A Brief History
An historic fishing port, Provincetown is situated at the tip of Cape Cod in an area of spectacular natural beauty, surrounded by miles of dunes and beaches. Provincetown has a diverse and singular history. The Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown in 1620, and signed the Mayflower Compact, a declaration of self-determination and radical thought that characterizes the history and people of Provincetown, even today. Provincetown, Land's End or Hell Town as its been known, has been home to sailors, pirates, fisherman, painters and authors for centuries.
In the 1800's Provincetown, with the largest and safest natural harbor on the New England coast, was one of the greatest and busiest sea ports in the country. The fishing industry soon faltered and the Portland Gale of 1898 swept away half of the town's wharves. It was then that Provincetown turned to another fledging industry to fill the economic gap...tourism. The resort population that visited Provincetown every summer, provided jobs to take the place of those lost as more individuals and families discovered the magic of Provincetown and Cape Cod.
In the 1920's the artistic and literary productions of the town were of international repute and the abandoned sites of maritime businesses became the new homes of the seasonal visitor as sail lofts, warehouses and barns became studios, galleries and shops. During the 1920's and 1930's a gay & lesbian presence began to grow together with artists, writers, and playwrights from New York City and elsewhere. These newcomers found inspiration in the magical beauty of the "outer Cape" and the freedom to try new ideas. Gradually, contingents of poets, novelists, journalists, socialists, radicals and dilettantes began to visit Provincetown during the summer months. Later many of these visitors took up permanent residence.
Today, the wealth of preserved historic buildings combines with the lure of the sea to create a magical place. The rich texture of cultural, period and social influences has produced a sense of place that is uniquely Provincetown. These special qualities have, for over a century, attracted artists tourists and bohemians who have blended with the local population and produced the character of the community. Provincetown is truly like nowhere else.