Through a picturesque gate within an ample hedgerow, a glimpse can be had of 29 Commercial Street, perched well below the grade of the street. The house presents a far more imposing — and modern — facade to the beach. The property was purchased in 1935 by Charles Ward Johnson and Rena L. Johnson of Worcester. Charles, a Republican, had served as a state senator and in 1935 was a master of chancery with a commission as justice of the peace. That year, James Michael Curley, the famously corrupt Democratic mayor of Boston and governor of Massachusetts, who was a Roman Catholic, decreed that wedding vows could be solemnized only by the clergy and that justices of the peace must stop performing civil marriage ceremonies — even for Protestants — or else lose their commissions. Johnson defied the ban, asserting that he was “empowered by law” to marry couples and that he “would continue to follow the law.” In 1936, Governor Curley replaced Johnson, even though his commission had about three years to run.
The property changed hands frequently, offering a telling barometer as to the state of Provincetown real estate. It was sold for $32,000 in 1966, $48,000 in 1969, $56,000 in 1970, $142,500 in 1978, $295,000 in 1987, $675,000 in 1996, and $4.2 million in 2005. The price came down to $2.925 million in 2012, when it was purchased by Steven G. Auerbach of Boston, who currently owns it with Mark Scofield. They had previously owned 7 Pleasant Street.
¶ Last updated on 7 May 2018.
Gary Eggleston wrote on 4 August 2015: My first time spent [in Provincetown] was the summer of 1944, when my family rented 42 Commercial Street, a Helena Rubinstein property. In the fall of 1945, they purchased 29 Commercial Street. My father, Paul, was a Boston businessman, a photographer, and a member of the Beachcombers. Next door No. 27 was owned by Paul Thurlow, owner of the ship company which owned the Boston-Provincetown boats, Dorothy Bradford, and its successor, Steel Pier. Interestingly, the owner of the Boston-Provincetown boat line sold his home to the owner of the Provincetown-Boston Airline, John Van Arsdale.