Provincetown, Massachusetts “P-town”

Provincetown, Mass

The following appears in the 3rd Quarter 2019  issue of Metro Guys Magazine

The Pilgrim Monument, designed by Willard T. Sears after the Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy; built 1907–1910.

Provincetown, Massachusetts, located on the tip of Cape Cod, is a small coastal resort town with a year-round population of just under 3,000. But in the summer, Provincetown has a population as high as 60,000+ and is known for its beaches, harbor, artists, tourist industry and is a top LGBTQ destination. This open-minded community celebrates individuality and freedom of expression and is home to one the oldest continuous art colony in the country. The diverse population of artists, sailors, fishermen, authors makes Provincetown unique 365 days of the year.

Provincetown is bordered to the east by its only neighbor, the town of Truro, and by Provincetown Harbor to the southeast, Cape Cod Bay to the south and west, Massachusetts Bay to the northwest and north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the northeast and has 21.3 miles of coastal shoreline. .
About 4,500 acres, or about 73% of the town’s land area, is owned by the National Park Service, which operates the Cape Cod National Seashore, leaving about 2.7 sq mi of land under the town’s jurisdiction. To the north lie the “Province Lands”, the area of dunes and small ponds extending from Mount Ararat in the east to Race Point in the west, along the Massachusetts Bay shore. The Cape Cod Bay shoreline extends from Race Point to the far west, to Wood End in the south, eastward to Long Point, which points inward towards the town, and provides a natural barrier for Provincetown Harbor. All three points are marked by lighthouses.

Early History:
The area was long settled by the historic Nauset tribe. In 1602, having made landfall from the west and believing it to be an island, Bartholomew Gosnold later chose to name this outermost tip of land “Cape Cod”.
On November 9, 1620, the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower sighted Cape Cod while en route to the Colony of Virginia. After failed attempts to sail south against the strong winter seas, they returned to the safety of the harbor, known today as Provincetown Harbor, and set anchor. It was here that the Mayflower Compact was drawn up and signed. They agreed to settle and build a self-governing community, and came ashore in the West End.
Though the Pilgrims chose to settle across the bay in Plymouth, Cape Cod enjoyed an early reputation for its valuable fishing grounds and harbor. In 1654, the Governor of the Plymouth Colony purchased this land from the Chief of the Nausets, for a selling price of two brass kettles, six coats, 12 hoes, 12 axes, 12 knives and a box.
The land from East Harbor to Long Point, was kept for the benefit of Plymouth Colony, which began leasing fishing rights to roving fishermen. The collected fees were used for costs of schools and other projects throughout the colony. In 1678, the fishing grounds were opened up to allow the inclusion of fishermen from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
In 1692, a new Royal Charter combined the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies into the Province of Massachusetts Bay. “Cape Cod” was thus officially renamed the “Province Lands”.
The first record of a municipal government with jurisdiction over the Province Lands was in 1714, with an Act that declared it the “Precinct of Cape Cod”, annexed under control of Truro. And after harboring ships for more than a century, the Precinct of Cape Cod was incorporated as a township of “Provincetown”. The act of incorporation provided that inhabitants of Provincetown could be land holders, but not land owners in 1893 the Massachusetts General Court changed the Town’s charter, giving the townspeople deeds to the properties they held, while still reserving unoccupied areas.

1700’s North-eastern view of Provincetown, Mass
Provincetown grew rapidly as a fishing and whaling center. The population was bolstered by numerous Portuguese sailors, many of whom were from the Azores, and settled in Provincetown after being hired to work on US ships.

By the 1890s, Provincetown was booming, and began to develop a resident population of writers and artists, as well as a summer tourist industry. After the 1898 Portland Gale Storm severely damaged the town’s fishing industry, members of the town’s art community took over many of the abandoned buildings. One of which opened as the Cape Cod School of Art, said to be the first outdoor school for figure painting.

By the early decades of the 20th century, the town had acquired an international reputation for its artistic and literary productions. The Provincetown Players was a theatre company formed during this period. Many of its Winters are severe so members lived during other parts of the year in Greenwich Village, New York, and intellectual and artistic connections were woven between the places.

There had been a gay presence in Provincetown as early as the start of the 20th century as the artists’ colony developed and experimental theatre. Drag queens could be seen in performance as early as the 1940s in Provincetown.
In the mid-1960s, Provincetown saw a large population growth. The town’s rural character appealed to the hippies of the era; property was relatively cheap and rents were low, especially during the winter. Many of those who came stayed and raised families. Commercial Street, the town’s “Main Street”, gained various hip small businesses.
By the 1970s Provincetown had a significant gay population, especially during the summer tourist season, when restaurants, bars and small shops serving the tourist trade were open. In 1978 the Provincetown Business Guild (PBG) was formed to promote gay tourism.

Provincetown, Commercial Street
The town includes eight buildings and two historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places: Provincetown Historic District and Dune Shacks of Peaked Hill Bars Historic District.
Today more than 200 businesses belong to the PBG, and Ptown is perhaps the best-known gay summer resort on the East Coast, other than Fire Island, N.Y. The 2010 US Census revealed Provincetown to have the highest rate of same-sex couples in the country, at 163.1 per 1000 couples.
Provincetown’s tourist season has expanded with festivals and week-long events throughout the year. The diverse population of artists, sailors, fisherman, authors, and more, makes Provincetown unique. The most established are in the summer: the Portuguese Festival, Bear Week and PBG’s Carnival Week in August to Women’s Week in October, Thanksgiving Weekend, Holly Folly and First Light at year’s end. Check out the National Seashore & Dunes and many clubs and restaurants. Provincetown is thriving 365 days of the year.


PTown is located at the tip of Cape Cod, but is easily accessed by car, bus, ferry from Boston Harbor and air to Boston Logan Airport. Small Air service is a quick 20 minute scenic trip from Boston’s Logan to PTown. Once here, rely on your feet, bus or rental bike as PTown is a walking town.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jim Perigny (aka DJ JimmyP) is the CEO of Red Hispana Florida, an HIV and LGBT Issues Agency and FREE radio station Founder/Manager of EAGLEradio.PRO accessed via the website or LIVE365 APP or posted links on FaceBook.

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