In one of the greatest losses to the town’s artistic patrimony of recent years, the eccentric but splendidly expressive Dubois Studios — three discrete artist’s lofts, each with its own north-facing windows, emerging forcefully from three dormers set into an enveloping gambrel roof — were demolished in 2018, as a result of what the owners called multiple safety hazards. Though the demolition was duly approved by the Town, the loss of the building meant the severing of a tangible link to the presence of Saul Ader (1921-2005), Keith Althaus and Susan Baker, Kenneth Campbell (1913-1986), Giglio Raphael Dante (1916-2007), Harry Engel (1901-1968), Jim Forsberg (1919-1991), Richard Iammarino, Peter Macara, Seong Moy (1921-2013), Cookie Mueller (1949-1989), Marian Roth, Myron Stout (1908-1987), and Joan Wye (1926-2006).
The building’s artistic provenance went back to the 1910s, and for many years was tied to the abutting 7 Brewster Street, as they occupied the same tax lot until 1946. This building, 11 Brewster, was known as the Banbury Cross Studios, run by the carpenter Cyrenius A. Lovell Jr. (1870-1919). In 1918, Lovell bought “the stock and good will” of the picture framing and furniture repairing business of James E. Atkins, and advertised himself as successor in the trade. The building is shown on some street atlases as Lovell Studios.
In an ad published in The Advocate on 25 July 1918, Cyrenius A. Lovell Jr. offered picture framing at his Brewster Street shop. The 1929 Sanborn insurance map (Plate 10) identified the present-day 11 Brewster, upper right, as “Lovell Studios.” The smaller studio on the lot is what is now the Moy family house at 7 Brewster. The Edwin Reeves Euler Building, 4 Brewster Street, is the large structure in the lower left that’s also labeled “Studios.” The map comes from the Town’s collection.
In 1923, his widow, Cora Eunice (Nickerson) Lovell (1872-1954), married George W. Starbuck of Bourne. She sold the Provincetown property five years later to Norman A. Dubois of Needham.¹ That’s why it became known as the Dubois Studios. Dubois and his wife, Theresa H. Dubois, divided the Brewster Street property, selling the north half to Mary S. Pavao in 1946 and the southern half to Ernest W. Benoit in 1947.² Judging from the summer tenants of the 1940s, the Dubois Studios was not yet an artists’ colony.
That changed in 1948 when the building was bought by Kenneth Campbell and his wife, Mary K. Campbell, of Boston.³ Campbell, a painter, had studied at the Massachusetts School of Art (now Massachusetts College of Art and Design), the National Academy of Design in New York, and the Art Students League of New York, where his instructors included Vaclav Vytlacil, who had also influenced Seong Moy. Within weeks of the sale, Campbell and Giglio Dante established the Studio Five School of Creative Painting and Modern Dance at 11 Brewster Street, noting in their early ads — quite importantly — that it was “Approved Under G.I. Bill,” which provided tuition to veterans of the Second World War who wanted to attend high school, college, or a vocational or technical school. Studio Five took its name from Campbell’s school in Boston, a building at 5 Otis Place that he’d remodeled with large studio spaces on the upper floors.
Left: 5 Otis Place in Boston, seen in a screen grab from Google Maps, was renovated into a studio building by Kenneth Campbell. Right: Studio Five in Provincetown, which advertised in The Advocate on 4 August 1949, took its name from the Boston building.
Left: Maya (1952-1958), one of Campbell’s first sculptures, stands nearly six feet tall. From the Kenneth Campbell Sculpture website (“Sculpture“). Right: Kenneth Campbell. From the Kenneth Campbell Sculpture website (“Introduction“).
Campbell and Dante staged demonstrations on Tuesday nights. The first session, in July 1948, attracted an audience of 75 students and spectators, The Advocate said.
“Both artists approached their subject with simplicity and conviction. Mr. Campbell, working on a horizontal surface slightly above floor level, gave initial insight into the automatic evolution of shapes and color relations, and their power to develop a personal creative message. Mr. Dante, at his easel, showed the constructive power of the abstract idiom by way of figure construction in relation to the volume of space. He first presented this with the Classic Form, and then, at the insistence of the audience, he developed it in a Dramatic Form.”
Dante was not listed in ads for the summer session of 1950, suggesting a parting of ways, and “Modern Dance” was no longer part of the school’s name. The school closed in 1952.
Left: Untitled (circa 1953-161), by Myron Stout, charcoal on paper, Whitney Museum of American Art (50th Anniversary Gift of Sanford Schwartz), Accession No. 80-11. Right: Untitled, No. 2 (1956), by Myron Stout, oil on canvas, Whitney Museum of American Art (Gift of Charles H. Carpenter Jr.), Accession No. 2007.1.
Myron Stout arrived at the end of the summer of 1954, when he was beginning in earnest his exploration of black and white paintings. He told Robert F. Brown, during a 1984 interview for the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art:
“I moved up to 11 Brewster … and painted throughout the winter and through the next fall. That winter is when the black and white paintings came. They came so fast I couldn’t paint them. I got enough started to last me for three or four years. … I found out how to make the two colors enough, so I could make a complete statement with them.”
At the same time, Campbell — who still owned 11 Brewster — was beginning to devote himself to sculpture, having become frustrated with the limits of two dimensions, according to a short biography on the website of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “His first carvings were made from large pieces of fenestrated driftwood he found on the outer shore at Provincetown,” said the website Kenneth Campbell Sculpture. The website also noted Campbell’s association with numerous leading Provincetown artists, including Jim Forsberg. Perhaps it was at this time that Forsberg was at 11 Brewster, as Salvatore and Josephine Del Deo recalled. The Del Deos also said Joan Wye worked here.
This remarkable 2018 photo by Doug Allen is entirely in color. (Not just the address plate.) Look closely.
The address plate in 2008 (left) and 2018 (right). Photos by David W. Dunlap.
In 1958, Mary Campbell sold the property to Harry Engel, and another vibrant artistic period began.⁴ Engel was a native of Romania whose parents had immigrated to the United States when he was very young. They wound up settling in Flint, Mich., where Engel’s father worked as a tinsmith. Thanks to the patronage of a wealthy uncle who lived in Paris, Engel was able to study for two years at the Académie Ranson, under Maurice Denis (1870-1943) and Paul Sérusier (1864-1927), among others. Back in the States, Engel majored in art education at the University of Notre Dame, from which he was graduated in 1928. He became an art instructor at Indiana University in Bloomington soon thereafter, attaining a full professorship in 1956.
Three Etruscans (1956), by Harry Engel, oil on masonite board, Provincetown Art Association and Museum (Gift of Michael and Sara Wolff), Accession No. 1438.Pa97.
Left: Harry Engel in 1940 or 1941. Image from Indiana Public Media. Right: Fish Cleaners (circa 1952), by Harry Engel, rendered in a woodcut by Howard Mitcham, published in The Provincetown Advocate, 31 July 1952.
As many artists did, Engel spent summers in Ogunquit, Me. After three years there, however, he changed his summer venue to Provincetown in 1945. By 1947, he was participating in an admirable program under which prominent artists offered free one-to-one instruction to promising students from Provincetown, North Truro, or Truro. He rented one of Mrs. Campbell’s studios in 1957, before buying the whole building.
“One of the jolliest fellows you ever saw,” Frank Crotty wrote in a profile of Engel for The Worcester Sunday Telegram, which was reprinted in The Advocate on 21 May 1959.
He “is almost as well known in the town as Harry Kemp. … During the summers, he lives alone in a studio-apartment on Brewster Street, where he works like mad, preparing for his fall and winter shows. He occasionally takes time out for a bit of relaxation with his artist and writer cronies at the Beachcombers and elsewhere.”
Two views of 11 Brewster in the 1950s, when Seong Moy briefly had a studio there. The photo shows that the studio windows were once much larger than they were in more recent years. Images courtesy of the Moy family.
The Dubois Studios in a 2018 photo by David W. Dunlap.
Engel was largely responsible for luring Seong Moy, when the two were both teaching at Indiana University. “He asked me if I would consider returning to Provincetown, with the idea that maybe it was the right time to start an art school,” Moy recalled in a 1971 interview with Paul Cummings for the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.
“I gave the matter a great deal of thought. At that time I already had a family and so we decided to try it one summer …. We rented a place that was adjoining Harry’s, a big studio with living quarters, and I started my first class. It was very successful the very first year, and so from that point on I’ve been spending summers there.”
Engel owned the building until 1969, when it was purchased by Victor Basil,⁵ who sold it three years later to Robert C. Cardinal and Leona Leone.⁶ They owned it only seven months before conveying it for $38,500 to Richard Caouette and Barry Caouette.⁷
During the Caouettes’ ownership, in the early 1980s, the painter and sculptor Susan Baker and her husband, the poet Keith Althaus, moved into the building. “It was living there we were married and had our son, so of course it holds great memories,” Althaus told me in 2019. Baker was born in Upton. She graduated in 1968 from the Rhode Island School of Design with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. She received a visual arts fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in the 1969-1970 cohort, which included Althaus, on a writing fellowship. He had studied painting at the Art Students League of New York, but found himself seduced by the poetry of Stanley Kunitz and Alan Dugan.
Left: Susan Baker in a self-portrait for The History of Provincetown (Burlington: Verve Editions, 1999). Right: Keith Althaus, in a 2018 photo by David W. Dunlap.
Left: Cover of The History of Provincetown, by Susan Baker (Burlington: Verve Editions, 1999). Right: Cover of Provincetown Dogs, by Susan Baker (Hanover: University Press of New England, 2000).
Baker and Althaus lived at 22 Mechanic Street, 28 Cottage Street, and 424 Commercial Street before arriving at 11 Brewster. They settled into the middle unit, which had been vacated by the artist Richard Iammarino and his family. The rear studio was occupied by the artist Peter Macara, whose work includes the 48-foot-long panoramic mural of Provincetown at Lands End Marine Supplies, 337 Commercial Street.
The front studio, with a striking chimney that seemingly pierced the overhanging second story before terminating in a Gaudíesque chimney pot, was the home of Saul Ader, a retired clinical psychologist in New York and Connecticut, and the author of Gifts From Stillness (2001) and Thoughts Without Thinking: A Gathering of Wisdom That Seeks Nothing and Finds Nothing (2004).
The front studio at 11 Brewster in 2011. David W. Dunlap.
“One benefit was it was a stone’s throw from the Work Center on Pearl Street,” Althaus recalled. “I was over there at an evening event when the call came from Susan that her contractions had begun.” The couple drove to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, where their son, Ellery Althaus, was born. He celebrated his first birthday in 11 Brewster Street at a party attended by Alan Dugan and Judith Shahn, among others. (Not every one-year-old can boast of guests like that.)
They moved in 1983 to North Truro, where Susan opened a gallery called the Susan Baker Memorial Museum — a showcase for her exuberant and whimsical paintings and papier-mâché sculptures — and wrote and illustrated The History of Provincetown (1999) and Provincetown Dogs (2000). Althaus, meanwhile, published three collections of his poetry: Rival Heavens (1993), Ladder of Hours (2005), and Cold Storage (2016). Ellery and his wife, Claire Adams, run the Salty Market in North Truro. The photographer Marian Roth succeeded Baker and Althaus in the middle studio.
Above: The north facade in 2018, by David W. Dunlap. Below: On the same view, three color overlays show the partition of the studios, each of which had living quarters downstairs and work space upstairs. The three dormers faced north, ideal light for artists. Susan Baker and Keith Althaus occupied the middle studio (yellow tint).
With the approval of the Historic District Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals, the current owners demolished the building in 2018.¹⁰ Neighbors intervened to save the chimney pot, as recounted by Rosemary Hillard, who was living across the street with her partner, Susan Leonard, at the time:
“As the demolition crew began work, Susan walked over to ask Johno Costa if they were going to save the chimney cap, as it had some historic value. He stated that they had not been instructed to save it and that it was really heavy and he didn’t think it could be removed without breaking it in any event. Susan began explaining the situation to our downstairs neighbor, Joan Pereira, who then went over to lecture Johno on the importance of saving the chimney cap.
“Despite his initial reluctance to tackle the task, Johno was soon instructing the two young men working with him to get up on the roof and attempt to remove the cap. The guys were grumbling about it the whole time they were chipping away at the base of the chimney, commenting about how there was already a crack in it and they were sure it was going to fall apart if they tried to do this. (None of us like to face potential failure do we?)
“At some point they embraced the challenge and were able to chisel the cap away from the chimney, and after wrapping it securely with heavy rope they lifted it carefully, manually, and placed it flat on the roof.
“Now, how to get it to the ground? Johno deemed it too fragile to lift with his machine, so they hit on the solution to slide it across the roof and lower it through a skylight onto a mattress placed on the floor in the room below. The guys then slid the mattress-wrapped chimney cap down the stairs and carried it to a safe spot across the street in the side garden at 10 Brewster, where I photographed it.
“We all congratulated them for their time and effort and I could tell that they were, despite their initial reluctance, proud that they were able to get it down successfully.”
Doug Allen took this photograph of 11 Brewster in June 2018, just before demolition began in earnest.
Only five weeks separate these two photographs of the west facade, by David W. Dunlap (left) and Doug Allen (right).
Wood-frame buildings go quickly. Photograph by Doug Allen.
Three months later, in October 2018, work had already begun on the replacement structure. The red house in the background is 8 Priscilla Alden Road. David W. Dunlap.
Rosemary Hillard took this photo of the chimney pot, rescued from demolition and placed on a lawn at 10 Brewster Street.
11 Brewster Street on the Town Map.
Also at 11 Brewster Street:
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2011, by David W. Dunlap.
For further reading online
• Keith Althaus
“Keith Althaus,” Poetry Foundation.
“Getting to Know Keith Althaus and His New Book Cold Storage,” Mass Poetry.
Cold Storage, Amazon No. 1584650370.
• Susan Baker
The History of Provincetown, Amazon No. 0966035224.
Provincetown Dogs, Amazon No. 1584650370.
Susan Baker: Early Works, Provincetown Art Association and Museum Shop.
• Kenneth Campbell
Kenneth Campbell Sculpture website.
“Kenneth Campbell,” Smithsonian American Art Museum, Artist Biography No. 724.
• Giglio Dante
“Giglio Dante,” Wikipedia.
• Harry Engel
“Harry Engel Papers, 1903-1990, Bulk 1929-1975,” Archives Online at Indiana University, Collection No. C88.
• Cyrenius A. Lovell Jr.
Find a Grave Memorial No. 125742965.
• Seong Moy
“Oral History Interview With Seong Moy, 1971 January 18-28,” by Paul Cummings, Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art, Transcript.
• Marian Roth
“Marian Roth: On Bended Light,” Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Exhibition précis.
• Cora Eunice (Nickerson) (Lovell) Starbuck
Find a Grave Memorial No. 183258924.
• Myron Stout
“Oral History Interview With Myron S. Stout, 1984 March 26-October 3,” by Robert F. Brown, Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art, Transcript.
¹ Cora E. Starbuck et vir to Norman A. Dubois, 9 May 1928, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 455, Page 120.
² Norman A. Dubois et ux to Mary S. Pavao, 11 April 1946, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 644, Page 329.
³ John Pavao et ux to Kenneth Campbell et ux, 14 June 1948, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 696, Page 190.
⁴ Mary K. Campbell to Harry Engel, 27 October 1958, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 1010, Page 401.
⁵ Harry Engel to Mari Basil et vir, 17 September 1968, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 1413, Page 95.
⁶ Mari S. Basil et vir to Robert C. Cardinal et alia, 10 April 1972, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 1630, Page 5.
⁷ Robert C. Cardinal et alia to Barry Caouette et alia, 17 November 1972, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 1758, Page 156.
⁸ Barry Caouette et alia to Darel Moss et alia, 3 February 1984, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 4007, Page 40.
⁹ Town of Provincetown Historic District Commission, Minutes, 15 November 2017, 6 December 2017, 3 January 2018; Town of Provincetown Zoning Board of Appeals, Application for a Hearing, File No. 18-34; Town of Provincetown Zoning Board of Appeals, Minutes, 1 March 2018.