The charming little freestanding shop at 152A Commercial Street hides an equally charming three-quarter Cape from public view, but you can still steal a glimpse. The secret to this property’s tranquil state of preservation? It has been in the hands of the Carreiro-Sawyer family for more than a century. The parcel itself is remarkably irregular: a great, fat T whose stem is 175 feet long and whose bar is 130 feet wide. The bottom of the stem fronts on Commercial Street, while the right terminus of the bar fronts on Atlantic Avenue, allowing access to the ample parking area behind the main house. In the late 19th century, several decades before the shop was built, the house — then denominated 147 Commercial Street — was home to Charles Nickerson and the Misses Ellen C. Nickerson, a dressmaker, and Emma C. Nickerson, a cloakmaker.
It was acquired by John Joseph Duarte (1863-1918), a shoemaker and shoe repairer, whose shop was formerly at 125 Commercial Street. Duarte’s obituary in The Advocate said he built the shop in the front yard here, though Carreiro family lore disagrees with that provenance.
152 Commercial Street in 2012, by David W. Dunlap.
The house was a present from Mary G. (Joseph) Almeida (1859-1937) to her daughter Mary C. (Almeida) Carreiro (1883-1982) and son-in-law, Joseph M. Carreiro (1880-1971). Mrs. Almeida had arrived in this country in 1881 from São Miguel in the Azores. Her husband, Amancio “Amos” Almeida (1848-1898), was a Grand Banks fisherman. Mary Carreiro was born at home, 19 Montello Street, and wed Joseph in 1901.
Joseph Carreiro, a native of São Miguel, was a barber and the proprietor of an ice cream parlor at 1 Tremont Street. The family says Joseph built 152A Commercial in 1929, but it’s mentioned in a 1918 obituary and it’s visible on a 1919 street atlas. Perhaps Carreiro’s shop replaced an earlier building of the same size.
Mary (Almeida) Carreiro shoveling snow at the small farm at No. 152, “possibly to get up the hill to feed the chickens,” said Laura Canterbury Parker, whose photo this is.
Mary (Almeida) Carreiro “tending the corn crop on the hill at 152 Commercial Street,” said Laura Canterbury Parker, a great-granddaughter, who furnished the photo.
Carreiro “barbered many of the ‘greats’ who first brought Provincetown national renown as an art colony,” The Advocate said in 1965. “Eugene O’Neill was not only his regular customer but personal friend as well — as was the playwright’s wife, the former Agnes Boulton. Mr. Carreiro’s customers included colorful personalities from the fishing fleet as well as the art colony.”¹
Joseph made news in September 1932 when he imported two sheep and a ram from Malden and set them out to graze in the garden between his shop and home.²
That garden served as a treasured little farm for West Enders. “I picked green beans, wax beans, potatoes, kale, gathered the eggs, and plucked many a chicken,” said Marlene Janice Carreiro Sawyer, Joseph’s granddaughter. “I rode a goat in the field where the Bradford Motel sits. It truly was a farm, way back when.”
“I lived on Atlantic Avenue, making this garden diagonally across the street from my house,” Ruth Anne O’Donnell Hurd recalled. “We ate from this wonderful garden every year, bringing old newspapers to wrap our kale, nabs, spinach in, and bags for beets and corn, et cetera. … I loved doing that chore and remember that sweet lady standing in the corn and her husband — the ‘Barber,’ as we knew him — like it was yesterday.”
Marlene Sawyer remembered Joseph fondly in a reminiscence published in the 2013 Provincetown Portuguse Festival booklet:
“He loved gardening and turned his backyard into a vegetable garden where he grew beets, potatoes, saffron, kale, rhubarb, and more. He sold the vegetables to grocery stores and to the people of Provincetown. He also raised and sold chickens and eggs, along with linguiça and chouriço made by Furtado’s of Fall River.
“I helped pick many a vegetable, plucked chickens, gathered eggs, and strung salt cod out to try. He also had sheep and goats that I rode. A real farm on Commercial Street in the midst of Provincetown. It now serves as a parking lot.
“Only Portuguese was spoken at home because most of the people who lived here were Portuguese; English was their second language. It was not surprising that my father, like so many other children, spoke no English when he started school.”³
Left: Francis Carreiro, an accomplished violinist, advertised for students in The Advocate of 19 February 1931. Right: He’s seen — grainily — in the 1927 Long Pointer.
Marlene’s father was Francis Joseph Carreiro (1908-1987), whose musical ability and inclination was so pronounced in his youth that his classmates at Provincetown High School referred to him in the 1927 Long Pointer as “Fritz Kreisler II,” after one of the greatest violinists of the era. The class prophecy that year, written by Norman S. Cook (later the proprietor of Adams Pharmacy), imagined that by 1950 there would be a “vision machine” — along the lines of radio, but with a screen — “by which one could see anyone else in any other part of the world.” Not a bad call, Norman.
Cook predicted that he would be able to watch Francis Carreiro “on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House holding a million people in a trance by the silvery tones of his famous Stradivarius.”³ Mary and Joseph Carreiro believed enough in their son to have staked him to schooling at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. “Personal and financial tragedy struck my family,” Marlene Sawyer wrote, “and my dad was not able to finish his last year, but his musical life did not end. He taught violin in Provincetown, and formed his own music trio, ‘Let’s Dance.'”
“Our childhood was filled with music. It was our entertainment after dinner. My dad played his violin as we sat around listening to the sounds he interpreted from the pages of music in front of him. His children went to play instruments, taking part in the P.H.S. orchestra and band, and joining the town band.” Her brother Barry F. Carreiro Sr., for instance, earned a bachelor’s degree from the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Left: A detailed view of the 1919 Sanborn street atlas shows the shop building in the front yard of 152 Commercial Street, an L-shaped parcel outlined in red. The dotted line represents the ultimate expansion of the tax lot into a T. Right: Marlene Janice Carreiro Sawyer in her 1954 Long Pointer portrait. She is still living at 152 Commercial.
Marlene was graduated from Provincetown High School in 1954 and worked over the years as a housekeeper and sales clerk. She married Raymond Augustus Sawyer, a carpenter. Together, they managed Sawyer’s Parking, a private lot in the rear of the property, where the garden once flourished. Their daughter, Shannon L. Sawyer, who was born in 1965, belongs to the fourth generation of her family to have called 152 Commercial Street home, as do Marlene’s other children, Laura Canterbury Parker and Michael Canterbury.
Marlene Sawyer, now in her early 80s, continues to live here.
¶ Last updated on 10 October 2019.
Laura Canterbury Parker wrote on 4 October 2019: When writing, one must do thorough homework before completion. My mom, Marlene Carreiro Sawyer, has two other children that also grew up in that house besides Shannon. I am one of them and my brother Michael Canterbury is the other. [The correction has been made. Thank you. — DWD]
Ruth Anne O’Donnell Hurd wrote on 8 October 2019: I lived on Atlantic Avenue, making this garden diagonally across the street from my house. We ate from this wonderful garden every year, bringing old newspapers to wrap our kale, nabs, spinach in, and bags for beets and corn, et cetera. I’m so happy to see these pictures. I loved doing that chore and remember that sweet lady standing in the corn and her husband — the “Barber,” as we knew him — like it was yesterday. Old age brings tears easily, remembering these wonderful memories of childhood! [I’ve added this lovely reminiscence to the narrative. Thank you. — DWD]
Marlene Carreiro Sawyer wrote on 8 October 2019: I picked green beans, wax beans, potatoes, kale, gathered the eggs, and plucked many a chicken. I rode a goat in the field where the Bradford Motel sits. It truly was a farm, way back when. [I’ve added this lovely reminiscence to the narrative. Thank you. — DWD]
Rachel White wrote on 9 October 2019: Yup! I remember that nice lady too! Very generous with green beans for soup!
Leo E. Gracie wrote on 9 October 2019: After her gardening days were over, they used the space to park cars. My mother rented a space very near her back door. Marlene would ask, ‘Are you Irene’s boy?’ when I arrived.
152 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 152-152A Commercial Street:
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2012, by David W. Dunlap.
For further research online:
• Mary G. (Joseph) Almeida (1859-1937)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 107075905.
• Joseph M. Carreiro (1880-1971)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 192070367.
• Mary C. (Almeida) Carreiro (1883-1982)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 192070356.
¹ “To Fellows and Friends, Afar & Abroad,” The Provincetown Advocate, 4 March 1965, Page 2.
² “Personals,” The Provincetown Advocate, 22 September 1932, Page 4.
³ “Music … Music … Music,” by Marlene Carreiro Sawyer, Provincetown Portuguese Festival 2013, Page 11.
³ Long Pointer, 1927, Provincetown High School. From the School Collection on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 5581.