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.
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.
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.
It wasn’t that long ago that you could walk down to the end of the wharf and see lots of fishing boats. The photo for this postcard was taken in the 1960s. The Blessing of the Fleet is still going strong, however, and its a great celebration. Read about it in the soon to be released novel Remaining in Provincetown.