Blue Shutters | Former N. C. Brooks wagon house.
A fine and extremely important relic of old, old Provincetown: the wharf-head wagon house of the N. C. Brooks enterprise was constructed around 1840. Since 1953, the property has been in the hands successively of two families — the Salvans and the Scores — who have evidently understood exactly the value of what they’ve got by either leaving it alone or enhancing its residential qualities through aesthetically sympathetic interventions. The result is a joy to behold; it is a gentle rebuke to prettification.
Brooks’s was a multipurpose enterprise. In the 1860s and early 1870s, it advertised principally as a lumber dealer. By 1878, Brooks styled itself a “general commission merchant and dealer in fruits, vegetables, groceries, wood and straw” and as an agent for Cape Cod Express. Less than a decade later, it was a livery stable, and ran an important business of carrying visitors — and their luggage — between hotels, Steamboat Wharf, and the Old Colony Railroad depot.
The “Wagon Ho.” shown in the center of this 1889 map is almost certainly the modern-day Blue Shutters. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, courtesy of the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division. Digital ID No. g3764pm.g038261889.
The property was acquired in 1953 for $5,000 by Prof. Jacques Léon Salvan (1898-2006) of Wayne State University. And yes, you read those parenthetical dates correctly. Professor Salvan lived to be 107 years old. Born in Le Blanc, France — roughly halfway between Tours and Limoges — Salvan served in the French army during World War I. He became an American citizen in 1933 and served in the United States Army during World War II. Salvan was the author of Le Romantisme français l’Angleterre victorienne (1949), To Be and Not to Be: An Analysis of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Ontology (1962), and The Scandalous Ghost: Sartre’s Existentialism as Related to Vitalism, Humanism, Mysticism, Marxism (1967). At Wayne State, Salvan met Florence Marie Poleresky Polister “Dolly” Salvan (1912-2012), whom he married in 1955. She had worked during World War II in public relations at Air Force Plant 31 in Willow Run, Mich., where B-24 Liberator bombers were manufactured, then for the Census Bureau in Washington. She earned a bachelor of science degree at Wayne State and taught art in a Detroit high school. After acquiring a property in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., the Salvans split their time between Cape Cod and the Emerald Coast. She died just five months shy of her 100th birthday.
Neither the Salvans nor the Scores undertook a transformation of 109 Commercial, so it retains its considerable integrity. Photos, in 2010 and 2011, by David W. Dunlap.
Stephen Score Antiques of Boston occupied a former carriage house at 73 Chestnut Street, on Beacon Hill. A large Palladian window on the first floor, flanked by another arched window and a front door with a matching fanlight, distinguished the building’s facade, as did the baby blue paint job. “I love color and am not afraid of it,” Score told Condé Nast Traveler, which said:
“The result is delightfully obsessive and utterly unreproducible — furniture, fabrics, crafts, folk art, ceramics, paintings, and objets d’art large and small, painstakingly selected and arranged in a space that’s more for living than for show. The approach here is decidedly hands-on, and whether you’re buying or just browsing, you’ll feel the passion and, yes, joy that lies behind it.”
Of all things, it was the baby-blue shutters at 109 Commercial that first drew the attention of Score and his wife, Eleanor A. Score, according to a 2017 profile by Susan Daley in Country Living. Eleanor purchased the property in 2014 from the Savans’ surviving family members for $1.175 million — slightly more than the Savans paid in 1953. It is now held by the Scores under the Blue Shutters Nominee Trust. “Today, the cottage retains almost every bit of that 1950s Bohemian charm,” Daley wrote.
“The moment the Scores saw the place, they immediately embraced everything the Salvans had left behind—the warped and chippy wood, a treasure trove of furnishings in the attic, and a completely outfitted kitchen. ‘It’s a place that’s an antidote to the heaviness and seriousness of the world,’ says Stephen. ‘It’s like living on a boat, but, thank God, without the boat.'”
In the book The Creative Cottage (2016), Daley wrote:
“They [the Scores] decided they would keep the furnishings the Salvans had left behind, gradually adding in pieces of their own extensive folk art collection; objects that Stephen says ‘are joyful and happy and delightful to live with.’ Along with the things inherited from the Salvans, a home was created with a distinct sense of humor and whimsy, ‘a place that feels like an antidote to the heaviness and seriousness of the world.'”
Among the elements that the Salvans left behind for the Scores to treasure — and highlight among their own antiques — were an icebox door that Dolly had painted, in the style of Peter Hunt, showing a lobster dinner set on the table, with the exhortation “Mangez bien” on the napkin; a mural of a French harbor that Jacques painted, using Dolly as the model for a ship figurehead and an angel on the waters; and, in an arched niche, a shrine to Our Lady, Star of the Sea. (The Salvans were devoted Catholics and founding members of the Church of the Resurrection in Miramar Beach, Fla.)
Paul Kelly and Edward Dusek, principals in Manitou Architects, who live in a historical house of their own at 22 Brewster Street, applied in 2017 to the Historic District Commission for permission to undertake a general rehabilitation of 109 Commercial for the Scores. The project included the replacement of an exterior ladder between the second and third floors — where Eleanor, a working artist, has her studio — with a four-foot-diameter spiral staircase. Though the staircase was something of a sticking point for the commission, it approved the application, 4-to-1.
For a view of Brooks Wharf, please see Brooks Wharf.
For a view of the N. C. Brooks & Son Livery Stable, please see 109 Commercial Street.
¶ Last updated on 15 September 2018.
For further reading online
“See How This Antiques-Loving Couple Embraces the Crusty Charm of a Historic Cottage,” by Susan Daley, Country Living, 15 June 2017.
Provincetown Historic District Commission, Minutes, 1 November 2017.
Provincetown Historic District Commission, Minutes, 15 November 2017.