Provincetown is without a doubt the most eclectic of all Cape Cod
How did it get this way? Is it because the Pilgrims who landed first
in Provincetown decided the place wasn't for them so they sailed
across the bay to found Plimouth?
Possibly, because as soon it was abandoned by the sober colonists it
apparently became a port of call for the less upstanding of those
who plied the oceans during the 1600s. According to Donald Wood's
"Cape Cod - A Guide," the sand dunes of what was then called Cape
Cod (what we now call Provincetown) sheltered "a wild, undisciplined
and unprincipled crew of traders and fishermen from nearly all parts
of Europe. Drinking, gambling and bacchanalian carousals, were
continued sometimes for weeks with unrestrained license."
As settlers moved down the Cape from Sandwich and Barnstable and
Yarmouth towards the tip, the town of Truro was incorporated in 1709
and the sandy hook known as Cape Cod and its big harbor was
included. But this didn't stop the activities of the smugglers and
the privateers who frequented the wild area. Finally, more English
settlers arrived, the wild were somewhat tamed, and Provincetown was
incorporated in 1727. As a town, it then declined until the end of
the French and Indian Wars when deepwater whaling became an
industry. Provincetown's great harbor came alive. By the War of 1812
Provincetown had a thousand residents. During the war these
residents remained neutral and after the war, as whaling activities
grew, whaling captains, replenishing their crews in the Cape Verdes
and Azores brought Portugese to Provincetown. As the whaling phased
out, Provincetown became a center for the Portugese fishermen whose
descendents are part of the backbone of Provincetown's economy
While fishing continues to represent a major part of life in
Provincetown, today there is another side to Provincetown, which
began at the turn of the 20th century when Charles Hawthorne
established an art school. As an art colony Provincetown flourished
and in 1915 when the Provincetown Players was established, it became
a mecca for theater. Eugene O'Neill joined the players in 1916.
Art, theater and fishing still exist side by side in Provincetown.
As do alternative lifestyles.
As a place to visit Provincetown is popular for many reasons. Want
to go whale watching? The MacMillan Wharf is the place to start.
Want to people watch? The human parade up and down bustling
Commercial Street is an endless opportunity to satisfy the urge.
Want to climb higher than anywhere else on Cape Cod and then indulge
in some history? Climb the Pilgrim Monument, rising 252 feet above
the 100 foot hill it sits on. Its cornerstone was laid in 1907 as
President Teddy Roosevelt looked on and President Taft attended its
dedication in 1910. For all the details and more of Provincetown's
history, the excellent Provincetown Museum is at the base of the
monument. Exhibits range from memorabila of Adm. Donald MacMillan's
Arctic expeditions to the history of Provincetown-Boston Airlines,
the first commuter airline in the country, founded in 1949 by John
A large part of Provincetown lies in the National Seashore where
there is a visitors' center and miles of scenic bike trails.