Provincetown Sand Dunes for love and recreation

Provinetown Sand Dunes 100 years ago

Provincetown Sand Dunes 100 years ago

The sand dunes at the tip of Cape Cod, between Bay and Ocean have shifted with the wind, but the dunes have always been a secret place for hikes and love trysts.  You can get across the sand on foot, horseback, or four wheel drive vehicle (with a special license) . Their beauty has inspired scores of artists and photographers.  Are the Provincetown sand dunes a special meeting place for lovers? Where are the secret places two star crossed lovers might rendez-vous? It’s stories you’ll read about in the soon-to-be-released novel Remaining in Provincetown.

Provincetown souvenirs are collectibles and memories

Commercial Street near Town Hall, Provincetown, Massachusetts

Commercial Street near Town Hall, Provincetown, Massachusetts

Provincetown in summer is a bustling place. The narrow streets are crowded with tourists. Even 100 years ago when the fishing industry provided year-round income for families, the  tourist trade was important. Souvenir shops that sold postcards, like this one shown above, as well as collectible souvenir spoons, plates, paper weights, and glasses provided seasonal income for local residents. Servicemen in the Coast Guard and Navy would come into town to see the sights that included fine restaurants, bars, and entertainment. The T-shirt shops came later! Town Hall in this antique postcard is partially obscured by the thick foliage of the trees, but it looks very much the same today as it did back then. In 1990 when the novel Remaining in Provincetown takes place, Town Hall was painted white and one of the characters has their office inside. Which one? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Race Point Beach a part of Provincetown history

The Indian trail road to Race Point Light

The Indian Trail Road to Race Point Light

Provincetown’s National Seashore,  managed by the National Park Service, includes historic Race Point beach and Race Point Light. The Race Point Lighthouse served as an important beacon to ships before the days of radar and radio. Many ships were wrecked on the sand bars off the tip of Cape Cod and a rescue station was located not far from the lighthouse. Today, if you visit Provincetown be certain to spend time at all the gorgeous beaches and visit the restored Lifesaving Museum that was moved to the site from Chatham in 1977.  It was called the  Harbor Life-Saving Station and it was built in Chatham in 1897.  The original Provincetown station did not survive the ravages of time. On  Thursday evening you can see  rescue re-enactments .
While the roads are no longer dirt roads, there are still patches of woods and overhanging trees as you follow the route from the center of Provincetown across Route 6 and towards Race Point Beach. There are many trails across the sand dunes., some just meant for walking. Printed in Germany and sold during the era when it cost only a penny to mail a postcard for domestic delivery, this beautiful card appears to be made between 1880 and 1900. Antique postcards are important to one of the characters in the soon-to-be-released novel Remaining in Provincetown.  You might go so far as to say they were almost an obsession.

Fishing in Provincetown, Massachusetts

Provincetown fishermen baiting up trawl

Provincetown fishermen baiting up trawl


Provincetown once had a booming fishing industry. The harbor on the tip of Cape Cod was filled with fishing boats in early morning, on their way out to sea, heading as far as Georges Bank, the most westward of the great Atlantic fishing banks.  Sought after fish species included cod, haddock, herring, and flounder.  While the fish populations have decreased due to the high demand for seafood, fishing is still an important part of the Cape Cod economy. A common way of fishing in the 19th and early 20th century was called trawling. Large nets were used to drag behind the boat to gather up fish.  Thus the term dragger referred to boats that were trawlers.  Fishing boats would also troll with baited line.   Dragging baited lines behind a boat is referred to as trolling. The antique postcard above shows fishermen in Provincetown, Massachusetts baiting trawl.

Provincetown developed alternative ways to support its economy by promoting tourism and the arts. It’s a great town to visit and to read about. Don’t forget to put Remaining in Provincetown on your reading list this summer. It’s a novel with more than one mystery in the plot.

Provincetown’s Red Inn a favorite Cape Cod tourist destination

The Red Inn in 1915

The Red Inn in 1915

Restaurants in Provincetown come and go, but a few favorites like the Red Inn situated on the waterfront on the far West End of town, have stayed in operation for close to a century. The above vintage postcard shows what the Inn looked like after renovations in 1915 when owner Mary Wilkinson opened her house as “The Red Inn”. Originally the house was built by ship’s captain Freeman Atkins for his wife Emily.  The names “Freeman” and “Atkins” are names you’ll see associated with some of the narrow streets in this unique town on the tip of Cape Cod. One road, that figures into the soon-to-be released novel Remaining in Provincetown is called Atkins Mayo Road.

One of the small private dining rooms inside the Red Inn is named after Ada Raynor,  wife of Henry Hensche.  Hensche was the  founder of the Cape School of Art in 1930 after the death of Charles Webster Hawthorne, who  founded the Cape Cod School of Art..  Art Schools and artist continued to frequent the Outer Cape. in 2010 former students of  Hensche: John Clayton, John Ebersberger, Cedric Egeli, Rob Longley, and Hilda Neily, founded the Cape School of Art in Provincetown, in an effort to pass along Henry Hensche’s teachings.

The Red Inn has always been a gathering place for visiting celebrities and was one of the shot locations in a 1987 Norman Mailer movie, that although a flop at the box office, attracted Isabella Rosselini, Ryan O’Neill and Farrah Fawcett among others.

The ownership has changed through the years, but having dined there recently I can attest to the high quality of what is served. The menu features local seafood, and local produce creatively prepared and well presented. Plus there is that fabulous view to enjoy, looking towards Long Point Lighthouse. It’s the perfect setting for a mystery novel.

Provincetown art schools and artists

An Art Class at Work

An Art Class at Work

Artists clustered together on a dock painting a scene of  a Provincetown Wharf in summer. How could they work, all crowded together? The clear north light on the tip of Cape Cod attracted artists from all over the world. Many of these artists were also  teachers. Thus more aspiring artists were drawn to Cape Cod to study drawing and painting and dozens stayed and made Cape Cod their permanent home. Thus Provincetown become known as an art colony. Today the town is home to the Fine Arts Work Center as well, where students of writing, sculpture, painting, and drawing work year-round.

One of the most popular art teachers was Charles Hawthorne (1872-1930) and many of his fine oil paintings are in the collection of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.  Hawthorne founded the Cape Cod School of Art. Be sure to visit the Provincetown Art Association and Museum if you are a new visitor to the town to see his masterful portraits, still lifes, and landscapes.    Many artists had art schools including Hans Hoffman,  Seong Moy, who taught printmaking, and Henry Henche.  Hawthorne taught his students to focus on capturing the contrasts in colors and light and to work quickly with confidence.  These are still good life lessons that could be applied to everything including writing. Read any good books lately? The new novel, coming this summer Remaining in Provincetown, is almost on its way to the printer.

Provincetown fishing wharf from bygone era

Consolidated Weir Co's Wharf

Consolidated Weir Co’s Wharf

When fishing was a major  industry on Cape Cod, there were fishing weirs, nets set up in the water used to trap fish. The use of weirs for fishing was a Native American technique that was taught to the early colonists in New England. Could the name Consolidated Weir Company name have something to do with the use of weirs?  While weirs were a frequent sight in the harbor during the early part of the 20th century, they were abandoned or removed  by the late 1960s. This was long before I was born but I do recognize a building in the background that provides a clue to where this long ago wharf in Provincetown was located. The building was on the East End of town, the old ice house which provided the ice for packing the fresh caught fish for storage and transport. Visit Provincetown today and in its place is a stucco and brick building. All that are left of the wharfs on beach side are a few wood pilings.

What still remains in Provincetown from the early fishing era? Or should I ask, who is still Remaining in Provincetown?  I love a good mystery.

Provincetown Bathing Beach a Tourist Attraction

Brown's Bathing Beach in Provincetown, Massachusetts

Brown’s Bathing Beach in Provincetown, Mass.

It was a time of discretion , when men and women covered themselves for the sake of modesty when bathing at a public beach. Brown’s Bathing Beach in Provincetown, was such a place where there were booths for changing into the appropriate bathing suits. Automobiles and trains enabled tourists to travel to scenic  beach side resorts such as  Provincetown, located on the tip of Cape Cod. It was a popular destination. With its narrow streets and houses built along the waterside, many guest houses and hotels established thriving businesses. Shops and restaurants geared to the tourist trade soon followed, creating a seasonal economy. Nowadays Provincetown is still a popular summer destination with a seasonal economy. It’s the winter economy that can be challenging for those who live on the Outer Cape year-round, Curious to know what it’s like in early spring before the tourist season? Read the  soon-to-be-released novel Remaining in Provincetown.

Giant Halibut caught in Provincetown Massachusetts

A 270 lb. Halibut caught in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

A 270 lb. Halibut caught in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

It’s been a long time since Halibut have been commercially fished off Cape Cod. This old postcard photo must have been taken in the last decade of the 19th century! Halibut supported important commercial fisheries from the early 1800s to the 1880’s but was severely over fished in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Thus you are unlikely to catch any Halibut off Cape Cod or Provincetown and if you do,  there is a bycatch  limit of one fish per trip and the fish must be at least 36 inches in length.

Halibut is the largest species of flatfish found in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Maybe one day, if the population is  allowed to increase enough to create a thriving population, sports fisherman will once again be holding up a large Halibut they’ve caught for a photo opportunity.

Currently if you go out on a fishing charter boat from Provincetown harbor, depending on the season you will be fishing for Striped bass, Blue fish, Fluke, Codfish, or Blue fin tuna.

The love of fishing is pervasive and remains in Provincetown.

Provincetown’s Old Hotel Still in Operation

The Gifford House back at the start of the 20th Century.

The Gifford House back at the start of the 20th Century.

Provincetown has undergone many changes during the past 100 years but you can still recognize plenty of old businesses. The Gifford House has changed somewhat in physical appearance and the clientele is different. Wouldn’t it be nice though to see some of those elegant touring automobiles parked in front?  Was it the kind of  gay party place it is today when summer rolls around?