Yesterday’s Treasures (Units 7 and 8) | Webster House Condominium.
Cape Codders didn’t need newspapers to tell them when the world was at war. Both global conflicts of the 20th century touched the Cape directly — and also members of the Corea family, whose house this was for many decades. Near the end of World War I, on 21 July 1918, the German submarine U-156 attacked the tugboat Perth Amboy and its train of four barges about three miles off Orleans, shelling Nauset Beach for good measure. Capt. William Joseph Corea (1862-1931) was close enough to hear the gunfire from his sloop-boat. Wisely, he sailed off in the opposite direction. Then, at the beginning of American involvement in World War II, U-87 fired four torpedoes at an Allied convoy off the Cape, before dawn on 16 June 1942. The first two missiles sank a British steam merchant. The second two hit and sank the 5,896-ton American passenger ship Cherokee. Eight-six men were killed, but 83 lived. These were brought to Provincetown for care and attention. And Dr. George Thomas Corea (1888-1955), Captain Corea’s son, was among the physicians who greeted the Cherokee‘s surviving crew.
Photographed in the early 1930s, 176 Commercial Street showed itself as the home of both the Sea Chest antiques store and — if you look very closely at the window bay in the center-left — “Geo. T. Corea M.D.” Posted by Salvador R. Vasques III on his Facebook page, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 11 January 2020.
However, the best remembered Coreas — because they influenced generations of Provincetown children — were the Misses Miriam Christie Corea (1892-1971) and Bessie L. Corea (1896-1980), the captain’s daughters and the doctor’s sisters. Miriam began teaching in 1913 and ended her career, as a fifth-grade instructor at the Veterans Memorial School, in 1955. Bessie began teaching in 1918 and ended her career, as a third-grade instructor at the Veterans Memorial School, in 1961. In their decades of public service, they had also been associated with the Governor Bradford School and the Western School.
“The Corea sisters became legendary schoolteachers here and I remember them well,” George Duncan wrote for the 1997 Provincetown Portuguese Festival booklet, with help from Jackie Gleason and Margaret Roberts.
“They demanded attention and hard work from every student. Today they would be the kinds of teachers who would be idolized by the current chairman of the state Board of Education, Dr. John L. Silber. [“Dr. Silber believed in old-fashioned hard work and academic excellence,” The New York Times said in his 2012 obituary.] George was Provincetown’s first physician of Portuguese ancestry and a brilliant diagnostician.”
The Coreas purchased this property in 1916 from the Rogers family. Manuel Rogers (1823-1888) came to this country from Faial, in the Azores. He was a provisioner, grocer and butcher whose Old Reliable Market was located here in the 1880s, when the property was denominated 175 Commercial Street. Helen P. Rogers (1828-1916), his wife, was English. Their son William E. Rogers was a seaman. The family memorial stands out in the Town Cemetery; a baroque red-granite stela topped by a florid urn. In the year that Helen died, the Rogers family sold the building.
The memorial to Manuel Rogers and his family is a conspicuous ornament to Town Cemetery. Photographs taken in 2009 by David W. Dunlap.
From the 1885 guide and directory, Chequocket; or, Coatuit; The Aboriginal Name of Provincetown. From the MacMillan Collection in the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 364.
Captain Corea, the purchaser, was born in Provincetown, to Betsey and Francis J. Corea. Right out of grammar school, he followed the sea. He went on a whaling trip. He skippered numerous boats that fished the Grand Banks, off Newfoundland. He ran a regularly scheduled passenger, freight, and mail boat between Provincetown and Boston. Then he took command of the sloop-boat Lear C, which was built for him either in Gloucester or Kennebunkport.
“Sloop-boats, as they were called, were very popular with Provincetown fishermen from about 1880 to 1905 [until the advent of inexpensive and reliable internal combustion engines],” Duncan wrote in his 1997 article. “This was particularly so among the Portuguese and frequently a sloop-boat would be the first vessel of significant size that they would own. Due to the power of their single large sails and the generosity of their broad decks, they became ideal for dragging.” It was on the Lear C that Captain Corea found himself near — but not too near — the attack upon Orleans by the German Empire. Not long after that incident, he retired from the sea and operated a taxi service, based at this address.
“The family is a good example of one of Provincetown’s best-kept secrets: Most families with Portuguese surnames whose roots go back four or five generations are multi-ethnic,” Duncan wrote. “Captain Corea’s father came from the Azores, but his mother was born in Ireland. His wife [Mary Ann (McKennon) Corea (1866-1925)] was a Scottish native of Cape Breton Island, Canada.” George was the first born of their children, followed by Miriam and Bessie L. Corea. The family is also a good example of how stationary life used to be. The Misses Corea spent just about all of their lives in this house.
George and his wife, Ruth (Bailey) Corea (1911-1969), were a bit more peripatetic. Ruth Corea was at one time a bookkeeper with the Standard Oil Company in New York; presumably at its then-famous headquarters, 26 Broadway. George Corea attended Bowdoin College. Not having enough money to afford medical school, Corea instead became a registered nurse. He worked at Boston City Hospital in the South End (much later merged into the Boston Medical Center), “gaining invaluable experience as well as the means to take him through Tufts Medical School, from which he was graduated,” the Advocate said in his 1955 obituary. After his internship at Boston City Hospital, he returned to Provincetown.
Bessie Corea. From the Borkowski Collection in the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 5221.
“Capt. William J. Corea, family, and friends on board Lear C.” From the article “The Ethnic Melting Pot: Our Best-Kept Secret,” by George Duncan, with Jackie Gleason and Margaret Roberts,” in the Provincetown Portuguese Festival booklet of 1997. Posted by Salvador R. Vasques III on his Facebook page, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 22 June 2019.
Besides the survivors of the Cherokee, Dr. Corea helped — or tried to help — 8-year-old Morris Enos of Anthony Street when he was stricken with appendicitis; John “Chick” Roderick, when he burned his right hand with a pail of scalding water on Town Pier; the Craton family of Pearl Street after their car skidded down a steep hill during a heavy rain in North Truro, mortally injuring Richard Craton; 9-year-old Edward Davis Jr. of Anthony Street, after the bicycle he was riding collided with a truck; Upton Grozier, whose truck hit a freight train in North Truro, injuring him so severely that he died at Cape Cod Hospital; 5-year-old James W. Roderick, who darted out from behind a hedge on Johnson Street during a game of cowboys and Indians and was hit by a heavily loaded trailer truck, dying instantly.
“His long medical training … along with a kindliness and humility of spirit made him a physician to whom it was easy to explain one’s troubles,” the Advocate said, after Dr. Corea’s death at 67.
In addition to the residence, the Coreas owned a highly visible storefront at a prominent location. In 1922, Captain Corea rented it out to a New York concern that opened a store featuring antiques and Asian art, which the Advocate did not name. A 1931 directory shows it as an antiques shop called the Sea Chest. The proprietor was Austin Dunham, whose costumes were frequently prize-winners at the annual Provincetown Art Association ball. He moved the shop in the early ’30s to 436 Commercial Street. Salvador R. Vasques III posted a magnificent photo of the house, with the Sea Chest installed in the brick-walled first floor where Manuel Rogers sold provisions a half-century earlier.
As the Great Depression gained its terrible traction, 176 Commercial became the Cape Cod Women’s Exchange and Gift Shop. “Handwoven bags, scarfs, hooked rugs a specialty,” a notice in the Advocate said on 29 June 1933. “Home-craft workers are invited to exchange their goods here. [Witherell’s] Glass House candy is also featured and many other attractive novelties.” There was a “Giant Rummage Sale” here in the summer of 1959, sponsored by the Catholic Daughters of America and the Holy Rosary Sodality.
An “Antiques” sign, presumably for the Sea Chest, can be seen on the front of 176 Commercial Street. The walkway depicted in the foreground ran alongside the Anchor and Ark Club, 175 Commercial Street, and may have taken patrons to the beachfront Sea Gull Tea Room. The Cape house to the right of No. 176 is 182 Commercial Street. Posted by John Small on the Facebook page, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 21 February 2019.
A float by the Catholic Daughters of America made its way past a flag-bedecked 176 Commercial Street in this undated photo. Posted by Salvador R. Vasques III on his Facebook page, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 27 November 2018.
Oh, just look at these angels! These were the fifth-graders whom Miriam Corea faced in 1952 at the Governor Bradford School, 44-46 Bradford Street. Posted by Salvador R. Vasques III on his Facebook page, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 13 September 2014.
Bessie Corea died in 1980. A year later, her family sold this property to Peter Leo Boyle II (1945-2002), the innkeeper and real-estate developer who had already transformed Delft Haven, 7 Commercial Street and 10 Commercial Street, into a condominium, and placed his exuberant stamp on the Anchor Inn Beach House, almost directly opposite, at 175 Commercial Street. Boyle and Sandra Rich, owner of the abutting White Wind Inn, 174 Commercial Street, established the Webster House Condominium Trust in 1984, naming it after David A. Webster. Besides being involved in the ownership here, Webster was the first owner of Unit 3 (Cottage 3) at Delft Haven.
The first floor at the front of the main building was divided into two commercial condos, Units 7 and 8, though it has (almost?) always been operated as a single store. Above them was an apartment, Unit 3, with a 292-square-foot living room that had a bay window looking to the northeast. Unit 2, also on the second floor, was entered through a vestibule on the second floor. It also had a northeast-facing bay. The vestibule led to a staircase for Units 4 and 5 on the third floor, which both had high loft ceilings. The living room of Unit 4, at the rear, was 369 square feet. The ell at the rear held Unit 6, on the first floor, and Unit 1, on the second and third floors.
To judge from the records at the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, the Webster House condo went through some choppy waters, with property takings by the Town against unpaid real-estate taxes and deeds transferred to new owners in lieu of foreclosure. Following Boyle’s death, an entity called the Peter L. Boyle II Irrevocable Trust Agreement granted five parcels — Units 6, 7, and 8 in the Webster House; the Anchor Inn in its entirety; and 10R Commercial Street (then designated 23R Bradford Street Extension), which may have been Boyle’s home after he moved out of the Anchor Inn — to a Florida corporation called 3471 Inc. The president and treasurer of 3471 was A. J. Wasson IV.
The August Moon operated here in the mid-1980s. A blurb in the 1985 Provincetown Business Guild guide said: “Authentic Japanese kimono, obi [sash for a kimono], haori [jacket worn over a kimono]; Japanese decorating accessories; unique handmade jewelry; specializing in beaded earrings.” It was owned and run by Paul Endich, proprietor of the Penney Patch, and his wife, Roberta Endich. It was succeeded in 1986 by Zeus, which specialized in decorative accessories and music boxes. Roger F. Kaminsky and Thomas J. Peramba were the proprietors. By 1989, Zeus had moved to 169 Commercial Street.
176 Commercial Street in the 1970s. From the Provincetown Town Centre volume of the Massachusetts Historical Commission inventory of 1973-1977, by Josephine Del Deo and others; at the Provincetown Public Library.
Advertisement in the 1985 Provincetown Business Guild guide to Provincetown. From the collection of David Jarrett.
Judging from the “August Moon” sign, these views were taken in the mid-’80s. Posted by Salvador R. Vasques III on his Facebook page, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 1 January 2017.
Advertisement in Provincetown Magazine, 19 August 1986.
All hell broke loose in February 1997, when the Fetish Chest was opened here by Dick Shappy, a veteran of the adult entertainment business and the antique car collecting and restoring business. (His Dick Shappy Classic Cars abuts his Cadillac Lounge Gentlemen’s Club in Providence.) “‘How much is that sex toy in the window?’ is not the kind of question many in town think a shopping stroller ought to ask,” was the lead of the Banner‘s story. “Most of the complaints following the store’s debut come from members of the condominium association … and seem to be based on the opening weekend’s window display, which some considered both too risqué in itself, and an inadequate obstacle to the pornography and sex toys on the racks within the store.”
One resident said the Fetish Chest looked as if it had dropped out of the sky from 42nd Street in Manhattan. Shappy said he was happy to accommodate objections by tinting windows or blocking views. However, he noted, “To see what’s in there, and to be offended, you have to press your face against the window or bend your neck and really go out of your way.” The Fetish Chest didn’t last very long.
A long period of stability began in 2000 with the opening of the antique store Yesterday’s Treasures, which is still in business at this writing. In 2003, the store’s proprietors — Edward J. Steblein, Thomas Stearns, and Jack Delmond — purchased the two retail units occupied by Yesterday’s Treasures for $350,000. Steblein was also the proprietor of Small Temptations, 306 Commercial Street. He had been a part owner of the New Bedford Antiques Center, which closed in 2019 after 33 years. In Boston, he was also involved in the redevelopment of the handsome but decrepit Minot Hall, at Washington and West Springfield Streets in the South End, as the Minot Hall Antiques Center.
176 Commercial Street in 2019. Photograph by David W. Dunlap.
The store described itself in 2013 as the “ultimate ‘green’ experience” in that it recycled “treasures from the past: estate jewelry, art pottery, mid-century glass, Provincetown memorabilia, Peter Hunt hand-painted items, old tools, nautical items, kitchen wares, antique photos, ephemera, and art — including prints, Cape scenes, and abstracts.” The original partners sold the two units in 2017 to Delmond and his husband, Jacques “Jay” Gagne.
Cape Cod Life writer Haley Cote pinpointed Yesterday’s Treasures as one of six antique shops to visit on the Cape in the August 2017 issue. “Owners Jay Gagne and Jack Delmond keep their 750-square-foot shop stocked with collectibles, many of which are connected to Provincetown’s whaling history,” Cote said. “Maps, historic documents, and harpoons and other fishing equipment from days past are just some of the treasures on hand. Customers will also find Chinese exports and Japanese imari [export porcelain] pieces that whalers brought back to Ptown in the early 1800s.”
At the time of writing, in late 2020, the apartments at Webster House were owned by residents of Massachusetts (Mashpee); Connecticut (Hartford, West Hartford, Wethersfield); New York (Brooklyn); and Maryland (Salisbury).
Yesterday’s Treasures in 2019. Dunlap.
Advertisement in Patricia Zur’s Provincetown Art Guide With Fine Dining, 2010.
Advertisement in Patricia Zur’s Provincetown Insider, 2019.
¶ Last updated on 18 December 2020.
176 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2011, by David W. Dunlap.
• Peter Leo Boyle II (1945-2002)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 171771056.
• Bessie L. Corea (1896-1980)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 139227257.
• Dr. George Thomas Corea (1888-1955)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 129876883.
• Mary Ann (McKennon) Corea (1866-1925)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 1392263572.
• Miriam Christie Corea (1892-1971)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 139227146.
• Ruth (Bailey) Corea (1911-1969)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 139226650.
• Capt. William Joseph Corea (1862-1931)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 129877926.
• Helen P. Rogers (1828-1916)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 51305558.
• Manuel Rogers (1823-1888)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 51305515.