As soon as you complete the sharp left turn heading down Commercial Street, No. 111 is the house directly ahead, playing an oversize role in West End iconography. This was the property in the 19th century of the Burch family, and was denominated 98 Commercial Street under the old numbering system. James Burch (1814-1882) was a dealer in crockery and glassware. His first wife, Huldah E. (Pierce) Burch (1815-1847) died in 1847 giving birth to James Burch Jr. The next year, Burch married Nancy Higgins Freeman (1818-1892). Their son John Murray Burch (1853-1917) became a haberdasher, running a men’s clothing and furnishings store at what was then 268 Commercial Street, and is now 285 Commercial Street. In 1892, Mrs. Burch sold the property to Francisco Silvero Alves. He and his wife, Maria S. Alves, sold the property in 1906 to William Patrick, whose family owned it until 1931, when it was sold to Frank Souza Aresta (1882-1970). During the Arestas’ ownership, Bertha L. Russell ran the West End Flower Shop here. Frank and his wife, Maria S. Aresta transferred 111 Commercial Street to Frank S. Aresta Jr. (1910-1986) and his wife, Margaret C. Aresta, in 1943.
The property’s most colorful and controversial co-owner, Angela Calomiris (1916-1995), bought 111 Commercial from the Arestas in 1965, with Florence Iannelli. Two decades earlier, Calomiris had served as an undercover informant for the F.B.I., planted in the ranks of the Communist Party U.S.A. in New York City and at the distinguished Photo League, whose members and supporters included Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, Lewis Hine, Aaron Siskind, W. Eugene Smith, and Paul Strand.
On 26 April 1949, Calomiris stunned her comrades when she appeared at the trial of 11 Communists accused of plotting to overthrow the government. She disclosed publicly that she’d been an federal operative since 1942. Her secret intelligence reports to the bureau and then her public testimony about having been recruited into the party by Sid Grossman, the director of the league, have largely been blamed for the league’s downfall in 1951. The four men against whom she testified by name were all convicted, and all served time in prison. They included Benjamin J. Davis Jr., a New York City councilman from Harlem, who was expelled from the Council as a result of his conviction.
As the hysteria of the McCarthy era began to recede in the late 1950s, Calomiris was viewed less as a patriot than as a double-crosser who betrayed friends and colleagues. In the early 1960s, she settled in Provincetown and began acquiring properties, including Angels’ Landing at 353-355 Commercial Street. She amassed what Lisa E. Davis called a small real estate empire in Undercover Girl: The Lesbian Informant Who Helped the FBI Bring Down the Communist Party (2017), but made few friends doing so.
Calomiris relinquished her interest in 111 Commercial to Iannelli in 1976. Thereafter, Iannelli sold the property to Sheila G. LaMontagne and Madelyn M. Carney, who relinquished her interest to LaMontagne in 1979. The property is now recorded under the name of the LaMontagne Realty Trust, and Sheila continues to live there.
For a view of the James Burch Wharf, please see James Burch Wharf.
For a view of Building 2, on the wharf, please see 111 Commercial Street.
For a view of Building 3,on the wharf, please see 111 Commercial Street.
¶ Last updated on 17 September 2018.
Grave sites in Provincetown
Aresta, Frank. Find a Grave Memorial 162733806.
Aresta, Frank Jr. Find a Grave Memorial 190304709.
Burch, James. Find a Grave Memorial 41208273.
Burch, Nancy. Find a Grave Memorial 120280070.