I’ve had the good fortune to be invited to Provincetown, MA for an extended weekend. A former fishing town that boomed in the 1800’s, it has since become known as a center for the arts and tourism. With a permanent population not much above 3000, the summer population swells to over 50,000. At the tip of Cape Cod, the town is accessible by ferry from Boston, or by car across the Cape. Once you get here, though, you enter an environment where the pedestrian, rather than the car, controls the public space of the street.
An example of compact, dense New England town planning, Provincetown has narrow streets, houses very close to one another, and multiple services all within easy walking distance. Starting at our friend Joe’s house on Cottage Street, within 15 minutes’ walk east on Commercial Street, we pass restaurants, a hardware store, several coffee shops, many restaurants, clothing stores, houseware stores, art galleries, the Town Hall, public library, post office, tailors, small grocery stores, two cinemas, hotels. Cars on Commercial Street move at a snail’s pace, making way for people constantly crossing and spilling off the sidewalks. Many benches, stoops, and low walls beckon walkers to sit and relax.
The Historic District is filled with beautiful old frame structures, many from the early and mid-nineteenth century. On a rare infill lot, site of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, the firm Machado and Silvetti designed a wonderful, modern addition to complement the historic, older museum. This is a great example of how sensitive, modern architecture can be respectful and contextual with its historic neighbors, without resorting to overt historicism. The weathered cedar shingles, wood trim, and scale all feel appropriate to this New England townscape.
Beautiful historic architecture; great modern infill; lots of vibrant street life; abundance of independent stores and restaurants; and lots of small-scale charm. No wonder people jam into this community every summer for a New England urban experience that’s pretty darn special.
[thanks to Chris Devers for the shot of PAAM which was, well, just a lot better than my own]