Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Provincetown's Oldest House, and a Tale of Two Time Capsules

A vintage postcard of the oldest house in PTown.
In Provincetown's West End, at 72 Commercial Street, you'll find the house that most folks will acknowledge as the oldest remaining house in town.
If you look closely at the small, individual glass panes that make up the windows on the front of the house you will see that several of them look rather warped and wavy, a bit bumpy, which is characteristic of very old glass, made before more modern manufacturing methods allowed window panes to be made with a uniform thickness throughout each piece of glass.
Some of these little panes are the original window panes dating back to 1746 when the house was built by Seth Nickerson. He made his living as a ship's carpenter, and is said to have built this house mainly from planks and boards and beams which he had salvaged from a number of shipwrecks over the years. This vintage postcard shows the house as it looked before Soper Street was built next to the east side of the house, where the car in the picture above is sitting. Judging by this early Ford, was the original photograph for this postcard  taken around 90 years ago?
If you walk by 72 Commercial Street you'll notice the rosebushes growing up the front of the house and onto the roof, exactly as you see them in the old postcard above.
This house had been waterfront property when it was s built, but when Commercial Street was finally laid out, in 1835, the road had to be built between existing houses, and since this one sat closer to the edge of the harbor than others on the north side of the path that would become Commercial Street, the house lost most of its front yard to the construction of the new road. When a four-plank wooden sidewalk was added along the edge of the street a few years later, the yard became narrower still.
In the early 1900s a whale's jawbone formed an arch and gateway in front of the house, and the Ship Model Shop and the Hooked Rug Shop were operated there by the owners, local artists Elizabeth and Coulton Waugh. In 1944 the house was bought by world-renowned photographer John Gregory and his wife Adelaide, a concert pianist. They allowed, and encouraged, tours of the house by the public, and a son who had grown up in that house tells of a childhood where the children had to keep their things put away and their room tidy at all times, because their father actively promoted "the oldest house in town" and would enthusiastically escort interested visitors through the home at virtually any time of the day or night.
The late John Gregory was a friend of the late Carl Sagan, the pioneer of space science, who created a sort of "time capsule" using recordings of sounds and images from the Earth, similar to a record album but made of gold in order to withstand the possible ravages of time and space travel. A recording was included in the payload of each of the two Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977. Each "golden record" was  packed with a stylus and illustrations meant to show how these recordings could be played by whatever life form might discover these spacecraft at some point in the distant future. One of John Gregory's photographs of the oldest house in Provincetown is included among those images and sounds from Earth, with one of those spacecraft on track to fall within about 1.6 light years of the star AC+79 3888, in the constellation of Camelopardalis, in about 40,000 years or so. It may also pass right by that particular stop in that endless chain of stars, eventually coming to rest much farther away from the Earth and much, much later in time, if ever.
When the oldest house was bought by the current owners a number of years ago they did a very thorough and loving restoration of the house, even going to the trouble of having new wooden pegs carved by hand to replace the old ones in the joists and joints of the roof. In those early days when the house was built, nails were quite expensive and hard to come by, especially in the size needed to hold large beams together.
Cupboards, floorboards and walls were carefully pried loose so that the structures beneath could be inspected and restored.  Over roughly 250 years since the house had been built, a number of photographs, notes, small toys, bits of clothing and other items had fallen behind shelves or slipped between floorboards, and it was common to use old newspapers and other scraps for insulation between walls in those days. As the work progressed, artifacts of all sorts began literally pouring out of the woodwork.
These treasures were turned over to artist Morgan Norwood, who created an art installation in the front room of the house, placing newly found tiles around the fireplace and its mantle, and using a baby bootie, photos, marbles and other small toys that were discovered to fill a sort of shadow box on the wall next to the hearth, but with a door on the front of the box. When opened, the box reveals these trinkets, including a small eyepiece a bit like a tiny spyglass with a photograph placed at the end so that it will appear to be the view through the spyglass. Looking through this little eyepiece you'll see the expanse of the beach and the harbor in front of this house, before the other houses were built across Commercial Street. Pulling open the door of this box also triggers a recording of the voice of Provincetown Trolley owner Yvonne Cabrall talking about the "time capsule" as the trolley passed by the house on its tour of the town in the late 1990s, so the "view" of the early beach and that bit of the Trolley narration essentially create a bit of a time capsule inside the "oldest house" as well.

55 comments:

  1. A very well done site. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, and thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you'll return often, and pass it on to others. More PTown history coming in tonight's post.

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  3. R
    eally great information and well written too!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kevin, I'm glad you're enjoying my blog. Let me know if there are topics you'd like me to write about.

      Delete
  4. Hi, over 32 years ago, my husband and I visited an old house in PTown claiming to be one of the first homes. I don’t know if it was this one or another. It was owned by an older man who was in not great health and his wife. So he had made a recording of his house tour. To save his voice. One thing I remember that there was a trapdoor that opened to an area below that he said was used as a type of root cellar for storing vegetables. Another was the hearth in the kitchen which had spider pots and he said that fire was a danger for the women cooking due to long dresses. Sand was used on the kitchen floor for sparks and it was often swept into fancy patterns by the housewife. There was an old chair whose legs were worn smooth to a lower rung due to being used on the sand floor. He also mentioned the wood pegs instead of nails. He claimed the house was originally built across the bay but was too exposed during storms, so it was floated over to the current location.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for these fascinating details of your tour all those years ago, which was likely with John Gregory himself, mentioned above. I haven't found any stories about anyone else giving guided tours through their homes.
    The "first" houses built in Provincetown are all long gone, having crumbled or suffered fires or storms, or having been torn down to make way for some other building or use of the land. Gregory didn't claim his house was among the first built, but he did promote it as the oldest remaining house, and it is definitely among the oldest houses still standing, though some folks still argue about exactly which house is actually our "oldest." The style of fireplace in the front room, with a kind of beehive-shaped area in the back of it acting as an oven of sorts, was no longer built into these early houses past the year 1750, so that supports the story that Seth Nickerson built this house around 1746.
    What I've read states that the house was moved back from the edge of the beach at some point, but now you've got me researching whether it could have been among the Long Point floaters, moved across the harbor in the 1850s.
    If you remember any other details from your tour, please e-mail theyearrounder@gmail.com, and thanks for reading my blog!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for sharing nice information with us. i like your post and all you share with us is uptodate and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. اجاره آپارتمان مبله

    ReplyDelete
  7. Awesome and interesting article. Great things you've always shared with us. Thanks. Just continue composing this kind of post. Edward Rainey Renwick

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have a story of John Gregory and his wife and family from early 1970’s. My sister and a friend and I were on vacation in Provincetown, and went in to the Gregory home, probably to tour, but I don’t remember much of the house tour. He himself was in a wheelchair, and we loved and bought a lot of his lithographs. They were incredulous, and asked if we were angels sent to them. We didn’t understand, and they explained that they had just spent their last dollar, and prayed that they would somehow get some money. I remember them as kind, sweet people.

    ReplyDelete

  9. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info.
    house hacking success podcast

    ReplyDelete
  10. Amazing knowledge and I like to share this kind of information with my friends and hope they like it they why I do MJ Movers

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for the update, very nice site.. fyn rengøring

    ReplyDelete
  12. How about we accept the most pessimistic scenario conceivable to act as an illustration of moving house yourself, and you will perceive any reason why recruiting an evacuation organization to do the pressing, moving, and unloading position for you a reasonable thought.removal companies near me

    ReplyDelete
  13. While these solicitations can be made in clusters, each guarantee should be documented physically by tapping on the individual receipt. armstrong number in java

    ReplyDelete
  14. Indeed, even with the numerous decisions and the simplicity of tracking down a rental home in Maui, you need to recollect that area is everything. del mar ca office

    ReplyDelete
  15. Additionally choose if you'd lean toward a neighborhood or public expulsion organization. Neighborhood organizations can be more useful and amicable, while public expulsion organizations may have more expert certifications. removal companies north london

    ReplyDelete
  16. Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking. real estate photography chicago

    ReplyDelete
  17. london office relocation Leave as much time as possible so you don't simply pick an organization since they're the only ones accessible. The further ahead you plan, the more prominent the possibility you'll get organization you need.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Moving an office can be more inconvenient, tedious and distressing contrasted with simply putting together your work environment. Yet, in the event that you realize how to do it appropriately, you would not be dealing with any issues since truth is you can have authority over these viewpoints to make your evacuation go easily as could really be expected.https://mtcofficeremovals.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. Black Ops Zombies Cheats and Strategy… [...]You can read all about it here.[...]… ตรวจลอตเตอรี่

    ReplyDelete
  20. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your website. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? Excellent work! Dr. Rashid Buttar

    ReplyDelete
  21. Simply wish to say your article is as surprising. The clarity in your post is simply cool and i could assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please continue the enjoyable work. embroidered wristlet keychain

    ReplyDelete
  22. After study just a few of the weblog posts on your web site now, and I actually like your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website checklist and will be checking again soon. Pls try my web page as well and let me know what you think. anavar for sale

    ReplyDelete
  23. I was just imagine about it and you provided me the correct information I really bookmark it mega888

    ReplyDelete
  24. However, they are expensive and are not fireproof except if treated. Roof Restoration Adelaide

    ReplyDelete
  25. I was just imagine about it and you provided me the correct information I really bookmark it HERBERALL VS ADERALL

    ReplyDelete
  26. Your blog is amazing dude. i love to visit it everyday. very nice layout and content .     test cypionate

    ReplyDelete
  27. Aw, i thought this was an exceptionally nice post. In thought I have to devote writing like that moreover – taking time and actual effort to have a really good article… but so what can I say… I procrastinate alot by no indicates apparently go accomplished. clenbuterol for sale

    ReplyDelete
  28. you have a wonderful weblog here! do you want to make some invite posts in this little blog? buy HGH

    ReplyDelete
  29. I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post. https://muabannhadat.io/

    ReplyDelete
  30. Your blog never ceases to amaze me, it is very well written and organized.”\"*”- buy steroids online

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my weblog so i came to “return the favor”.I’m attempting to find things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!! Luxury pro for hair removal

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was a amusement account it. Look complicated to far delivered agreeable from you! However, how can we keep in touch? Cheapest SMM Panel

    ReplyDelete
  33. It is higher to say nothing and be thought a idiot than to open your mouth and take away all doubt. – Abraham Lincoln 188betapp

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hi just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome. Buy steroids online

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was a amusement account it. Look complicated to far delivered agreeable from you! However, how can we keep in touch? cannabis delivery

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was a amusement account it. Look complicated to far delivered agreeable from you! However, how can we keep in touch? apkpure

    ReplyDelete
  37. You lost me, friend. Get real, I imagine I get what youre saying. I am aware what you’re saying, nevertheless, you just appear to have forgotten that might be other sorts of folks from the world who view this challenge for which it happens to be and might perhaps not go along with you. You might be turning away much individuals who had been lovers of this website. Buy HGH

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was a amusement account it. Look complicated to far delivered agreeable from you! However, how can we keep in touch? f95zone

    ReplyDelete
  39. I am commenting to let you know what a exceptional experience my wife’s child enjoyed viewing your webblog. She picked up many details, with the inclusion of what it is like to have an amazing giving mindset to make a myriad of people effortlessly have an understanding of a variety of specialized subject matter. You honestly inspired her. Thank you for offering the important, safe, edifying not to mention easy pointers regarding your subject to Evelyn. Thanks, 꽁머니 3만

    ReplyDelete
  40. I appreciate you taking the time to talk about them with people. doves for sale

    ReplyDelete
  41. I am therefore grateful for this post and thanks so much for sharing it with us. sports shop

    ReplyDelete
  42. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was a amusement account it. Look complicated to far delivered agreeable from you! However, how can we keep in touch? GrooveKart

    ReplyDelete
  43. Your content is valid and informative in my personal opinion. You have really done a lot of research on this topic. Thanks for sharing it. More information

    ReplyDelete
  44. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was a amusement account it. Look complicated to far delivered agreeable from you! However, how can we keep in touch? royal tangkas

    ReplyDelete
  45. I am curious to find out what blog platform you happen to be using? I’m having some minor security issues with my latest blog and I would like to find something more risk-free. Do you have any suggestions? royal tangkas

    ReplyDelete
  46. I do believe all the ideas you have presented for your post. They’re very convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are very quick for novices. Could you please lengthen them a little from next time? Thank you for the post. Sentence Rewriter

    ReplyDelete
  47. I am curious to find out what blog system you happen to be working with? I’m having some small security issues with my latest blog and I would like to find something more safe. Do you have any recommendations? human growth hormone for sale

    ReplyDelete
  48. I visit some sites and sites everyday to read articles, however this website offers feature based posts.If you are planning to travel to Turkey with Tourist Visa, you should read the categories of different purposes of travel carefully. You should apply for a Turkey travel visa only if you wish to visit the country for one of the following purposes

    ReplyDelete
  49. Just stumbled into this thread. The first post, from 2012, is an accurate summary. My partner, Jack Croucher, and I were the ones who organized the restoration after we purchased it from the family of the photographer John Gregory. (I don't say we did it...the restoration was all done by the best craftspeople we were able to find, superintended by the architect Bob Nealey [sp?].) It has held up fairly well. The neighborhood has seen more work, as the houses at 72A and 72B have been worked on more recently, and the most remarkable thing is the rethinking of what was once a sort of driveway up to 72B has now become a beautifully maintained grass lane.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Attractive component of the material. I just stumbled across your web site and accession capital to say that I really enjoyed your site. Fill the form with accurate and complete information about the traveler's data, passport details, date of travel and the type of visa they wish to obtain. Kenya evisa cost required to cover the expenses involved in the processing of the visa application.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Considerably, the post is in reality the finest on that laudable topic. I fit in with your conclusions and can eagerly look forward to your incoming updates. Saying thanks definitely will not simply just be enough, for the outstanding clarity in your writing. I will certainly at once grab your rss feed to stay privy of any kind of updates. Pleasant work and also much success in your business efforts! 스포츠중계

    ReplyDelete
  52. I am lucky that I noticed this web blog , just the right information that I was searching for! . Giày Gucci

    ReplyDelete