Cora Gray West Fuller (1866-1930) could not — under the law — vote in Massachusetts in the early 20th century. But she could, and did, edit and publish The Provincetown Beacon, the town’s best-read newspaper at the time, from this house. She also edited the Provincetown Advocate after the death of Howard F. Hopkins. She could, and did, help lead the Liberty Loan effort in Provincetown during World War I, raising money from citizens to finance the American armed forces fighting in Europe. The totals were so impressive that Provincetown was given the privilege of naming a 9,400-ton cargo vessel constructed by the United States Shipping Board at the Groton Iron Works. And Mrs. Fuller was the official sponsor of S.S. Provincetown. She also could, and did, lobby the government for a more powerful beacon in the Long Point Light. And her “full, clear soprano voice” was put to use in the successful 1910 campaign by Eugene Foss, Democrat, for the governorship of Massachusetts. (He supported women’s suffrage.)

But that isn’t all that distinguishes 188 Commercial Street.

The shingled elevator bulkhead is clearly visible rising above the rooftop at left in this 2011 photo by David W. Dunlap.

One of Provincetown’s few elevators is here, as is one of its only designated bomb shelters. It was home to Provincetown’s first self-service laundry in 1948 and, since 2020, has been home to MAP, Pauline Fisher’s endlessly inventive, totally cool, and highly regarded apparel and accessories shop. It is one in an archipelago of West End properties owned by John Love “Jingles” Yingling, together with Bubala’s by the Bay, 183-185 Commercial Street; Local 186, 186 Commercial Street; and Spiritus Pizza, 190 Commercial Street. No. 188 has another distinguishing feature: corner pilasters that end mysteriously at the second floor with full-fledged capitals, testifying to the fact that it was originally a two-story house when it was constructed in the 19th century.

188 Commercial Street around 1910, before a third full floor was added, sometime in the 1920s. The Cape house in the right foreground is now Spiritus Pizza. From the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 6, Page 147, in the Dowd Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 1982.

When Edward J. Kilburn had his store in this building, it was denominated 187 Commercial Street. That changed to No. 188 in the early 20th century. The First Resident Directory of Provincetown, Mass. (1886), from the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 171.

The merchant Edward J. Kilburn (1820-1897) bought the property from the Collins family in 1878, when it was denominated 187 Commercial Street, under the old numbering system. Kilburn ran an eclectic store. He dealt in fancy goods, jewelry, foreign and domestic fruits, confectionery, cigars and tobacco, stationery, small wares, and periodicals. (Kilburn was the local agent for the Boston Daily Herald.) He and his wife, Mary S. Kilburn, sold the property in 1893 to the Fuller family.

Albert W. Fuller had a tailoring business here at the turn of the 20th century. On the eve of World War I, Fuller also served as a co-chairman of the Home Guard for the Town of Provincetown; armed citizen volunteers whose job it would be to protect vital civic assets from enemy sabotage and — if it came to that — enemy troops. But it was his wife, Cora, who cut the far higher profile in town.

Cora was born in Provincetown to Eliza (McLean) West (1842-1930) and Capt. Simeon L. West (1836-1919), both of whom had come to this country from what was then the Province of Nova Scotia. The young Cora West was graduated from Provincetown High School in 1886. Three years later, she married Albert Fuller. She studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and, in 1908, won a 20-class scholarship to the Boston Conservatory (now the Boston Conservatory at Berklee). Although she attended Methodist church, Mrs. Fuller was for 25 years the soloist at the Congregational Church of the Pilgrims, 256-258 Commercial Street.

Left: In a letter dated on Armistice Day, and reprinted in the Advocate, First Lady Edith Wilson addressed Cora G. W. Fuller on the subject of S.S. Provincetown. Advocate Online, Provincetown Public Library. Right: A portrait of Mrs. Fuller from The Boston Globe of 5 December 1910, on Newspapers.com.

What The Boston Globe described as her “full, clear soprano voice” was put to use in 1910 on behalf of Eugene Foss, who was opposed to the trade tariffs erected against Canada and was campaigning to unseat Gov. Eben S. Draper, the pro-tariff Republican incumbent. On the Democrat’s behalf, Mrs. Fuller performed “The Foss Battle Hymn,” to the tune of “John Brown’s Body.” A sample:

I have lived to see our merchant fleet recede from every sea —
That happened in the regime of a heedless G.O.P.
But once again all ports shall greet the “Banner of the Free,”
For revolution’s on!

Glory, glory, hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
Foss is marching on.

I have seen the rich man richer grow in my short span of life,
The poor man poorer grown the while, despite unceasing strife
At labor’s wheel for bare support for self, and child, and wife —
But Foss is marching on!

“I suppose because I sang campaign songs, strangers who attended the meeting think I am queer and have mannish traits, am argumentative and peculiar,” she told The Boston Globe, after a performance at Town Hall. “I trust I have all the womanly traits and that my profession being that of a public singer, I did not drop any of them by singing at a political meeting, attended by more than 300 women.” Statewide, Foss captured 52 percent of the vote. But he enjoyed a landslide victory in Provincetown, winning 65 percent of the 459 votes for governor.

Nameplate of The Provincetown Beacon. From the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 11, Page 14, in the Dowd Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 4658.

“My politics?” Mrs. Fuller said in 1910. “I believe in equality, I believe in the income tax, and that senators should be elected by the people.”

She lived to see all three. The 16th Amendment to the Constitution (establishment of a federal income tax) was ratified in 1913, as was the 17th Amendment (direct popular election of senators, who had previously been appointed by state legislatures). The 19th Amendment (recognizing women’s right to vote) was passed by the Congress in 1919 and ratified by the states in 1920.

The Provincetown Beacon, a weekly, was founded in 1890 by Charles W. S. Swift and Herman A. Jennings, whose name will be familiar to anyone who has perused his marvelous guide book, history and directory, Provincetown, or Odds and Ends From the Tip End (1890). Mrs. Fuller took over as editor and publisher in 1905, positions she occupied until 1917. (This is no doubt why 188 Commercial was referred by the Advocate in 1939 as “the building where for many years the well-known Provincetown Beacon was published.”) It’s worth noting that she did not call attention to her gender on the newspaper masthead: “C. G. W. Fuller, Editor and Publisher.”

She thrived in newspapering, all the same. After her turn at The Beacon, which was folded in 1918, she became a correspondent for the Advocate, and took over for a while as editor in 1928, after the death of Howard F. Hopkins. She also worked as a stringer for The Boston Post and The New Bedford Standard (now The Standard-Times). The last article she wrote, shortly before her death in 1930, was her mother’s obituary.

“Launching of Freighter Provincetown, Groton Iron Works, June 19, 1920.” Mystic Seaport Museum. Photographs / USA, CT, Groton / 1920-06-19 / 7.50 x 9.50 x 0 / 1999.186.12.

More than anything, Cora Fuller was a civic leader. In 1917, she was appointed head of the Provincetown unit of the Massachusetts Soldiers’ Information Bureau (or War Information Bureau), whose purpose it was to keep families as apprised as possible of their sons’ whereabouts and welfare, and to let the soldiers in Europe know how things were going on the home front. She directed fundraising pageants like The Spirit of Liberty and The Drawing of the Sword, in which she played the role of “America.” She was the corresponding secretary of the Provincetown War Relief Association.

Mrs. Fuller and William B. Bangs were co-chairmen of the Liberty Loan bond-selling campaigns in Provincetown. They announced in October 1918 that cities or towns showing the highest participation in the Fourth Liberty Loan would be honored in the names of merchant ships being constructed by the Emergency Fleet Corporation, under the U.S. Shipping Board. Recognizing Mrs. Fuller’s “generous, patriotic, and valuable service” during the war, the Morris-Light Post of the American Legion resolved in 1920 that she be designated to sponsor and christen S.S. Provincetown in June 1920 at the Groton Iron Works.

Champagne would not do — not at the dawn of Prohibition. So Mrs. Fuller cracked a bottle of water drawn from the Pilgrim Spring in Truro, from which it was once said that Europeans drew their first fresh water on Cape Cod. “May she have a long and wonderful future,” Mrs. Fuller proclaimed of the ship, “and may her decks never be below water.” That was followed by a flowery declamation based on Longfellow’s “The Building of the Ship,” and then the more trenchant, “Go, Provincetown!” With that, she struck the ship with the bottle and Provincetown slid down the ways to the Thames River.

The seemingly orphaned pilaster capitals at the corners of 188 Commercial Street attest to the fact that the entire roof was raised a full story, sometime in the 1920s. Photographs taken by David W. Dunlap in 2019 (left) and 2008 (right).

Provincetown was 416 feet long, 53 feet abeam, and 34½ feet deep. It could carry 17,000 cubic yards of grain with a crew of 60 and a speed of 10½ knots an hour. Built for wartime duty, it did not last long in peacetime — only 18 years before it was scrapped.

Mrs. Fuller never knew. She died in 1930, not long after presenting Provincetown with its first community Christmas tree.

By then, she was living at 1 Court Street, while the ground floor of 188 Commercial attracted retail tenants like J. F. Brennan, who ran a clothing store in the mid-1920s, and offered cleaning, pressing, and repairs on the side. That was roughly the time that the third floor was added. In the 1930s, Anthony Lopes Jr. took over the retail lease, succeeded in 1939 by the grocer Marion Agostinho “Bert” Perry (1901-1977), nephew of Capt. Marion “Bertie” Perry (owner of the fabled schooner Rose Dorothea) and proprietor of Perry’s Market, 91-93 Commercial Street. Perry’s Central Cash Market lasted only one season. It was followed in 1940 by the Williams Market, offering seafood and groceries.

Left: Ad from the Provincetown Art Association’s exhibition catalog of 1926, in the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 5634. Right: Ad from the Provincetown Advocate, 13 June 1940. Advocate Online, Provincetown Public Library.

Matchbook advertising Marion “Bert” Perry’s two grocery stores. Posted by Salvador R. Vasques III on his Facebook page, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 31 October 2014.

These ads for businesses at 188 Commercial run in the Provincetown Advocate on 20 May 1948 (left), 6 May 1948 (center), and 2 January 1958 (right). Advocate Online, Provincetown Public Library.

Louis A. Law, Mrs. Fuller’s first cousin, inherited 188 Commercial Street. He and his wife, Mary S. Law, sold the property in 1945 to James B. Carter Sr. and Bessie R. Carter. A new retail era began. James Sr. and James Jr. formed the Carter & Carter electric appliance business at 188 Commercial, selling cleaners, freezers, motors, ranges, refrigerators, and washers. They expanded their offerings in 1948 when they opened what they described as “Cape Cod’s first self-service 30-minute wet wash — ready to free you of all washing woes.” The charge was 40 cents for a nine-pound wash, with soap supplied.

The Carters sold the property in 1950 to Charles Edward “Jake” Jacobs (1906-1987), who had served in the Navy during World War II as a chief warrant officer, and his wife, Magdalene Rosalie (Lyle) Jacobs (1894-1971). In the early years of television, Jacobs’ Radio Service at 188 Commercial was where Provincetown residents came to find Motorola and Admiral TV sets. Already, by 1954, the business of selling, installing, and maintaining televisions was described in the Advocate as “an essential factor in the life of this community.”

The Impulse gallery at night in 2019. Dunlap.

A reinforced seven-by-eight-foot room in the basement is designated a bomb shelter in drawings on file with the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds. Photos taken in 2021 by Guillermo “Gui” Yingling.

It was Jake Jacobs who installed the elevator, in 1955, to make it easier to navigate the three-story building. You can easily spot the mechanical bulkhead for the elevator when looking at the Court Street side of the structure. I wonder, too, whether he installed the seven-by-eight-foot bomb shelter in the basement at the same time. He would have had good cause. In March 1955, the nation’s civil defense administrator made front-page news when he advised all American citizens to build some sort of underground shelter from atomic bombs “right now,” with food and water enough to last five or six days.

As a charming sideline, Jacobs also ran the Shell Shop at this address, shifting emphasis in summer months from the appliance business. The shop “is transformed into a shell collector’s paradise,” the Advocate reported in July 1955, “and Mr. Jacobs himself has become quite expert in talking about shells which come to his shop from all parts of the world.” (Except in name, I don’t believe Jacobs’s Shell Shop is related to Cythinia Gast’s Shell Shop, founded in 1974 and currently at 274-276 Commercial Street. The Shell Shop at No. 188 was in business here at least through 1976.)

Jacobs and his second wife, Lillian W. Jacobs, sold 188 Commercial to Beverly J. Adamkovic in 1978, for $110,000. She prepared plans to convert the building into a four-unit condo: three apartments and the ground-floor commercial space. She sold the building for $300,000 in 1984, to Paul Trainor, who established the One Eighty Eight West Condominium that year.

Philippe d’Auteuil (center) and Bruce Shipman (right) lived on the top floor of 188 Commercial after Paul Trainor purchased it in 1984. Their friend Patrick Grace is at left. Photo, taken in 1988 or 1989, courtesy of Irene Rabinowitz.

Impulse advertised an eclectic group exhibition in Provincetown Magazine, 19 August 1986. From the Municipal Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 6121.

Nearly 30 years later, the gallery advertised the works of Robert Farris, MarieLouise Hutchinson, Dennis Lucas, Jeanne MacFarland, Robert Marcellino, Elizabeth McOsker, and Candice Ronesi in the 2015 Provincetown Art Guide, published and edited by Patricia Zur, on Issuu.

Boat, by Peter Coes, egg tempera, 47 by 27 inches, collection of David Jarrett, who purchased the painting at Impulse.

“Fond memories of Impulse gallery,” the collector David Jarrett told me in 2021. “I bought this unusual glass kaleidoscope there in the 1990s.”

1984 was also the year that Frederick D. “Sonny” Bayer and R. Sam Hardison opened Impulse, a gallery of American arts and crafts. (Bayer had an eponymous gallery at 445 Commercial Street.) Eclectic seems to have been the watchword at Impulse. One group show in 1986 featured the unlikely combination of Al Capp, Peter Coes, D. M. Z. Coyle, Nassos Daphnis, Keith Haring, Charles W. Hawthorne, Henry Hensche, Ruth D. Hogan, Karl Knaths, Philip Malicoat, Ray Nolin, Kas Sable, Dianne Vetromile, Agnes Weinrich, and John Whorf. The gallery boasted of having the “largest selection of kaleidoscopes anywhere,” and sold quartz crystals, jewelry, and wands. In 1990, Impulse also introduced a collection of photos, letters, and documents bearing famous autographs.

Bayer bought the building from Trainor in 2001 for $845,000 and sold it 10 years later to Terese F. Nelson for $1 million. She sold it in 2015, for $1.1 million, to John Yingling. By this time, the gallery had been purchased by Cami L. Calkins and Ruth Ann Leach, the proprietors of Bayberry Accommodations, 16 Winthrop Street. They ran Impulse through the 2019 season.

MAP at its new location, 188 Commercial Street, in a photo posted by MAP on Instagram, 24 July 2020.

Pauline Fisher brought her peripatetic MAP (Modified American Plan) apparel and accessories store here in 2020 — the pandemic summer, as it turned out — from 220 Commercial Street, where it had been for four years after leaving 141 Commercial Street. “We were open all last summer,” Fisher told me in 2021, “only two on staff, and could only let four customers in at a time, so we had a line outside waiting almost every weekend. We were busy all summer. For some New Yorkers, it was their first visit to a store after lockdown.”

She described the transformation of the space: “We took out three layers of carpet, fixtures built on top of each layer, glass cabinets built into walls — down to the bare bones, ceiling and all, and then covered it in birch wood (an accumulation of wood used in all my previous locations). The floor was amazing after all three layers were removed, maybe turn-of-the-century. Max Mueller [son of the actor Cookie Mueller (1949-1989)] painted it black.”

Fisher said she loved being part of the “Yingdom,” that stretch of properties from Spiritus to Bubala’s owned and managed by the Yingling family. “This shop brings back the DNA of MAP; its intimate, cozy, and Old Provincetown character,” she said. “It’s my favorite spot for MAP — only took 27 years to get there.”

Above: Pauline Fisher moved her MAP shop here in 2020 and took these photos in 2021. Below: Fisher and friend in 2019, when the shop was at 220 Commercial Street. Dunlap.

¶ Last updated on 19 July 2021.

Steven Roderick wrote on 30 June 2021: Paul Trainor was a wonderful man and great friend. He loved owning and living at 188.

Rachel White wrote on 30 June 2021 and 3 July 2021: It was a shell shop run by Mrs. Costa, who married Mr. Jacobs, the owner of the building, after they were both widowed. Mrs. Costa’s son William married Helen McCaffrey and became the principal of the school. (Middle school, I think.) They had four daughters who lived behind me on lower Nickerson Street and abutted me on Soper Street.

Robert M. Adamcik wrote on 30 June 2021: I’ve been in both the bomb shelter and the elevator during all the years I worked at Impulse.

Patrick Ian Patrick wrote on 30 June 2021: I believe the building was a machine shop for the Navy at one time. I met a veteran many years ago who told me he had worked in that building as a machinist while in the Navy.

Irene Rabinowitz wrote on 4 July 2021: During the years that Paul Trainor owned it, my good friends Bruce Shipman and Philippe d’Auteuil lived on the top floor. Philippe was president of the Provincetown Business Guild for awhile. Always a spiffy dresser. He, Bruce, Preston Babbitt, and Patrick Grace were my closest friends during my first years in town. First Patrick died, then Preston died in 1990, and Philippe not long after, at 188, surrounded by friends. I’m still in touch with Bruce, who lives in Tucson and is happily married to Gary Jones for many years now. We share Philippe memories and memories of their life at 188 every so often.

188 Commercial Street on the Town Map.

Thumbnail image: Photo, 2019, by David W. Dunlap.

In memoriam

• Charles Edward “Jake” Jacobs (1906-1987)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 162464018.

• Magdalene Rosalie (Lyle) Jacobs (1894-1971)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 162464053.

• Edward J. Kilburn (1820-1897)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 51251891.

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