“Honestly, dear, I don’t do anything special for my friends,” Joanna Filceanna “Annie” (Moore) Rogers (1887-1972) told the Advocate columnist Steve Barrie in 1961. “My home is their home when they visit me, and that’s the way it’s always been.” My home is their home. There’s an entire book to be written about the women of Provincetown who took transient guests into their houses; nameless lodgings that could be found in no guide book but that drew repeat visitors year after year from around the country. They found not only a roof over their head, but hosts like the genial “Ma” Rogers, as Barrie called her, who possessed what he described as a “warm inner glow that embraces everyone — kin or stranger — with a friendliness that is inspiring.”
Annie Rogers and her husband, Charles Nickerson Rogers (1880-1945), moved into this house in 1932. In the 19th century, it was the home of the mariner Jesse Nickerson Jr. (1829-1898), at which time it was denominated 168 Commercial Street, under the old system. He transferred it in 1898 to his son William Kilburn Nickerson (1856-1932), whose career was in transportation of the land-based variety. Nickerson helped build the extension of the Old Colony Railroad from Provincetown to Wellfleet, then stayed with the company after it was acquired by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, working as a fireman and as an engineer. He retired from the New Haven around 1900.
The Nickerson accommodation around 1915, in front of 309 Commercial Street, where John’s Foot-Long Hot Dogs is now. Althea Boxell placed this postcard in Book 6, Page 15 of her extraordinary scrapbooks. It can be seen on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 1811.
His transportation career was just beginning. Nickerson ran one of several “accommodations” that served as public transportation around the turn of the 20th century. The vehicles were called “barges,” but it might be helpful to a contemporary reader to think of them as open-air coaches, horse-drawn or motorized. For a fairly small sum, one could be transported the length of the town, in relative comfort.
When the Nickerson Accommodation raised its fare to a nickel in 1899, The Advocate commented that it was still “a very fair price for a pleasant ride through town.”
To William Nickerson and one of his drivers, Josiah L. “Si” Young, fell the signal honor in 1907 of conveying President Theodore Roosevelt from the Town Wharf to the Pilgrim Monument, where he was to lay the cornerstone. A horse-drawn Victoria carriage, rented from Boston, was put under Young’s command, with Secret Service agents on all sides. The president tipped him $1. Young did not spend the money, but kept the dollar pressed in the family Bible.
The property passed from Nickerson through his wife, Loretta Azelia (Rogers) Nickerson (1856-1916), to Loretta’s nephew — and Annie’s husband — Charles Rogers. Nickerson’s housekeeper, Alice S. Dingley (1848-1943) of Lewiston, Me., survived him. She lived with the Rogers family at 167 Commercial Street for the rest of her life.
The Rogers family in an undated photo; probably around 1920, judging by the boys’ ages. In the back are Charles N. Rogers; his wife, Joanna Filceanna “Annie” (Moore) Rogers; and their son William Nickerson Rogers, the future police chief. In the front are their son Charles N. Rogers Jr; Charles’s mother, Mary Hill (Welsh) Rogers; and the young Irving S. Rogers. This marvelous photo was posted on Ancestry.com by George Marsh on 15 April 2016.
Charles N. Rogers was one of those “widely known citizens,” as The Advocate described him, whose achievements taken individually may not have been especially impressive but, when taken together, form the portrait of a civic life led to the utmost. He was one of Provincetown’s first mail carriers, its baggage master, an engineer at the Cape Cod Cold Storage freezer, a selectman, the town moderator, the master of King Hiram’s Lodge, and the president of the Board of Trade, among other things. “He was the instigator of the plan for moving Ryder Street and for the creation of the plaza on the east side of Town Hall,” The Advocate reported.
Annie Rogers survived him by many years and was a beloved citizen in her own right, operating 167 Commercial Street as a summer boarding house that received guests from as far west as California and as far south as Georgia, Barrie wrote in 1956. She was known as Ma Rogers or Mother Rogers, and the lodging as “Ma’s manse” or simply “167.”
“What makes a tourist house a home?” Dorothy L. Snow of Hamden, Conn., asked in the summer of 1956, and then answered in verse:
It’s often times the simple things that make a house a home —
Pink hollyhocks beside the porch, starched curtains white as foam
And shelves with bits of china rare from out [?] the long ago,
Recalling loved ones who once shared good food and candle glow.
A clock that chimes the hours away in joy and sorrow too —
Beyond the shining window panes a bay of greenish blue.
Red rocking chair, a yellow cat [Minerva], a tea pot, rows of books —
All this can make a house a home, lamp light and cozy nooks.
It’s often times the simple things that make a house a home —
And bids the traveler rest a while ‘ere he sets forth to roam.
A friendly smile, a word of cheer, small talk, a cup of tea,
Companionship — and peace of home — down there beside the sea.
Always the same — from year to year — warm welcome, open door,
Sharing alike with stranger, friend — as lights along the shore.
But most of all, a woman’s touch and understanding heart —
That reaches out to call one back,though many miles apart!
A photograph taken by Althea Boxell in September 1942 showed most of the Nickerson-Rogers house at 167 Commercial. She placed it in Book 2, Page 95 of her scrapbooks. It’s on the Provincetown History Preservation Project site, Page 808.
Outlined in red, the Nickerson house, then known as 168 Commercial Street, can be seen in an 1889 Sanborn Map Company insurance map, from the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division. Digital ID g3764pm.g038261889. The “Hardw” at the top of the map detail is the hardware store of B. H. Dyer, a name that will be remembered by many older readers. (I certainly remember it.) The notch in the property persists.
Two of Charles and Annie’s three sons were prominent in town.
William Nickerson Rogers (1907-1963) was the chief of the Provincetown Police Department for 15 years, from 1945 to 1960. His imposing position and physical presence did not daunt Annie Rogers in the least. One rainy day in the mid-’50s, Chief Nickerson rang the doorbell at 167 Commercial. Her greeting: “You haven’t got your rubbers on! You’ll get yourself a cold. Come in out of the rain.”
Irving Stanley Rogers (1910-1977), was the director of the Public Welfare Department for 14 years, a selectman (frequently chairman of the Board of Selectmen), and a moving force in the establishment of Cape End Manor as a public medical institution. He was also, from 1940 to 1946, the author of the “Puffs and Pot Shots” column in The Advocate, which any local historian will tell you is a useful source of information about life along the waterfront in those years. In his inaugural column, he invited readers to this house.
“You will find a welcome at 167 Commercial Street, or a phone call (242) will receive prompt and prolonged attention (as long as you can last) and eager, ready ear for your yarns. If nodody else will listen to you, I will.”
Charles N. Rogers Jr., their other son, settled in Boston, where Annie Rogers spent her winters. And incidentally, the family’s phone number, 242, survived the introduction of automatic dialing in 1966, when it became 487-0242.
The First National Bank of Cape Cod took possession of this property in 1973, a year after Annie Rogers died. It wasn’t until 1988 that the bank — by then known as the Shawmut Bank of Southeastern Massachusetts — disposed of the property to the BEKS Limited Partnership.
I do not know when the old house was demolished, but the parcel was transformed into a parking lot for the B. H. Dyer & Company hardware store at 171-173 Commercial Street. “There was a big tree where the grass lot met the beach,” George Dunlap (no relation) recalled. “Doreen Devlin taught windsurfing and then would tie the boards to the tree trunk overnight.”
“I loved walking home at night when it was Dyer’s parking lot and seeing the moon on the water,” John Gordon reminisced. “It was sad when those condos were built.”
He referred to the BEKS Condominium, a seven-unit development made to look like a small town square, that was standing in its place by 1989.
¶ Last updated on 29 July 2020.
167 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 167 Commercial Street:
Denise Avallon wrote on 22 November 2011: Charles P. Rogers (father of Charles N. Rogers) was the younger brother of Loretta Rogers Nickerson. He died in 1898 at the age of 42.
George Dunlap wrote on 29 July 2020: The Rogers house? The open lot served for parking for Mary and Phil’s hardware store (Dyer’s), and there was a big tree where the grass lot met the beach. Doreen Devlin taught windsurfing and then would tie the boards to the tree trunk overnight.
John Gordon wrote on 29 July 2020: I loved walking home at night when it was Dyer’s parking lot and seeing the moon on the water. It was sad when those condos were built.
Thumbnail image: Detail of a photo, 1942, by Althea Boxell. Provincetown History Preservation Project site, Page 808.
• Jesse Nickerson Jr. (1829-1898)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 103738428.
• William Kilburn Nickerson (1856-1932)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 153738773.
• Charles Nickerson Rogers (1880-1945)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 172140420.
• Joanna Filceanna “Annie” (Moore) Rogers (1887-1972)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 172140550.
• William Nickerson Rogers (1907-1963)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 172121729.