2020 Commercial 018 Pungo Corrected All



“The real founder of the art colony was a woman, in 1896,” Stephen Borkowski, former chairman of the Art Commission, wrote in 2014, as evidence grew that the Cape Cod School of Drawing and Painting — run by Martha Dewing Woodward (1856-1950) — preceded Charles Hawthorne’s school by three or four years. Born in Williamsport, Pa., Woodward attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Académie Julian in Paris (sharing the latter credential with Max Bohm; Oliver Chaffee Jr., of 3 Central Street; Richard E. Miller, of 200-200A Bradford Street; and others). Despite her training, she suffered discrimination and even rejection by the art establishment because she was a woman. She dropped her first name, said Mary Sieminski, who is researching the artist’s life, and became known as the less determinate “Dewing Woodward.” Her teaching career began in the early 1880s, at what is now Bucknell University — then the University of Lewisburg. Woodward was appointed head of the art department at Goucher College — then the Women’s College of Baltimore — in 1892. Four years later, she and her longtime companion, the artist Laura Louise Johnson (b 1869), bought property in Provincetown from the Nickerson family.¹ They soon opened their art school. The cottage on their property was called Pungo and it served as a kind of civic landmark, since it stood at what was then denominated 1 Commercial Street. (The numbering system changed confusingly in the early 20th century, when No. 1 became No. 18.) Pungo was destroyed by fire on 6 December 1907. “Owing to the isolated situation of the building combined with the big start the fire got, all efforts to save it were unavailing and it burned to the ground,” the Engineers of the Fire Department reported. I don’t know exactly what the relation of that cottage was to the Long Point floater at 18 Commercial Street. The 1910 street atlas shows a small structure in the rear yard. Perhaps that was Pungo, and the compiler of the atlas hadn’t yet removed it. In any case, Woodward and Johnson were nearing the end of their short while in Provincetown. By 1916, their chief involvement was with the Blue Dome Frat (or Fellowship), first in Bearsville, N.Y., and then, for several decades, in Miami. They left ceding to Hawthorne the claim as founder of the art colony, at least until recent years.

¶ Last updated on 30 May 2018. ¶ Image from the Atlas of Barnstable County (1910), courtesy of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum.

¹ Nickerson et alia to Woodward et alia, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 224, Page 516.

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