Every day is carnival! Drag Queens (major shoe envy on my part), ice cream stores and buskers vie for the attention of the street packing throngs of tourists. Provincetown, P’town for short, is the small village at the very tip of Cape Cod. It is crowded, overpriced and fun. I loved every minute. The pilgrims didn’t.
Unbelievable. They had been at sea for 67 days. The trip on the Mayflower was miserable. The boat was crowded and leaky. The seas were rough. There were none of the perks that makes sailing today so fun. No stabilizers, heads (sailor talk for toilets),water makers, refrigeration, showers or internet. I can’t imagine anything worse. Nor can I imagine turning my nose up at a beautiful protected harbor teaming with fish and a chance to put my feet on solid ground. Ok, there wasn’t much fresh water, but really?
On November 21, 1620 the 100 ft ship anchored in the bay. The 102 passengers wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact. It set out the rules of the new community they planned to establish. Then they and the approximately 30 crew took off again, sailing around for five more weeks until they finally settled on Plymouth. How a single marriage survived is beyond me. Provincetown, oblivious to this slight, built a 252-foot granite tower appropriately called Pilgrim’s Monument to commemorate the town’s small role in this particular history. Teddy Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1907.
Others did recognize the value of this port. It quickly became an important fishing and whaling center. Though it wasn’t until 1727 that it finally became an official town. Business boomed after the American Revolution and the population swelled. Lots of Portuguese sailors from the Azores who were hired to work on US ships settled in Provincetown. Their influence remains. Portuguese dishes are found on many menus and all the bakeries seem to advertise Portuguese bread.
Fishing is a tough profession. The Portland Gale of 1898 wiped out most of the local industry and it never recovered. Artists and writers stepped in to fill the void taking over the abandoned buildings. The town’s life as an artistic haven began. It quickly gained renown for experimental theatre, an avant-garde art scene and tolerance. It was one of the few places where gay people could live relatively openly in safety. By the 1970’s it had become a gay mecca. According to the 2010 Census, Provincetown has the highest percent of same-sex couples of any town in the US.
Tourism is P’town’s biggest industry. 60,000 people are expected each summer. During the winter the population crashes. Officially there are 3000 year-round residents. The locals I talked to said it’s more like 800. Many visitors come to celebrate the various theme weeks. Among the most popular are Bear Week (larger, hairy, traditionally masculine gay men), Girl Splash (women-only events), Tennessee Williams Festival (four days of his plays) and the Great Schooner Regatta (classic yacht racing and events). Straight or gay, everyone is welcome. I’m coming back for Carnival August 2019 in sequins, boas and glitter eyeshadow.
Tip: eat dinner at Victor’s. Great food, off the tourist radar, beautifully designed room
175 Bradford St.
This was very interesting. Thank you.
So glad you liked it. Thank you!
Thank you first of all for liking so many of my posts , Julie. I lived in Boston for 13 years and knew a lot about P’Town, but had never visited it. Thank you so much for sharing this information about P’Town with us.
Hopefully you’ll have a chance to go to Provincetown. It’s great fun!
Living on the West Coast, with San Francisco near, I hadn’t known there was an equally open gay haven on the right coast. Thanks for the new view! and thanks for liking my recent posts.
Reblogged this on Tourism Observer.
Many years ago, we did a trip down the coast in my VW convertible in the fall. P’town was deserted but you could see that it had a lot of character. It’s almost as if it was resting from a crazy summer. We ended up staying on the beach in a motel that was a flashback to the 60’s and slept with the door open so we could hear the waves crashing on the beach. Thanks for educating me on what Provincetown once was….and how it has morphed from a fishing town to a party town.
I remember when you did that trip! I imagine it would be beautifully desolate in the winter!
I did not have the pleasure of visiting Cuba, however, Manny years ago when I was a young man, I did spent a week in Provence Town. It was the years of party all night and be a bar or beach lizard all day. Fantastic memories. I must say that none of the historical background that you provide was on offer at the B&B my friend and I were staying in. At least, I must say that the week was spent rather in a daze. This said, I did say to Takao that we needed to spend one day and see all the art gallery. A friend of Joe, Paul Resika, NYC painter and his wife had a summer house in CT. We did find the gallery that had a couple of Resikas . Amazingly , also some prints by David Hockney and other world famous artist such as Richard Serra. One of his sculpture is at one of the exit of Liverpool Street station in London. 3 rusting gigantic plates of metals position one against the other. All of this to say, that CT was and still is a centre of attraction for artists as well as the 7 inches hight heals shows of the most brilliant drag Queens in the world. LOL, Mario
It’s an amazing place. So many influential artists and writers spend time working here including Jackson Pollack, Eugene O’Neill and Kurt Vonnegut…