William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage and Insurance at Harborside (Unit 1) | 154 Commercial Street Condominium.
Into the Abstract Expressionist world of Provincetown in 1965 came a most surprising — if brief — interloper: the contemporary Dutch figurative art movement. Lester Kingsley, an interior designer from New York, had arranged with the Galerie Mokum in Amsterdam to show the works of Barend Blankert, Cornelis Doolaard, Peter Leijenaar, Teun Nijkamp, and others. The Provincetown show at the Kingsley Gallery may, in fact, have been related to the Amsterdam gallery’s major exhibition of 12 new figurative artists (“Twaalf ‘Nieuwe Figuratieven'”). “Many of them were ‘war babies’ born during the German occupation in World War II, a factor that may well explain the macabre aspect in much of the subject matter,” The Advocate wrote. “However, some of it is definitely attributable to ‘the perversity of post-war affluence.'”¹
A photo by the artist Fred van der Wal shows Lester Kingsley attending an opening at the Galerie Mokum, Amsterdam, in May 1969. From Fredvanderwal’s Weblog.
An advertisement in The Advocate of 15 July 1965.
The Kingsley Gallery occupied a house that goes well back into the 19th century. It once had a beautiful Greek Revival entranceway, captured in the 1953 guide book Provincetown in Picture and Story. It was the home in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the Cross family, including the mariner Joseph Cross and the seaman William P. Cross, when it was denominated 149 Commercial Street.
Lawrence S. Richmond took this photo of the 154 Commercial Street doorway around 1946. It was furnished in 2020 by his daughter Lauren Richmond.
Elizabeth (Harris) Manta (1881-1955) acquired the property in 1922 and the house remained the family’s hands for the next 37 years. She was a singing teacher and a soloist at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, which was known in her day as the Church of the Redeemer. Her husband, John Rogers Manta (1876-1957), was a Provincetown native and son of the namesake of the schooner Philomena Manta, whose crew was immortalized by Charles W. Hawthorne. Manta built watches, painted signs, played in dance orchestras, and ran an optometrist office before he began a long career in public service. His roles at Town Hall included tax collector, selectman, and chairman of the Board of Selectmen. Manta was also clerk of the Second District Court in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
After his wife died, Manta lived alone. Two days after Christmas in 1957, he stopped picking up the newspaper from his front door. When his newsboy, Michael Henrique, notified authorities that Manta’s Advocates had been piling up outside, the police entered through a side door and found Manta on the floor of the living room-kitchen. Nine days had passed since he died of a cerebral hemorrhage, with no one to help him.²
154 Commercial Street in 2008, when it was Harborside Realty. By David W. Dunlap.
Donald Dieso (1924-2005), a teacher from Revere, bought the property from the Manta estate in 1959 for $10,250. Three years later, he caused a stir in town as the host of a dinner party for the then-famous television star Fay Emerson, who was appearing at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis. In 1965, he caused another polite stir when he made a front room in his home available for the Kingsley Gallery and the young Dutch artists.
The Dieso family sold 154 Commercial Street in 2005 to Stephen Syta, a real estate agent and the author of the novel Lesbians in the Attic, and his husband, Joerg Dressler, an artist. They converted it into a three-unit condominium the next year, with Unit 1 on the first floor set aside for commercial use. Syta was at the time associated with Harborside Realty, which was founded in 1993 by Len Bowen, who was joined in 2005 by Rob Tosner.
The logo of Harborside Realty, as it appeared in 2009.
Rob Tosner (left) and Len Bowen. The photos come from Tosner’s profile and Bowen’s profile on the William Raveis website.
Bowen, who sold real estate in the South End of Boston, moved to town in 1990. He worked for Roslyn Garfield Associates before founding Harborside. Besides being a DJ on WOMR radio, he has served on the finance committee of the U.U. church (where Mrs. Manta was once a soloist), and on the Cultural Council and Planning Board. Tosner has lived in town since 1998. He was a co-owner of the White Wind Inn, and has served on the Provincetown Business Guild (including a stint as executive director), Visitor Services Board (including a stint as chairman), and the Chamber of Commerce. Together with Bowen, he is now an owner of Unit 1, the commercial unit, through the Western Reserve Realty Trust.
Tosner recalled that one of the former tenants at 154 Commercial was DJ Maryalice (Maryalice Kalaghan) of the Boatslip.
A William Raveis ad in The Provincetown Banner of 16 January 2020.
Harborside Realty did business under that name until 2011, when Bowen and Tosner sold it to William Raveis Real Estate. The two men remain at No. 154 as sales associates, together with Lee Ash, the former chairwoman of the Public Pier Corporation; Byllye Avery; Lisa Bergeron, proprietor of the Ptown Cafe and volunteer at the Soup Kitchen in Provincetown; Joseph Bongiovanni and Gregg Peterson, doing business as Joseph & Gregg Provincetown Homes; Gabby Hanna, board member of the Fine Arts Work Center and former executive director of the Provincetown Film Festival and of the Provincetown Business Guild; Joel Harms, doing business as Your Own Provincetown, who — with his husband, Bradley L. Horner — completed a respectful and imaginative renovation of the Cozzi family home, 436 Commercial Street, in 2018 (it was on the market in 2020); Yuriy Litvinov; Rebecca Matarazzi, a beekeeper and former member of the Open Space Committee; David Moulton; Jane Scherer, former proprietor of the Little Fluke restaurant and the West End Deli; Thomas White; and Gerry Woodcome.
Johnny Pak, the proprietor of the Thai Lounge Bistro & Monkey Bar, 149 Commercial Street, owns a unit here. The other apartment is owned by a Wrentham resident.
¶ Last updated on 13 November 2020.
154 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2019, by David W. Dunlap.
For further research online:
• Elizabeth (Harris) Manta (1881-1955)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 167705028.
• John Rogers Manta (1876-1958)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 167704375.
• Galerie Mokum, Amsterdam
• William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage and Insurance
Provincetown office web page.
¹ “Works of ‘Young Dutch Masters’ on Exhibit at Kingsley Gallery,” The Provincetown Gallery, 15 July 1965.
² “Funeral Today for John R. Manta,” The Provincetown Advocate, 9 January 1958.