim Lake, which you see as you approach Provincetown from Truro.  Initially the National Seashore built a parking lot near Pilgrim Lake to provide a safe spot for visitors to park but quickly realized all the erosion damage taking place and closed the area. Dune grass has been extensively planted to help prevent more loss of the dunes. In 1946 Art Costa started Art’s Dune  Tours and his son Bob Costa has continued the tradition of providing interesting educational tours that explain some of the historic highlights of the sand dunes that span from the back side of the town out to Race Point and the Outer Shore. You can walk the across the dunes by taking the path at Snail Road and hiking across the sand  or you can enjoy the bicycle trails that cross the sand dunes as the Carreiro children do in the soon-to-be released mystery novel Remaining in Provincetown.

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Atlantic House or A-House, a historically gay place

Atlantic House, Provincetown, Massachusetts and owner Frank Potter Smith

Atlantic House, Provincetown, Massachusetts and owner Frank Potter Smith

The Atlantic House, now affectionately known as the A-House, was given its current name by Portuguese sailor Frank Potter Smith, pictured in this antique postcard printed in the late 19th century. Smith (probably not his original family name) purchased the tavern in the early 1870s. Provincetown’s first Postmaster Daniel Pease built the historic building at 5 Masonic Place in 1798.

Before trains ran out to Provincetown you could reach the small town on the tip of Cape Cod by stagecoach. You could get on the stagecoach in Orleans and arrive in the center of Provincetown to be let off at what was then called the Alllstrum House (now the A-House).  You had literally reached “the end of the line.”

Considered by many social historians to be the oldest Gay Bar in the United States, among the memorabilia and art that grace the walls is a nude photograph of Tennessee Williams strolling on the beach.  Williams was one of many famous patrons in the 1940s.

Under the management of Reggie Cabral, who purchased the building with his sister and brother-in –law Mr. And Mrs. Frank Hurst in 1950 and subsequently took over full ownership, the business continued to become a favorite gathering place for locals and visitors, with its several intimate bars and happening dance floor.  Having a good time is definitely on the mind of several of the characters in Remaining in Provincetown. Will it cloud their judgment? When you live in a small town its hard to remain anonymous.

The originial Provincetown Inn on the tipe of Cape Cod

Provincetown Inn on Cape Cod

Provincetown Inn on Cape Cod

Looking out across Cape Cod Bay, the Provincetown Inn was built back in 1925 and initially had 28 guest rooms. Shown in this vintage postcard, it is located at the very end of town near the Breakwater and today looks quite different than it did  at the start of the 20th century. Purchased by Chester Peck in 1935, in the 1950s a beach was “created” using sand from the nearby dune and four additional acres (according to the Inn’s website) were created. Hmm that is not something that would be allowed today, with concerns about retaining existing coastline and drainage, but the result was a spacious resort with night club, three dining rooms, gift shop, barber and beauty shops and more. Thirty-two more rooms were also added. In 1972 the inn was sold to investors and in 1977 was sold to the Evans family.  During the mid 1970s  Marvin Hagler started coming to Provinetown to  train at the Provincetown Inn and jogged across the sand dunes to get into shape.  He set up his very own ring by the indoor swimming pool. Hagler was world middleweight boxing champion from 1980-1987.

While the indoor swimming pool is no more as the Inn has continued to be refurbished through the years one thing that does remain are the hand-painted murals that were painted by Don Aikens that were inspired by old photographs, postcards, and paintings showing how the town looked in the late 19th century.  It’s a favorite spot for the Carreiro family children to visit (the Carreiro’s being a fictitious family in the novel Remaining in Provincetown).  They’ve got a lot on their minds with their father being murdered. Will they catch who did it? Stay tuned for more information and more vintage pictures.

Provincetown Cape Cod once had a Peter Hunt Lane

Peter Hunt Lane, Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Peter Hunt Lane, Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

The caption on this vintage postcard says “Peter Hunt Lane”. The east end street today goes by a different name– Kiley Court, home of Ciro & Sal’s Restaurant and various art galleries. But once upon a time this real estate was frequented by the multi-talented Peter Hunt who could take a beat up piece of old furniture and turn it into an decorative and functional item of beauty.  His store and studio were known as “Peter Hunt’s Peasant Village.” He was inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch design motif styles, but gave his creations their own unique twist.  Hunt was a successful entrepreneur in Provincetown, Massachusetts during the 1930s and 40s and developed a following of collectors and imitators. By 1960 he had sold his Provincetown real estate and moved his studio and business Up Cape to Orleans where he opened Peacock Alley. Peter Hunt products with his original signature are valuable collectors items but when he died in 1967, his style of decorating had fallen out of favor.  The novel Remaining in Provincetown takes place in approximately 1990 and Guest House owner Bruno does have one of his rooms, “The Yellow Room” decorated in the Peter Hunt style, because just a few decades after Hunts death, antique and design buffs recognized the significance of his artistry and Bruno is a character who appreciates the finer things in life.

Town Crier once a Provincetown tradition

Town Crier in Provincetown late 19th century

Town Crier in Provincetown late 19th century

Town Criers were once a New England tradition. Walking the streets they verbally spread the news and in tourist communities such as Provincetown on Cape Cod, they were often employed by the Chamber of Commerce to promote commerce.
Usually the image of a New England Town Crier is a plump man dressed in Pilgrim style garb. The Town Crier in the black and white postcard printed in Germany, shown above, carried the bell and the broadside, but is certainly not dressed like a pilgrim.  Through Provincetown’s history there  have been many different Town Criers, and they are documented in antique post cards.  The last Town Crier for Provincetown, Gene Poyant, walked the streets in the early 1980’s and died in 1998.  A Town Crier figures into the plot of the novel Remaining in Provincetown in more than one way, just as there are a variety of Town Criers. We’ll be sharing some more pictures of Town Criers from the past in the weeks to come.

Sand dunes entering Provincetown Cape Cod a memory

Junction of Commercial and Bradford Streets entering Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Junction of Commercial and Bradford Streets entering Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Sand dunes greet you as you enter the east end of Provincetown in this antique postcard.  The houses on Commercial Street don’t look much different than they did 100 years ago in this unique town on the tip of Cape Cod. On Bradford Street, the town’s major two-way thoroughfare, however, it looks quite different. With just two main streets and only a one route out of town, by car, how do you commit a murder and make a clean getaway? In 1990, the approximate year  the new novel Remaining in Provincetown takes place, much of the sand dunes and woods had already made way for apartments, condominium complexes, and businesses.

Provincetown walk across the water

Provincetown, Massachusetts Breakwater built in 1911

Provincetown, Massachusetts Breakwater built in 1911

The breakwater that spans across  from the end of Cape Cod’s hook across the Bay to the little spit of land known as Long Point has been in place as long as anyone can remember. But there was a time when it was referred to as “The New Government Breakwater” as it is on this postcard.  Walk across the breakwater and you’ll arrive at Long Point and the Long Point Lighthouse. Built by the Arm Corp of Engineers and completed in 1911, the intent of the breakwater was to secure the safety of the harbor and prevent the erosion of sand.  Take a walk on the breakwater and arrive at the Long Point Lighthouse or practice your skills climbing the rocks. It used to be a great place to gather mussels to steam for dinner, along with  hermit crabs and starfish.  Still the sand  around the breakwater moves and splits as the decades pass. Life changes . People die. Others  leave and new residents arrive and decide to remain in Provincetown.  Thus the name of the novel Remaining in Provincetown, a mystery not only about a murder but about the town itself.