Cove Real Estate.
Between the subject and the portraitist, John W. Gregory’s famous 1947 photograph of John Joseph Gaspie (1884-1961), the zealous shellfish constable of Provincetown, is emblematic of a past that was still present in the years after the Second World War. This building was Gaspie’s last home, from which he was taken by ambulance on 3 July 1961 when he died en route to Cape Cod Hospital, at 76. The house has also long doubled as a business address. In the 1880s, when Gaspie was an infant in the Azores and this parcel was denominated 129 Commercial Street, Charles S. Hopkins sold fruit, vegetables, “pure candies,” and “all the popular brands of cigars” from this storefront.
Left: Portrait of John J. Gaspie by John W. Gregory (1947), from the Town Art Collection on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 1507. (It is labeled “Captain John Gaspa.”) Right: Gaspie’s memorial in the Alden Street Cemetery, or Town Cemetery, in a 2017 photo by David W. Dunlap.
The fisherman Manuel B. Ferreira (1911-1988) and his wife, Helen N. Ferreira, bought the property in 1946 and owned it until 1964. The Ferreiras were landlords to Gaspie, “Lord Protector of the Quahogs,” as the legendary chef Howard Mitcham called him. Gaspie came from the island of Pico — surely an evocative place name for anyone who has read Frank X. Gaspar’s novel, Leaving Pico. (Gaspar, who grew up at 119 Commercial Street, is a grandson of Gaspie. The grandfather in the novel is named John Joseph.)
Gaspie came to Provincetown after working in New Bedford as a streetcar motorman and on the Boston Fish Pier. Early in his shellfish constabulary, in 1947, Gaspie called for a prohibition on the raking of quahog beds on the east side of the West End Breakwater, concerned that such wholesale depletion was destroying spawn before they had a chance to set. “A true conservationist, a raconteur and wit, beloved by all who knew him,” his headstone says, before closing on this epitaph: “Death, you old bugger, you can’t be proud of me. I’m just a handful of dust.” The memorial is topped with a surprisingly noble bas relief of a quahog.
Joseph G. Souza and his wife, Christine A. Souza, bought 134 Commercial Street from the Ferreiras in 1964. Souza ran J. & P. Builders, a contracting business, from this address in the late 1960s. Keith R. Stone and Louis Policano, who already owned 132 Commercial Street next door, bought No. 134 in 1989.
Robert E. Walker, the owner of Ball Sportswear, purchased the property in 2004. For a brief time, the Ball store was operated here, somewhat incongruous in the old West End with its cheeky and homoerotic aesthetic. In 2005, Lonely Planet said Ball carried “a proprietary swimsuit design that does for the male lower anatomy what the push-up bra does for the female upper anatomy.”
Deborah Martin, co-founder in 2004 of Cove Properties, bought the building from Martin in 2006. She operates Cove Real Estate here, with the agents Brenda Dean and Jill Smith.
Back in the day when it was denominated 129 Commercial Street, under the old numbering system, this building housed Charles S. Hopkins’s store. The ad appeared in an 1885 brochure and directory titled Chequocket; or, Coatuit: The Aboriginal Name of Provincetown. In the MacMillan Collection on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 364.
Hopkins seemed to have carried a wide variety of goods — something for everyone, in fact. From The First Resident Directory of Provincetown, Mass., published in 1886, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 171.
Left: Ball’s advertisement appeared in the Provincetown Phonebook of 2004-2005. Right: The Cove logo comes from its website, capecodcove.com.
¶ Last updated on 28 January 2019.
134 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2010, by David W. Dunlap.
For further reading online
• John Joseph Gaspie (1884-1961)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 119468495.
• Deborah Martin
Cove Real Estate website.