Cottage | Former Joseph Matthews fish warehouse.
The real deal. Ancient. Dilapidated. Rough and tumble. Working waterfront. Overlooked. Forgotten. Doomed.
The two-story cottage at 129 Commercial Street was originally one of several small fish warehouses lined up between the shoreline and the grocery store of Joseph Matthews. You can spot it in street atlases of the 1880s, one of which is shown below. The building was long ago converted into a two-unit residence; one up, one down; a single 13-by-23-foot room on each floor. At some point, the land on which it sits was carved out of the Matthews property at 131 Commercial Street (formerly denominated 124 Commercial Street) and annexed as a kind of ell to the 129 Commercial Street parcel.
The backyard cottage at 129 Commercial was once a fish warehouse behind Joseph Matthews’s grocery store. It’s highlighted with a red border on this 1889 street atlas. I’ve also added the route of the future Good Templar Place. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map From Provincetown, Barnstable County, Massachusetts is at the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division. Digital ID No. g3764pm.g038261889.
Matthews (1850-1928) was born on Faial, in the Azores, as was his wife, Candida (Avila) Matthews (1852-1905). His grocery business is listed in a town directory as early as 1886 and shown on a street atlas as late as 1910. In between, he endured a dreadful year — 1905 — during which death claimed both his wife and his namesake, 31-year-old Joseph Matthews Jr.
129 Commercial Street cottage. David W. Dunlap (2011).
Doing business as the One Hundred Twenty Nine Commercial Street Corporation, the Pickard family of Wellfleet bought this parcel in 1990 for $140,000. The corporation’s officers and directors at the time included Alfred J. Pickard Jr., as president, and his wife, Donna L. (Harrington) Pickard, as clerk. The Pickards run the Wellfleet Marine Corporation, which was founded in 1954 by her parents, Warren “Bing” Harrington and Irene Harrington. Stephen D. Pickard and Jeffrey N. Pickard were also directors.
Window detail at 129 Commercial Street cottage. David W. Dunlap (2011).
The corrugated metal wall behind the cottage staircase belongs to the workshop at Taves Boatyard. David W. Dunlap (2011).
The wrapped-up boats in the background are at Flyer’s Boatyard. The photo was taken in early April, before recreational boats went back into the water. David W. Dunlap (2011).
In 2016, the Pickards requested permission from the Historic District Commission to demolish the cottage. “Existing building is structurally unsound with no foundation, in derelict condition and does not meet current Massachusetts state building code and flood zone requirements,” the engineer, William N. Rogers II, wrote in the application. The new wood-frame building, clad in white cedar shingles, would sit on a concrete foundation and meet FEMA elevation standards, Rogers said. Accompanying drawings showed the first floor slightly more than 3½ feet above ground level, and the peak ridge of the roof at 26 feet. (The old cottage is 19 feet high at the roof ridge.) Unlike the cottage, which faces the backyard of 129 Commercial Street, the new building would front on Good Templar Place. The commission approved the application, 5-to-0.
Due to a lack of financing for the project, however, the Pickards were unable to proceed timely. They resubmitted the application to the commission in 2018.
The cottage as seen from Good Templar Place. The replacement building will have its front entrance here as shown in the drawing below and on the right. David W. Dunlap (2011).
Drawings prepared by Deborah Paine and William Rogers II as part of the Pickard family’s application to tear down the existing cottage (left) and replace it with a larger house (right). Provincetown Historic District Commission File No. 18-248.
¶ Last updated on 28 December 2018.
129 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 129 Commercial Street:
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2011, by David W. Dunlap.