Especially picturesque, the house built in the 1870s by Samuel Soper Swift is unusual for its Stick-style trusses, brace supports, and diagonal flat strapping. This was where the painter and illustrator Gerrit Albertus Beneker (1882-1934) and his wife, Flora Judd (Van Vranken) Beneker (1883 – 1973), spent much of 1918. In that eventful year, their daughter Helen (Beneker) Menin (1918-2017) was born in this house. And Beneker — whose work glorified and humanized manual laborers — painted a robust portrait of the machinist Antone Jason “Tony” Avellar (1886-1961), staring confidently at the viewer, all but saying out loud: “Sure! We’ll finish the job.” The point was to sell bonds to the public to help finance the war effort. Under the Victory Liberty Loan advertised in the Beneker poster, bond purchasers would receive a 4.75 percent tax-free return in four years.
Gerrit A. Beneker’s 1918 war bond poster, Sure! We’ll Finish the Job, featured Antone Jason “Tony” Avellar. Both men lived at 210 Bradford Street. Image from the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.
Avellar was perfectly cast for the role of Working Man, because that’s exactly what he was. His mother, Angelina Jacinta (Soares) Avellar (1866-1956), was known as “Mother Avellar” far beyond her own brood at 437 Commercial. That brood, “Clan Avellar,” merited an entire chapter in Mary Heaton Vorse’s Time and the Town. Having been schooled locally, he refined his trade at the Atlantic Works shipyard and dry dock in East Boston, then came back to town to operate a gasoline and oil boat that serviced the fishing fleet — first with Texas Company (Texaco) products, then with Standard Oil Company products. According to an account in The Boston Daily Post, owned by the Grozier family of 160 Commercial Street, Avellar was in his shop trying to repair an engine when Beneker stopped by for a visit. Ever congenial, Avellar reached into his overalls for the makings of a cigarette to offer the artist. It was his unselfconscious pose at that moment, and the openness of his friendly face, that inspired Beneker to cast him, quite literally, as a poster boy for bond sales.
“Best of all,” The Post said, “Tony lives up to his poster, which typifies the substantial true American — the hard-working, salt-of-the-earth family man whose generous spirit reaches outside his family circle to help the nation.”¹ And this was only the beginning of Avellar’s connection to 210 Bradford Street.
210 Bradford Street in 2012. Photo by David W. Dunlap.
The next year, 1919, he and his first wife, Marthe Louise (Strub) Avellar (1883-1958), purchased this house from Albert and Mabel Zerbone. Mrs. Avellar, known as Louise, was a native of the Département du Haut-Rhin in eastern France. The couple would have nearly four decades together in this home, raising four daughters and two sons. They also had tenants, like Alpheus Irving “Irv” Freeman (±1875-1960) — descended from the long-established Freemans of the West End — who ran Freeman’s General Store, at 491 Commercial Street, until 1949. The store was “particularly noted for its marine line,” The Advocate said in Freeman’s obituary.²
This being Provincetown, where amazing things happen, the Avellars also counted Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) among their guests. Charles M. Leigh, who once lived at 210 Bradford and knew Tony Avellar, said in 2018 that “Red” Lewis had stayed at the house. It’s certainly plausible. The Advocate obit noted Tony Avellar’s acquaintance with Lewis, Eugene O’Neill, Susan Glaspell, and John Dos Passos.³ Lewis spent a couple of summers in Provincetown in the early 1910s, staying with the Avellar family at 437 Commercial Street, now Poor Richard’s Landing. This was where Lewis wrote at least some of his first book, a boys’ adventure tale called Hike and the Aeroplane, published in 1912, when Lewis was in his late 20s. He used the pseudonym Tom Graham, but dedicated the book to Edwin and Isabel Lewis, “the author’s oldest friends” — and parents.
The rear of the building. David W. Dunlap (2012).
It’s tempting to think that this may have been where Lewis stayed in August 1939 when he returned to Provincetown, not as one of America’s preeminent writers but as a cast member in a production of O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! at the Wharf Theatre, 83 Commercial Street. Lewis, then 54 years old, played Nat Miller, paterfamilias in O’Neill’s only comedy. The Advocate, for one, seemed glad that the actor had a day job. “Mr. Lewis is good, but not so good that his audience is made to forget Arrowsmith, Babbitt, Dodsworth, and Nobel prizes,” the newspaper said. “His best speech of the evening was made between acts when he presented a really stirring plea for funds for the old actors’ home.”⁴ Lewis probably didn’t have time to dwell on the tepid reception, smitten as he was with an 18-year-old actress, Marcella Powers, who had been giving him cues during the rehearsals for the play and went on to become a kind of lover-protegée.
In 1954, the Avellars transferred the property to their daughter Catherine R. (Avellar) Janard (1916-1999) and her husband, Herman Edward Janard (1918-1981), but continued living here. Louise Avellar died four years later. In 1959, Tony Avellar wed Helen C. “Nellie” (Cabral) Bent (1897-1977), 15 years his junior. The Janards transferred 210 Bradford Street back to Avellar in 1960, this time with Nellie Avellar on the deed. He died a year later, at the Joseph H. Pratt Diagnostic Hospital (now the Pratt Diagnostic Center) in Boston. Nellie added her son-in-law Herman Janard to the deed, after which he transferred the property to Herman Wallace “Benty” Bent (1914-1985), another son-in-law. After Bent’s death, his widow, Marie Louise “Merle” (Avellar) Bent (1912-2011), sold the house in 1987 for $200,000 to David S. Brown of 523 Commercial Street.
Left: As the Three Peaks Bed & Breakfast, the house was shielded from street views by a thick, high hedgerow with an arched entryway. Right: The property was showing its age in the last year of operation. Photos taken in 2008 and 2012 by David W. Dunlap.
Then came the partners Walter F. R. Winnowski and John N. Gilbride, who bought the house from Brown in 1992 for $262,500 and transformed it into the Three Peaks Bed & Breakfast, with five guest rooms and an apartment. They sold the property in 1998 for $531,250 to Rikki Swin, an important figure in transgender advocacy. As Richard E. Swin Jr., she had headed Tec Air Inc. in Chicago, which she sold in 1999. In 2001, she founded the Rikki Swin Institute, for transgender research and education. A year later, she sold Three Peaks to Barbara K. Edwards for $899,000. After the institute closed in 2004, Swin donated its archive to the University of Victoria in British Columbia. The university said the archive holds an “incomparable collection of newsletters and publications from both large and small transgender organizations, including Fantasia Fair” — a weeklong transgender celebration in Provincetown that (incredibly) dates to 1975.
Three Peaks was back on the market in 2013, when the spouses Allison Baldwin and Ilene Mitnick of Connecticut purchased it for $902,500. Both Baldwin and Mitnick had been executives at Bob’s Stores, a store chain selling moderately-priced apparel and footwear. Mitnick also owned a branding and design consultancy called It’s an Agency Thing. Their plans for Three Peaks — including renaming it Roux (shades of Red Lewis!) — were outlined in a kind of manifesto:
“We’ve known for a very long time that Roux was in our cards – we just didn’t know where she was. And, then, after defining our vision and visiting Provincetown six times in one year, Roux found us. …
“We left corporate life after many years and now fill our days connected only to those things that bring us joy. We get intoxicated by the exquisite details that make a home sing and are thrilled to create gracious living spaces that make others feel happy, welcomed, and nurtured. We are passionate about entertaining and cooking and sharing incredible food experiences with others.
“To us, life is a party. And, so, we decided to host an ongoing one for you.”
Left: Workers preparing the building for its transformation into Roux. Right: The inn after two years of operation, when Boston Magazine named it the best on Cape Cod. Photos, 2014 and 2016, by David W. Dunlap.
They renovated the rooms in vibrant colors, re-landscaped the grounds, and reopened the guest house in 2014. Each room was given a cheeky name: “Blame It on Mozambique,” “Not Your Mama’s Rouge,” “Paris Trance,” “Poulet Vous?,” “Salt,” and “Too Loose to Trek.” The artist Carly Larsson provided playful, eye-popping illustrations of the rooms. In 2015 and 2016, Boston Magazine named Roux the best inn on Cape Cod. “This saucy bed-and-breakfast brings a splash of urban charm to the outermost Cape,” the 2016 citation said. “Rooms are painted bright colors — no staid New England décor here. The food stands out, too: At breakfast, dig into treats like caramelized-onion-and-shiitake clafoutis; by night, mingle with eclectic guests over gratis wine and snacks.”
The year had a much bigger milestone: Bride Pride, an event organized by Baldwin and Mitnick within Women’s Week. On 15 October 2016, with Kate Clinton presiding at the ceremony, 25 lesbian couples were married and another 28 couples renewed their vows — 106 women in all. The 2017 ceremony was smaller, 47 couples. But in an essay on the Ms. Magazine blog, Prof. Laurie Essig of Middlebury College allowed that the ceremony offered a sliver of hope that briefly tempered her despair over the collapsing environment, the growing threat of nuclear war, and the ascendance of the plutocrats.
“After the election [of 2016] we personally chose to focus on love,” Mitnick told Essig. “Love is what matters most.” Baldwin added: “If you stay in the panic, if you stay there and become unable to function, then they win. And, if you stay there, your individual behavior can go crazy. It can become Lord of the Flies.”
Left: A nighttime view in 2018, by David W. Dunlap. Right: The room called “Salt,” depicted in 2014 by the artist Carly Larsson.
“Blame It on Mozambique” (2014), by Carly Larsson.
“Not Your Mama’s Rouge” (2014), by Carly Larsson.
“Paris Trance” (2014), by Carly Larsson.
“Poulet Vous?” (2014), by Carly Larsson.
“Too Loose to Trek” (2014), by Carly Larsson.
Ilene Mitnick, foreground, and Allison Baldwin, in a portrait by Scandinavian Photography LLC/The Art of Seeing (Erik K. Johnson).
Essig wasn’t entirely won over, but she admitted that she left with a needed dose of optimism. “As a feminist,” she wrote, “I do not think that a white wedding, even a mass lesbian one, can ever fix patriarchy or racism, nor will marriage ever solve poverty, as many conservatives argue. Weddings cannot stop global climate change nor can they stop the collapse of democracy. But they can build community, and this one certainly does that.”⁵
Mitnick and Baldwin evidently felt the growing discrepancy between the joyful ceremony and the desperate state of political affairs. They cancelled the 2018 Bride Pride to focus on the midterm elections. “It didn’t feel right to throw a party while our democracy, environment, and rights hung in the balance,” they said.
In late 2018, they placed Roux Provincetown on the market, for $1.799 million. It’s unclear what the future holds as of this writing, but the listing, from Michael Minore of Coldwell Banker Pat Shultz Real Estate, seemed to encourage continuity. “Roux is a dynamic turn-key bed and breakfast with a loyal year-round customer base realizing stellar business growth since opening,” the listing said. “Roux offers up a strong, successful brand and current operations allow for an easy transition to new owners.”
Whatever happens, Mitnick and Baldwin promised a Bride Pride 2019.
¶ Last updated on 29 December 2018.
210 Bradford Street on the Town Map.
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2012, by David W. Dunlap.
Charles M. Leigh wrote on 28 December 2018: I lived at 210 Bradford, and knew Tony Avellar, who told me that Sinclair “Red” Lewis had stayed at the house.
For further reading online
• Antone Joseph “Tony” Avellar
Find a Grave Memorial No. 128671592.
• Marthe Louise (Strub) Avellar
Find a Grave Memorial No. 129408166.
• Gerrit Albertus Beneker
Gerrit Albertus Beneker, on Artnet.
• Herman Wallace “Benty” Bent
Find a Grave Memorial No. 73510874.
• Marie Louise “Merle” (Avellar) Bent
Find a Grave Memorial No. 73510581.
• Catherine R. (Avellar) Janard
Find a Grave Memorial No. 193105980.
• Herman Edward Janard
Find a Grave Memorial No. 139234120.
• Rikki Swin
Rikki Swin Collection web page, University of Victoria.
• Bride Pride
Bride Pride website.
• Roux Provincetown
Roux Provincetown website.
“Best Inn, Cape Cod,” Boston Magazine, 2015.
“Best Inn, Cape Cod,” Boston Magazine, 2016.
210 Bradford Street, Coldwell Banker Pat Shultz Real Estate, MLS No. 21807488.
¹ Quoted in Texaco Star, June 1919.
² “Funeral Today for Irv Freeman,” The Provincetown Advocate, 20 October 1960.
³ “Cape Ender Passes; Helped War Drive,” The Provincetown Advocate, 7 September 1961.
⁴ “Audiences Like Play at Wharf; Sinclair Lewis Starring Here in ‘Ah, Wildnerness,'” The Provincetown Advocate, 24 August 1939.
⁵ “A Mass Lesbian Wedding at the End of the World,” by Laurie Essig, Ms. Magazine blog, 13 December 2017.