Largely hidden both from Bradford and Shank Painter Road is the homestead of what must be the oldest continuously owned family property in town. What an amazing survivor! And what a story: Capt. Reuben Atkins (1808-1883) was born in Provincetown. On 18 December 1828, he and Roxana Cook (1809-1888) were wed, by the Rev. Epaphras Kibby. (Parents don’t name their boys Epaphras any longer, do they?) At about that time or a little later, perhaps the early 1840s, the Atkinses built the house that still stands at No. 48B, on a 2.3-acre, irregularly-shaped parcel. The estate used to run all the way to Brown Street; the Provincetown United Methodist Church and the Provincetown Police Department Headquarters both stand on portions of the old Atkins grounds. In the 19th-century, in fact, this “large, level field” was the perfect place to play the new game of Base Ball, and Captain Atkins kindly allowed the Provincetown Athletics the use of his sprawling back yard. The Atkinses are buried in the Gifford Cemetery.
The Atkinses’ daughter, Eliza Cook Atkins (1831-1909), married Richard Baxter (1826-1908).
The Baxters’ daughter, Florence (1858-1962), was born in Oswego, N.Y. She was married in Chicago in 1893 to Reinhold Waldin. The Waldins moved to Phoenix, where their daughter Louise was born. Reinhold died around the turn of the century, when Florence returned to Provincetown, with Louise, to live in the home her grandfather had constructed. Over time, Mrs. Waldin became one of Provincetown’s best-known citizens. She worked at the Seamen’s Savings Bank and at the New York Store, and belonged to the Research Club. Having had to wait until she was 62 years old to vote, Mrs. Waldin was a Republican for the rest of her long life, casting a ballot for Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio in the 1952 presidential primary in part because she fondly remembered having seen his father, President William Howard Taft, at the dedication of the Pilgrim Monument. Her celebrity was guaranteed once she became a centenarian in 1958, and her next four birthdays were nothing less than civic events. President John F. Kennedy sent her a greeting on the occasion of her 104th birthday on 12 February 1962, which was marked by a gathering of “many friends and well-wishers,” The Advocate reported. She died a month later.
The Waldins’ daughter, Louise (b ±1897), married Lawrence Leslie Baumgartner (±1894-1959), of Newburyport, Mass. Cutting an even higher civic profile than her mother did, Mrs. Baumgartner was the chairwoman for many years of the Red Cross Canteen at 6 Gosnold Street. Among other tasks, that meant persuading the people of Provincetown to donate blood, year in and year out. During World War II, it also meant soliciting home-baked goods for the wounded veterans housed on the Cape at Camp Edwards, in Buzzards Bay.
The Baumgartners’ son, Richard Baxter (1928-2006), graduated in 1946 from Provincetown High School, served with the Army in Japan, entered Harvard College, was called back to duty (this time, in France) and returned to Harvard, from which he graduated in 1954. Ten years later, he married Susan Arnold. His obit in The Cape Cod Times said that he coordinated the 1979 opening of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and the announcement that same year by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, at Faneuil Hall, that he would run for president.
Ownership of 48B Bradford passed formally in 2006 to Baumgartner’s daughter, Elizabeth “Liza” Cragg Judge, and her husband, James Patrick Judge, of Groton, Mass.
In all, an extraordinary tale of continuity involving one of the loveliest — and least known — properties in Provincetown.
¶ Last updated on 16 July 2016.
Pat Judge wrote on 26 March 2014: This house is owned by my family. It was built around 1830 by my wife’s great-great-great-grandfather, Capt. Reuben Atkins, and his wife, Roxanna Cook Atkins. It has been in the family since. Previously, the land encompassed what is now the Methodist church and the police station, all the way to Brown.