Former Adam Peck Gallery.
The diminutive gallery in this diminutive building, constructed in 1832, was best known until 2016 as the home of the Adam Peck Gallery, owned and run by Adam Peck, a painter, sculptor, and architect, and Marian Peck, a photographer, to whom he is married. Jay C. Anderson of Los Angeles, who purchased the building in 2007, has filed plans with the Historic District Commission to return the building to strictly residential use. Anderson’s plans echoed that of Mary C. (Silva) Souza, whose family owned the property in the first half of the 20th century. In 1932, she closed what had been the Provincetown Public Market to create a small apartment house.
137 Commercial Street, photographed in 2009 by David W. Dunlap.
The Souzas sold the building in 1953 to Philip A. “Philly” Cook (1923-2010) — of the Cookie’s Tap Cooks at 133 Commercial Street — and his wife, Carol F. (Lee) Cook (1933-2010).
Four years later, the Cooks sold 137 Commercial Street to an even more celebrated figure around town: Capt. Manuel Zora (1895-1979), the dashing and daring former rumrunner known as the “Sea Fox.” Zora was arguably at the peak of his fame when he bought this home, since his adventures and misadventures during Prohibition had just been chronicled in a newly published book, The Sea Fox, written with Scott Corbett. Zora added M. Virginia Downsbrough to the deed in 1958. She had won many friends in the Provincetown Public Library by donating dozens and dozens of what the librarian, Marion B. Haymaker, called “the best selected young people’s literary gems ever gotten by us at one time.”
Left: An advertisement in The Advocate from 24 March 1966. Right: The cover of The Sea Fox, which was published in 1956, a year before Capt, Manuel Zora bought this property. Reynold C. Pollak designed the cover.
Zora and Downsbrough sold the property in 1960 to Rita M. Mark (d 2002) and Bernard A. Mark of Cambridge. In the mid-1960s, Bernie was a partner of Penny Knoles in Plain and Fancy Gardens, a landscape and garden service. He was also one of the witnesses to the astonishing sight in 1965 of a Cuban freighter, Bahía Santiago de Cuba, in Provincetown Harbor. Meg A. Stewart and Maureen Wilson, founders and owners of Blue Bay Real Estate, bought the property from the Marks estate in 2003 for $550,000, and sold it four years later to Anderson for $1.2 million. Anderson owns the large abutting parcel at 139 Commercial Street, as well as the Prince Freeman Westend Waterfront Compound, 51-53 Commercial Street, which he’s redeveloping at this writing.
A 4-by-6-inch business postcard for the Adam Peck Gallery featured his artistic signature.
The gallery at night, in 2011. David W. Dunlap.
The Pecks opened their gallery here in 2009. Adam Peck’s artistic signature is a half-Cape house rendered as five rectangular planes suspended in space: the door, flanking windows, the roof and a red chimney. The front wall is only implicit. Stare at this simple composition only briefly, and you’ll find a face staring back at you. “For me,” Peck has written, “it represents the great mystery of something that is very integral to what we consider civilized life — a house, a habitation, a shelter. The house has a face, it has a facade, and like all things at its most reduced, it is symmetrical.” The gallery had operated both here and at 142 Commercial Street. After a multi-artist exhibition called “Nightmare,” in October 2016, this gallery closed.
In 2017, the space served as a pop-up office for Hammer Architects of Cambridge and Truro, a practice that has been quite busy in Provincetown of late. Indeed, they are the architects for Anderson’s ambitious project at 51-53 Commercial Street, though Anderson is using Peter McDonald Architect of North Eastham for his project here. McDonald’s summary stated: “Building footprint to remain the same, intent is to eliminate commercial gallery space and to have two apartment units.” The building must be raised about one foot to allow for a proper foundation, McDonald stated. Because that will require a step and landing, and because the step and landing would exceed the property line if they were place where the front door is now, the entrance is to be moved to the side of the building.
Which means the house will be a home. But no longer symmetrical.
From the application for changes to 137 Commercial Street filed in 2017 by Peter McDonald Architect on behalf of Jay C. Anderson. The file is available through the Town of Provincetown Archive Center, Document No. 17234.
¶ Last updated on 4 February 2019.
137 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2011, by David W. Dunlap.
For further reading online
• Hammer Architects
Hammer Architects website.
• Peter McDonald Architect
Peter McDonald Architect website.
Application to the Historic District Commission for 137 Commercial Street, Town of Provincetown Archive Center, Document No. 17234.
• Adam Peck Gallery
Adam Peck Gallery website.