Puritan Fish Freezing Company cold storage plant.
The short-lived, five-story Puritan freezer, which opened in 1914, was the middle one of three plants developed by Joshua Paine [III] (1865-1932). He also took the lead in financing the Cape Cod Cold Storage Company freezer, 125 Commercial Street, constructed in 1912-1913, and the Colonial Cold Storage Company freezer, at 229 Commercial Street in 1915. Its elegant former engine room still stands. The Puritan “was never very successful and only operated for five years,” Irving S. Rogers wrote in a thumbnail history of the freezing plants.¹ Paine would later be convicted of monopolistic practices in the Boston “Fish Trust” case, begun by federal authorities in 1917.
Arson plagued Provincetown during Prohibition, when bootleggers’ accomplices set fires in the West End to divert the authorities from Beach Point, where illegal liquor — picked up by local fishermen from the line of ships known as Rum Row, just beyond the 12-mile U.S. territorial limit — was being landed by the thousands of bottles.
Not long after midnight on 1 November 1927, the abandoned Puritan plant was torched. It was an all-hands inferno, requiring every piece of equipment the Fire Department had: Hose Companies Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5; Ladder Company 1; Steamer Company 3; and Chemical Company 4.² The flames were so bright they could be seen in Plymouth.³ A total of 30,000 gallons of water and 180 gallons of chemical suppressant were dumped on the blaze. All but one adjacent building was saved by the firefighters’ hard work, but the derelict Puritan plant was declared a total loss — about $80,000 (roughly $1.2 million today).
Seven-year-old Joseph Andrews watched this fire from his home at Franklin and Bradford Streets, little imagining that the stage was being set for the reuse of the site, beginning in 1951, as Flyer’s Boat Yard, where Andrews would one day work with his old friend Francis A. “Flyer” Santos.
The Puritan Fish Freezing Company Cold Storage was so short-lived that it doesn’t appear on most street atlases. But happily, it does show up on a 1919 Sanborn’s insurance map in the town’s possession, on Plate No. 3.
Ross Moffett photographed the fire at the Puritan Fish Freezing Company freezer in November 1927. The first alarm was sounded at 1:45 a.m., suggesting that this was taken the next morning. The photo is in the Moffett collection on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 69.
¶ Last updated on 17 January 2019.
131A Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 131A Commercial Street:
Flyer’s Boat Rental | Flyer’s Boat Shop (General article).
Thumbnail image: Detail of the Provincetown insurance map published in September 1919 by the Sanborn Map Company, Plate No. 3.
¹ “Puffs and Pot Shots,” by Irving S. Rogers, The Provincetown Advocate, 7 November 1940.
² Town Records and Reports of the Town Officers of Provincetown, Mass., for the Year Ending December 31, 1927, Page 86. Available in the Annual Town Reports Collection on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 5327.
³ “Cape Cod Confidential: Provincetown No Stranger to Fire,” by Evan J. Albright, The [Yarmouth] Register, 5 March 1998, Page 10.