Perhaps it’s the absence of antique architectural trim. Perhaps it’s the unusual orientation, with the ell paralleling the street (rather than being tucked away in the rear). Or perhaps it’s the two-tone, saddle-shoe facade treatment. Whatever the reason, this house does not appear at first glance to be nearly as old as town records indicate it is: circa 1780. Sara A. Hamlin (1849-1934), whose family owned 120 Commercial Street (as this parcel was then denominated), sold the house in 1882 to Edwin N. Paine (1853-1935), who married Sara’s sister Abbie N. Hamlin (1844-1919) that same year.
Paine’s roots ran deep in this neighborhood. J. & L. N. Paine’s Wharf at 105 Commercial Street took its name from Edwin’s father, Joshua Paine Jr. (1819-1891), and from his uncle Capt. Lysander N. Paine (1831-1918), whose own fine home was at 96 Commercial Street. Joshua had run a lumber and coal yard at 125 Commercial Street. Joshua Paine [III] (1865-1932), Joshua Jr.’s son and Edwin’s brother, subsequently developed the Cape Cold Storage Company complex on the same site, 125 Commercial Street, and Edwin was the president of the operation before it was acquired by the Atlantic Coast Fisheries Company. Like Uncle Lysander, Edwin was also deeply involved in the Seamen’s Savings Bank, headquartered at 90 Commercial Street, serving as a trustee, as a corporator, and as a member of the board of investment. In later years, he was an insurance agent.
129 Commercial Street. David W. Dunlap (2011).
He was also an experienced firefighter who managed on an early May morning in 1917 to train a garden hose on the roof of the abutting house at 127 Commercial Street, where his neighbor Nathan R. Freeman lived. The shingles were ablaze, ignited by sparks from the chimney. Paine extinguished the fire before the first of several fire companies (one of which was just around the Turn) could even get to the scene.
Paine had always been close to his sister-in-law, Sara Hamlin. After his wife died in 1919, they shared this home. In 1931, Paine and Hamlin jointly presented the lightning-splitter house across the road, 128 Commercial Street, to the First Universalist Parish of Provincetown, for use as a parsonage, which it remained until 1959. She died in 1934. He followed the next year. The property came into the hands of Edwin’s sister, Nancy W. Paine Smith (1859-1940), the best known of the Paine siblings as the author of The Provincetown Book (1922) and A Book About the Artists (1927), both of which remain important resources for any student of town history. The house was sold out of her estate in 1952 to Frank “Bisca” Taves (1905-1984) and his wife, Mary (Patrick) Taves (1909-1993).
Left: Side view of the house, taken in 2011 by David W. Dunlap. Right: Portrait of Edwin N. Paine from Ice and Refrigeration Illustrated, 1 July 1913, Page 7. On Google Books. The caption in the magazine says “Edward,” but the 1920 census gives Edwin’s profession as the president of a cold storage. I believe this is a picture of him.
Taves was the son of Caroline (Perry) Taves (1887-1973) and of a fisherman, Marion Taves (1883-1962), who had come here from São Miguel, the largest of the Azores. The younger Taves’s nickname was derived from the Portuguese card game of bisca (his name was sometimes rendered “Biska,” or even “Bishka.”) Taves didn’t follow his father to sea, though his role in the fishery was as important as any man’s. Taves devoted his life to building and repairing boats. His boatyard, which opened in 1939 at 129R Commercial Street. is still functioning — though at nothing approaching yesteryear’s volume — and it still bears his name. In fact, it still seems to have the same hand-lettered sign on its corrugated tin shed that Ross Moffett photographed several decades ago.
With Taves’s acquisition of the house, the entire area between the shoreline and the street came under common ownership. 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. Four years later, under the name of the Taves Corporation, the Pickards acquired the abutting boatyard for $105,000.
The Paine-Taves house is divided into three apartments that Donna Pickard rents out. The two-story Unit 1 has two bedrooms and one bathroom. It sleeps up to six people, at weekly rates that ranged in 2019 from $810 off-season to $2,500 in mid-July and mid-August. The two-story Unit 3 has four bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. It sleeps up to eight people, at weekly rates from $1,100 off-season to $3,400 in mid-July 2019.
129 Commercial Street, set up for guests in late May. David W. Dunlap (2018).
¶ Last updated on 27 December 2018.
129 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 129 Commercial Street:
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2016, by David W. Dunlap.
For further reading online
• Abbie N. (Hamlin) Paine
Find a Grave Memorial No. 79665742.
• Edwin N. Paine
Find a Grave Memorial No. 79665655.
• Frank “Bisca” Taves
Find a Grave Memorial No. 190457791.
• Mary (Patrick) Taves
Find a Grave Memorial No. 190457836.
• 129 Commercial Street
Unit 1, We Need a Vacation website.
Unit 3, We Need a Vacation website.
• Wellfleet Marine Corporation
Wellfleet Marine Corporation website.