Somewhere — under the boxy show-window bays flanking the front door, under the awning, under the signs, under the skylights — dwells the memory of a classic full Cape house from the early 1800s. The facade survived remarkably intact until the property was converted into a condominium in 1982 with two commercial units facing the street. That was when the bays were added; 4-feet-4-inches wide and 1-foot-5-inches deep, with plate-glass windows under shingled hip roofs. That was 20 years before the creation of the Provincetown Historic District. It’s difficult to imagine such a radical transformation being permitted today by the commission that regulates the district.
The house is visible on an 1858 street atlas as belonging to a “Mrs. Sparks.” In 1884, James Sparks lost the property in a foreclosure by Harriet S. Atwood and John W. Atwood, who held the mortgage. By 1910, the property was in the hands of Joseph Augustus Manta (1873-1954). His father, Capt. Joseph Manta (1846-1928), was a wholesale fish dealer and shipping agent whose base of operation — Joseph Manta’s Wharf — was across the street, as was the Manta family home, 179 Commercial Street.
182 Commercial Street, left, in the mid-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.
Photographed in 2011 by David W. Dunlap.
The dragger Francis J. Manta grounded at Provincetown in an undated, uncredited newspaper clipping found in the Raymond W. Lewis Scrapbook, in the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 6532.
Joseph A. Manta studied in the Boston unit of the national Bryant & Stratton College chain of business schools, then took up his father’s fishing business. He and his wife, Emma Cecelia (Silva) Manta (1881-1967), had a son, Francis Joseph Manta (1907-1996), a salesman who served as a corporal in the Army during World War II. He was also the namesake of a somewhat luckless trawler, Francis J. Manta, which fished largely out of New Bedford in the 1930s and 1940s, though Provincetown was its hailing port. Francis J. Manta appeared with some frequency in news accounts, having run aground or been battered by storms. And it finally came to wreck in the early 1950s.
Emma Manta resided in this house until her death in 1967. Francis was still living here at least as late as 1975. He sold the house two years later, for $62,000 to Linda F. Weinstein of Provincetown.
With telltale half windows tucked under the second-story eaves, 182 Commercial reveals its great age from the western (or southern) side elevation. 2011, Dunlap.
Left: The side elevation. 2011, Dunlap. Right: A whimsical sculpture from the Kacergis family’s Provincetown Welding Works, 3 Bradford Street. 2019, Dunlap.
Linda F. Weinstein in her Provincetown Fabric Shop. From The Provincetown Mood Sampler, 1979. Lent by Michael MacIntyre to the Municipal Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 5651.
Advertisement in Provincetown Magazine (Volume 1, Number 3), 1977. Lent by Tony Fitsch to the Municipal Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 5623.
Left: The logo for the Provincetown Fabric Shop as it appeared in an ad from the Provincetown Art Association and Museum Summer Catalog of 1978. Right: Ad from the Provincetown Banner, 25 May 1995.
Weinstein was an important force in Provincetown in the 1970s and 1980s. In this house, she opened the Provincetown Fabric Shop, where one could find beach and bath towels, bedclothes, blankets, Butterick patterns, fabrics, instruction books, mattress covers, knitting accessories, needles, needlework art, notions, Simplicity patterns, and yarns. Weinstein was on the editorial board of Womantide magazine in the early 1980s and served at the same time as a director of the Human Rights Coalition in Provincetown.
She and Frank M. Weinstein sold the property in 1982, for $82,500, to Edward J. “Brad” Brady and Kenneth C. Summerbell, who were at that time proprietors of the Moffett House, 296A Commercial Street. The two were involved in several consequential condo conversions in this immediate neighborhood in the 1980s: the BEKS Condominium at 167 Commercial Street and the Captain’s Court Condominium, 179 Commercial Street, where Joseph A. Manta grew up. They called this conversion the Bradken House — a portmanteau of their given names. Judging from the plans they filed, I am supposing that Brady and Summerbell were responsible for the substantial transformation of the building’s facade. In addition to the two front retail spaces, they established two residential units in the main house, and a fifth unit, also residential, in an outbuilding.
Unit 5 was the home and studio of the artist F. Ronald Fowler (1946-2014) for more than two decades.
See also Bradken House Condominium (Unit 5).
Left: Passion of St. Gertrude, by F. Ronald Fowler, 37 by 30 inches, mixed media. Collection of David Jarrett. Right: Absalom III, by F. Ronald Fowler, 67 by 16 by 5 inches, mixed media. Collection of David Jarrett.
Among the retail tenants in the 1980s and 1990s were the Handled With Care Gallery (noted in a 1984 newspaper listing) and Pride’s of Provincetown, which described itself in a 1995 advertisement as having the “best selection of gay and lesbian merchandise in Provincetown: rainbow flags, pride jewelry, T-shirts.” Residential occupants of the main house during this period included Char Priolo, the lead singer of the Fabulous Dyketones.
The first commercial occupant of Unit 1 — the western (or southern) retail space — was the hairdresser Paul Richards (1948-1988). He had more or less arrived in Provincetown from Michigan with Jim Rann, as Rann recalled it in Catherine Russo’s documentary Safe Harbor: Provincetown Responds to AIDS, 1983-1993.¹ Richards worked for a time at Rann’s salon, Waves, 361A Commercial Street. He purchased the space at No. 182 from Brady and Summerbell in September 1982 for $45,000 and opened Paul Richards Hairdressing – Men and Women. Richards lived at 179 Commercial Street. He was consumed with his business and living the good life, Rann said, which included having his own boat. “He loved the water,” Rann recalled.²
“Paul was a big, blond, boyish Midwesterner with the energy and exuberance of a Labrador retriever,” said the Rev. Kim K. Crawford Harvie, who was then the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, 236 Commercial Street. (She is today the senior minister of the Arlington Street Church in Boston.)
In the fall of 1986, Richards discovered a lesion on his leg. It was a sign of Kaposi’s sarcoma, a cancer intimately associated with acquired immune deficiency syndrome. He received the diagnosis in September and went into a three-day emotional tailspin that only ended when the town nurse, Alice Foley (namesake of Foley House, 214 Bradford Street), showed him a video by Louise Hay, called Doors Opening: A Positive Approach to AIDS.
Paul Richards is second from right, in a blue T-shirt, in this photo, courtesy of Therese Hilliard. Also pictured, from left, are Don Sterton, Doug Asher-Best (né Best), Jim Rann, and Everett Taylor. The photo was taken in 1978 on Charles Street in Boston, Rann said.
Business card for Paul Richards. Courtesy of Marlene Carreiro Sawyer and Shannon Sawyer. (Retouched to eliminate pinholes and handwritten notes.)
“A lot of people with AIDS give up, and are dying soon,” Richards told a reporter in 1987. “I saw men in the video who were healthy and well, and I realized it was possible. But I didn’t know I’d be able to heal.”³
Richards immersed himself in Hays’s work, even traveling to California to meet her. He began emulating her “Hay Ride” healing workshop groups at his own house, beginning with 17 men. The next week, 60 men attended. “The group got so big it had to move,” Harvie said.
And so her U.U. meeting house became home to Hearts, the Healing Arts Institute, conducted by Richards, Victoria Stall, and Nuala Murphy. “The thing that Louise taught and that Paul really brought to us was that healing didn’t mean physical healing,” Harvie said. “We weren’t really anticipating a time when that could happen. The [protease inhibitor] cocktail was unimaginable at that time. This was even before aerosolized Pentamidine. There was nothing. So it was really about loving yourself and forgiving yourself and loving others and forgiving others and just dying peaceful.”⁴
Pasquale Natale, who learned in 1985 that he was H.I.V.-positive, was one of the many participants in Hearts. “We used to meet at night, once a week,” he said in an interview for Safe Harbor. “People, with and without AIDS; people healthy, very healthy; people not healthy. Anyone could go. It was for anyone. We would sit in a circle, talk, sing, do exercises. And I got to meet people. And I was part of something that I never would have done anywhere else.”⁵
Eileen Rose Bindell worked at Paul Richards Hairdressing and took over the business after his death, renaming it Salon Rose. From a commemorative ad for Bindell in Provincetown Magazine, 11 October 2012.
“Going to Paul’s healing circle, during the AIDS pandemic, was a soothing balm to my heart,” Kaolin P. Davis recalled in a a thread on the Facebook page My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection.⁶ Therese Hilliard said: “Paul encouraged me to take a macrobiotic cooking class with him. I started preparing meals and delivering them to Paul and others.” Lenny Alberts added, “Paul and the Healing Arts Institute were a very important resource for the entire town in the 1980s, when so much despair around H.I.V. was prevalent.”
Harvie vividly remembered the Sunday afternoon when Richards spontaneously popped into the meeting house, told her his boat was at the pier, and added, “Let’s go!”
“Paul motored way, way out into the bay, until the leaning steeple of the church took its place in Provincetown’s silhouette on the horizon. He threw the anchor and we sat there, in silence. From a distance, the dying and death, loss and grieving all took their place. Then Paul said to me: ‘Listen. In all this madness, even if it kills every single one of us and there’s no one left to tell the stories, it matters that we love each other well.'”⁷
He succumbed to lymphoma on 20 March 1988. Kay Longcope’s obituary in The Boston Globe began: “The big, bearded, blond man named Paul Richards was not supposed to die.”
“In being involved with Paul and the healing group, some people thought death could be beaten,” John D. Culver, the executor of the Richards estate, told Longcope. “People have to realize that healing yourself doesn’t necessarily mean curing yourself. It means being at peace with yourself. And that’s how Paul beat AIDS.”
Left: Lawrence Moran, from the Snip Salon website. Right: Ad in Patricia Zur’s Provincetown Insider, 2012.
Left: Ad in Patricia Zur’s Provincetown Insider, 2012. Right: Larry Meilleur, from the Ptown Massage + Bodywork website.
A group portrait of the Snip and Ptown Massage teams. Moran is in the doorway. Meilleur is at far right. Copyright © Leah May Dyjak.
Eileen Rose Bindell (1948-2004), who had worked with Richards, took over the business. She renamed it Salon Rose. In 1992, she purchased the property itself, through Culver, from the Richards estate, for $75,000. She sold the shop in 2003 to Todd H. Rousher and Steven J. Mullen, who operated it briefly as Cape Hair.
The business was renamed Snip Salon in 2005 — Something New in Provincetown. Lawrence A. Moran and David Marshall Datz bought Unit 1 in 2008 for $300,000. Moran, the proprietor of Snip, came to Provincetown from New Orleans to work at Salon Rose. He was one of five stylists shown on Snip’s website in 2020; the others being Billie Jean Beetem, Gerald Goode, Thom Marke, and Danny Pantaleo.
Next door, Larry Meilleur purchased Unit 2 from Kathleen Crosby and Marian Pressler in 2002, for $235,000. Meilleur studied Swedish and deep-tissue massage in Québec in 1989 and 1990; then Thai massage in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, in 2006; then yoga teacher training in 2008 near Todos Santos, Baja California. Beside Meilleur, Ptown Massage + Bodywork studio employed three licensed massage therapists in 2020: Leonardo de Alba, Wayne Garcia, and Zoe Milos.
¶ Last updated on 20 January 2021.
182 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 182 Commercial Street:
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2011, by David W. Dunlap.
• Emma Cecelia (Silva) Manta (1881-1967)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 126307472.
• Francis Joseph Manta (1907-1996)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 91286493.
¹ “Jim Rann: Safe Harbor Documentary Transcript” in the Safe Harbor/AIDS Archive Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 4951.
² “Dignity, Death and Healing on the Cape,” by Kay Longcope, The Boston Globe, 27 March 1988.
³ “Experience Gives Man New Lease on Life,” by Jane Harriman, The Morning News (Wilmington, Del.), 5 October 1987.
⁴ “Kim Crawford Harvey [Sic]: Safe Harbor Documentary Transcript” in the Safe Harbor/AIDS Archive Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 4953.
⁵ “Pasquale Natale: Safe Harbor Documentary Transcript” in the Safe Harbor/AIDS Archive Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 4955.
⁶ 182 Commercial Street posting on Salvador R. Vasques III’s Facebook page, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 10 January 2021.
⁷ “What in Your Ministry Should Be Part of the Queer History of Our Faith?” by the Rev. Kim K. Crawford Harvie, U.U. Rainbow History, 23 October 2019.