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Center 15

(2017)

The extremely picturesque turreted corner of this Queen Anne-style house from the latter half of the 19th century made its way into Edward Hopper’s The Lee Shore (1941), according to Edmund V. Gillon Jr., though the rest of the painting clearly does not depict Center Street. The Sunset Inn at 142 Bradford Street, subject of Hopper’s Rooms for Tourists, (1945), is just across the corner.

In the early 1900s, 15 Center was home to James E. Atkins, who ran a furniture, carpet and hardware store at 255-257 Commercial Street. He used the Center Street house as a showcase for some of the goods he carried.

The property was purchased in 1965 by James V. “Jimmy Peek” Souza and Marion Lee Souza, who had endured one of the more memorable town tragedies: the accidental killing in 1949 of their 19-year-old son, James “Young Jimmy Peek” Souza, by Postmaster William H. Cabral. The teenager, known as something of a “harum-scarum youth,” as The Advocate described him, had apparently thrown a pellet of tinfoil at the postmaster, who thought to teach him a lesson by brandishing his Army revolver. The weapon discharged unexpectedly. The bullet ricocheted off the steel counter of the parcel-post window (a dent is still visible) and hit young Souza near the heart. At the time, his parents were living at 532 Commercial Street. They moved out within a year but it’s hard not to imagine that the tragedy followed them everywhere.

Joan Lenane, formerly the chief operating officer of The Provincetown Banner, bought the property from the Souza estate in 1995, renovated it, and subsequently shared it with Sally Rose, formerly The Banner‘s editor. Lenane sold the property to William Casey in 2017, when this photo of the inside of the turret was taken.

¶ Adapted from Building Provincetown (2015).


Irma Ruckstuhl wrote on 23 May 2011: Not sure how Jimmy Peek’s nickname would have been spelled, but its derivation is most likely from Pico in the Azores. Every June in his later years, Jimmy would go to Falmouth and return with a load of fresh, native-grown strawberries which he peddled around town. I can still hear his voice calling, “Straaaw-berries.” I seem to recall he sold other things from time to time: fish, blueberries, etc.


Sally Rose wrote on 19 February 2015: It’s Joan’s understanding that the house started as a Cape. It was the family home of “Jimmy Eddie” Atkins, who — after serving as clerk at J.A. West, his family’s furniture and dry goods shop — bought the store. At 15 Center, he was the one who attached the outer buildings to create the L-shape and added the turret and barn-style roof line. Behind the walls in the kitchen (when Joan re-did the house), you could see Atkins reused wood from shipping crates — they had his address on them and were from furniture makers in Boston and around. Atkins also used the family home as a showcase for some his products, like furniture and wall paper.

Joan bought the house from Marion Souza’s estate in January 1995. Marion’s husband, “Jimmy Peek” (or “Peak”), was known as the “Strawberry Man” because he would walk with his cart selling them and yelling “Strawberries.” Marion could often be seen up on the turret fixing shingles.

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