Provincetown ferry to Boston living history

The Steamer Dorothy Bradford arriving in Provincetown in 1911

The Steamer Dorothy Bradford arriving in Provincetown in 1911

The “Boston Boat” has been a fixture in Provincetown culture since the first ferry boat connected the city of Boston to the furthermost tip of Cape Cod in 1883. The first boat was named The Longfellow and it was replaced in 1911 by the Dorothy Bradford shown above docking at Railroad Pier, now known as MacMillan Pier (named for the famous arctic explorer). Operated by the Cape Cod Steamship Company, the Dorothy Bradford was in service until 1937.  Today seasonal ferry service between Boston and Provincetown is provided by the Bay State Cruise Company. The Provincetown III makes it possible to get from Boston to Provincetown in just 90 minutes. The  2013 season begins on May 17th and will operate until mid October. For a lower price on Saturdays, visitors can take the Provincetown II for a lower price and a slower three hour journey. Either way, approaching Cape Cod by water provides beautiful scenery on a clear day.  And it’s the beautiful scenery and the proximity to water that has the characters in Remaining in Provincetown so committed to the town, despite its seasonal economic challenges. What is it like to live in the town when the “Boston Boat” is not running and tourists are few? You’ll have to read the book , now available at, to find out.

Provincetown Cape Cod railroad

Provincetown, Cape CodRailroad Station 1920

Provincetown, Cape Cod
Railroad Station 1920

Wouldn’t it be nice to take a train to Provincetown? The last train that provided service to Cape Cod as far as Hyannis, shut down operations in 1986.  Yet the railroad was an important mode of transportation to Provincetown businesses, residents and tourists 100 years ago.  It was by train that the fresh fish caught by Provincetown fisherman packed in ice was delivered directly to New York City and it was by train that summer tourists and weekend visitors from Boston and New Bedford could conveniently get to Cape Cod vacation resorts and beaches.

As recently as 1960, the freight train was still running all the way down to the end of Cape Cod. When you visit Provincetown and go for walks along the trails, you can walk along the old railroad track bed. The railroad ties left behind when the tracks were removed and have been put to other practical uses by local folk in gardens and landscaping projects, but if you close your eyes you can imagine the sounds of the train chugging through the woods.

The railroad station shown in the 1920 vintage postcard above, was located on Bradford Street in the center of town between Alden and Standish Streets.  It opened in 1873 and shut down in 1938. Initially operating as part of the Old Colony Railroad, the New Haven Railroad served the community from 1893 to 1960.

These days, you can get to Provincetown by airplane, car, bus, and boat.  Sarah Carreiro (a character in Remaining in Provincetown) takes the small plane from Boston to come back to Provincetown for her husband’s funeral.  Looking down from a small plane is a great way to see the unique geography of the Outer Cape, but that’s another story.

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.