Jay Critchley compound | Main house.
Quiet Carnes Lane is home to the indomitable, inimitable, irrepressible Jay Critchley (b 1947), an artist, political activist, civic advocate, and all-around sui generic figure; one of those people whom you almost cannot imagine thriving anywhere else. His works have included imaginatively stinging rebukes to the gentrification and commodification of the town; and his anger is evident that A-list arrivistes seem so eager to turn their backs on any references to the town’s transgressive past. But Critchley is no cynical bomb-tosser. His devotion to Provincetown is especially evident in the event with which he’s now most closely associated: the annual Provincetown Harbor Swim for Life & Paddler Flotilla, which has raised over $3 million dollars for local AIDS services, women’s health providers, and youth organizations.
The main house was constructed in the mid-19th century. Thomas Williams purchased the property¹ in 1887 from Newell C. and Abbie C. Brooks. He sold it² in 1910 to Jose de Souza Lial, whom I’m presuming to be one and the same as Joseph Souza Leal (1885-1944), a native of the Azores. Leal was married to Irene Souza Leal (1890-1968), who was also a Portuguese immigrant.
Their two children were Mary Leal (1912-1969) and Manuel S. Leal (b ±1916). Manuel served in the military police during World War II, saw action at the Battle of Midway, and was promoted to the rank of corporal in the Army. After the war, in 1945, he joined the Provincetown Police Force under Chief William Rogers. Mary Leal graduated from Provincetown High School in 1931. The next year, she married Manuel Souza Aresta (1908-1986), of 16 Court Street. Their daughter Lorraine Claire Aresta — a 1951 graduate of P.H.S. and an employee of the First National Bank of Provincetown — married Robert Joseph Cambra, of 8 Conant Street, in 1953. Mary Aresta acquired title³ to the property from other family members in 1963. She died in 1969. The property was sold⁴ by the Aresta family in 1978 to Critchley and his partner at the time, Dr. Douglas L. Kibler, a physician at the Drop-In Center on 6 Gosnold Street.
Though they are, of course, private, Critchley’s home and yard compose a museum in its own right, as true to the artistic spirit of Provincetown as anything now standing. The interiors are adorned — would “cluttered” be too strong a word? — with many of his smaller artworks and models for larger projects. They make use of many unusual media. A Pietà is shrouded in fish skin. And a large scale model of the Pilgrim Monument is made of plastic tampon applicators washed up on the beaches.
¶ Last updated on 30 April 2017.
¹ Brooks et alia to Williams, 26 February 1887, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 170, Page 483.
² Williams to Lial, 8 March 1910, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 300, Page 249.
³ Lial et alia to Aresta, 2 October 1963, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 1220, Page 225.
⁴ Aresta to Critchley et alia, 24 March 1978, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 2678, Page 264.