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Bradford 156 BOOK 046

(2008)

Charm | One Hundred Fifty-Six Bradford Street Condominium (Unit 1).

Sears, Roebuck & Company sold mail-order house kits in the early 20th century that were known as “Modern Homes.” They contained all the lumber, fixtures, and plans to do it yourself. This is one of several Sears kit houses in town. Given how centrally Provincetown’s freight train yard was located, shipping such kits must have been relatively easy. (I say “relatively” since I myself couldn’t build a Revell scale model without trouble.)

The building was assembled in 1917 by the Days family, according to an email from Leonard “Len” Paoletti, who owned the main house from 1985 to 2003. He said he once had a photo of the building set in a corn field with a dirt road out front.

It was a boarding house in the 1940s, run by Amelia Emily (Francis) Davis, where naval and civilian engineers stayed during trial runs of new submarines off Long Point. Davis was the “official ‘mother’ in charge,” The Provincetown Advocate reported in 1944, when the house was reconditioned as the base officers’ quarters for the nearby Naval Mine Test Facilities, 241 Bradford Street. “The building was requisitioned by the Navy,” Paoletti wrote. “Officers were lodged in the house and there was an officer’s mess in the basement. In the early ’50s, the rear section of the inn was added. A subsequent owner had to smash the Navy’s huge cast-iron stove in the basement to get it out, as this new addition had altered the means of egress from the basement.”

It is at least conceivable that Lieut. Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, were quartered here when he was stationed in Provincetown in 1951, putting the U.S.S. K-1 through its test runs.

Alden “Pete” Steele and his wife Clotilda “Tillie” Steele bought the property in 1965 from Tiago Avelino and ran it as a very well-recommended guest house called Casa Brazil Lodge, Irma Ruckstuhl wrote in a comment below. Paoletti added: “Duane Steele, who for a time was the editor of The Provincetown Advocate, grew up in this house. His former wife Betty Steele, a one-time town selectman, told me how she would visit Duane there, and the front porch would be full of live plants all winter long. With all its windows, it was like being in a greenhouse.”

The Steeles sold the house in 1972 to Phyllis and Frederick Klein for $130,000, and it was renamed Frederick’s Guest House. Four years later, the Kleins sold the property for $160,000 to Edward E. Veara of North Dennis and Richard L. Zisson of Watertown. Tara Owen, who lived in the house much of her life, said her mother ran the property for the up-Cape investors. “All of the apartments in the back were year-round rentals and the guest house had one efficiency room that hosted longer stays,” Owen said in a comment below. “Many artists and townies rented there.”

For a short time, the guest house complex also included the building now known as Admiral’s Landing, 158 Bradford Street.

Veara and Zisson sold Frederick’s Guest House in 1983 for $240,000 to Gold Coast Properties Inc. of Boston. “Gold Coast was a consortium of five or six individuals who bought large old properties, fixed them up, and sold them off as condominiums,” Paoletti wrote. David Brudnoy (1940-2004), the respected talk radio host on WGBH, WHDH, WRKO, and WBZ in Boston, was said to be the main shareholder. Known for his libertarian and conservative views, Brudnoy was also a gay man living with AIDS, facts that he revealed publicly near the end of his life. His involvement with Gold Coast is reflected in his papers at Boston University. The property manager in the group was Conrad Harding. They converted Frederick’s into the One Hundred Fifty-Six Bradford Street Condominium in 1985. The main house became Unit 1 in the condo. Paoletti said the Gold Coast investors were also responsible for the conversion of the old Normandy House, at 184 Bradford Street; the old Fo’csle, at 335 Commercial Street; and the Plain & Fancy-Pilgrim House complex, 334-336 Commercial Street.


2020 Bradford 156 DiptychAfter more than three decades years as Elephant Walk, the guest house was renamed Charm in 2016. Photos taken in 2013 and 2018 by David W. Dunlap.


Thanks to the fact that one Gold Coast partner — quite possibly Brudnoy himself — was an Elizabeth Taylor fan, the guest house was renamed Elephant Walk, after the 1954 movie Elephant Walk, in which she starred with Dana Andrews. (The eponymous tea plantation of the movie, set in what is now Sri Lanka, is destroyed at the end by a herd of elephants hired out to Paramount Pictures. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called the resulting film a “piece of absurd exoticism” and “strictly synthetic hoke.”)

Paoletti bought the main house in 1985. “The carriage house and rental apartments in the rear were sold off separately,” he wrote. “What I bought was a shell with minimal furnishings but good bathrooms and parking. … I gradually refurnished the inn, brought in a wide range of antiques and fine reproduction furniture. Original art was hung throughout the house, including some of my own paintings, as well as reproductions from Maxfield Parrish and Joseph Leyendecker.” After Hurricane Bob tore apart the retractable awnings from the front room in 1991, Paoletti replaced them with rigid green-and-white-striped awnings. “I also added them to many of the other windows on the inn, thereby giving it a distinctive landmark look,” he recalled.

He also tweaked the name, from Elephant Walk to Elephant Walk Inn. “All I know,” Paoletti concluded, “is that the year Ron Robin of the Mews restaurant hired an elephant to march in the Carnival Parade, I made sure that animal was going nowhere hear my house.” Three owners followed Paoletti in quick succession until 2016, when the eight-room guest house was purchased for $1.2 million by Cory N. Conley and Curtis W. Helmus, doing business as Charm Provincetown Inc. They changed its name to Charm, after a type — or “flavor” — of the subatomic particles known as quarks.

¶ Last updated on 14 November 2018.


Irma Ruckstuhl wrote on 27 August 2013: For many years, beginning in the 1960s, I knew this house as Casa Brazil, owned by Alden “Pete” Steele and his wife Clotilda “Tillie” Steele. They bought it in 1965 from Tiago Avelino and ran it as a very well recommended guest house. They sold it in 1972 to Phyllis and Frederick Klein for $130,000. Pete Steele was a genial driver for Cape Cod Express, who frequently made deliveries to our shops. The Steeles had four daughters, three of whom, Rose Stephan, Bonnie McGee and Michelle “Mickey,” worked for us for many years. Their son, Duane, is well known as one of the later owners and editor of The Provincetown Advocate.


Leonard Paoletti wrote on 31 August 2013: First, I refer to the building as Elephant Walk Inn to differentiate it from a Cambodian-French restaurant in Cambridge also titled Elephant Walk. When I sought to register the name for an internet site, I discovered that Elephant Walk had already been taken, so I added the “Inn”

Elephant Walk Inn was built in 1917 by the Days family. A Sears Roebuck house, possibly ordered out of a catalog, either the plans were sent to the Days family or the building itself was sent unassembled, via the train which ran not far from the house along what is now Harry Kemp Way. When I sold the inn, I left behind for the new owner an early photo of the house sitting in a corn field with a dirt road out front. Hopefully the current owners still have that photo.

During World War II, the building was requisitioned by the Navy (as were the Sunset Inn, the Crown & Anchor, and I believe, the Provincetown Inn.) Officers were lodged in the house and there was an officer’s mess in the basement. In the early ’50s, the rear section of the inn was added. A subsequent owner had to smash the Navy’s huge cast-iron stove in the basement to get it out, as this new addition had altered the means of egress from the basement.

When I moved to Provincetown in 1972, the entire property was known as Casa Brazil. It included all the rental units in the back, and for a short time, the building now known as Admiral’s Landing. (Prior to being Admiral’s Landing, that property had been known as Wave’s Landing, owned by two women who purportedly had served in the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service] during World War II.) The Steele family had owned Casa Brazil. Duane Steele, who for a time was the editor of The Provincetown Advocate, grew up in this house. His former wife Betty Steele, a one-time town selectman, told me how she would visit Duane there, and the front porch would be full of live plants all winter long. With all its windows, it was like being in a greenhouse.

In 1983 or ’84, Gold Coast Properties bought the Casa Brazil and renamed it Elephant Walk. Gold Coast was a consortium of five or six individuals who bought large old properties, fixed them up, and sold them off as condominiums. David Brudnoy, a talk radio personality from Boston was the main shareholder. Conrad Harding, the front man, was a minor shareholder who managed one property after another. Among their other conversions are Normandy House, Fo’csle to Fat Jack’s, and the Plain and Fancy/ Pilgrim House complex. I believe they owned the Pilgrim House at the time of the suspicious fire.

In 1985, I bought the main house. What had been the carriage house and rental apartments in the rear were sold off separately. What I bought was a shell with minimal furnishings but good bathrooms and parking. At Victoria House [which Paoletti also owned], a lack of parking had been a major problem. Over the years, I gradually refurnished the inn, brought in a wide range of antiques and fine reproduction furniture. Original art was hung throughout the house, including some of my own paintings, as well as reproductions from Maxfield Parrish and Joseph Leyendecker.

Hurricane Bob [1991] tore apart the retractable awnings that were on the front room of the inn, now the common room. So I replaced them with the permanent (non folding) green-and-white strip awnings for which the inn became noted. I also added them to many of the other windows on the inn, thereby giving it a distinctive landmark look. They were professionally removed and stored for the winter. After I sold the inn to Michael Clifford, he never bothered to claim them out of storage up in Hyannis. The new owners have talked about possibly restoring them

The inn was named after the Elizabeth Taylor movie Elephant Walk. One of the members of Gold Coast Properties was a fan of Miss Taylor’s, and thus the name was attached to the property. All I know is that the year Ron Robin of the Mews restaurant hired an elephant to march in the Carnival Parade, I made sure that animal was going nowhere hear my house.

I sold the house in May 2003.


Tara Owen wrote on 6 February 2014: Frederick’s Guest House before the Elephant Walk. My mother ran it for years for some up-Cape investors. I lived there most of my life.


Leonard Paoletti wrote on 21 June 2014: I had forgotten that between being the Casa Brazil and Elephant Walk, is was once called Frederick’s. I believe the owner was Frederick Klein. Frederick’s was the name of the property when it was purchased by Gold Coast Properties, of which David Brudnoy was a major shareholder. The front building, Elephant Walk, and the three buildings in the back were renamed the 156 Bradford Street Condo Association. Elephant Walk is actually Building 1 of the 156 Bradford Street Condo Association.


Tara Owen wrote on 25 September 2018: It was owned by a group of investors and still known as Frederick’s Guest House for many years before Elephant Walk. All of the apartments in the back were year-round rentals and the guest house had one efficiency room that hosted longer stays. Many artists and townies rented there before it was sold and became the Elephant Walk and then Charm.


One thought on “156 Bradford Street

  1. It was owned by a group of investors and still known as Frederick’s Guest House for many years before Elephant Walk. All of the apartments in the back were year-round rentals and the guest house had one efficiency room that hosted longer stays. Many artists and townies rented there before it was sold and became the Elephant Walk and then Charm.

    Liked by 1 person

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