2020 Commercial 027


Former Provincetown-Boston Airline headquarters.

“It wasn’t uncommon for passengers with the nation’s first scheduled commuter airline to hear a child’s voice when calling to book a flight,” Kristine Gill of The Naples Daily News wrote in her obituary of Mary “Betty” Van Arsdale (±1923-2016). “‘Provincetown-Boston Airlines — reservations,’ an 8-year-old Bill Van Arsdale would pipe through the landline phone in his parents’ bedroom. ‘May I help you?’ Theirs was a family business, spearheaded by the late John Van Arsdale [1919-1997] and his more modest other half. His wife of 54 years was an equal force in the direction and daily operation of the business. … And she had her pilot’s license, to boot.”

The Van Arsdales purchased 27 Commercial Street — for $5,000 — in 1954, two years after they had incorporated the Provincetown-Boston Airline (no final “s”). Before the company moved its headquarters out to Provincetown Municipal Airport, the Van Arsdale household doubled as the front office. These were barnstorming days, not long after Van Arsdale had allowed one of his passengers on a Boston-to-Hyannis run take over the controls as the Twin Cessna flew over Plymouth. The passenger was Rep. John F. Kennedy, during his successful bid for the Senate seat of Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.

Paul E. Thurlow, the onetime owner and operator of the Boston-Provincetown Steamship Company, and his wife, Margaret C. Thurlow, sold the house to the Van Arsdales. During the nine years they owned it, the artist George Yater advertised a commercial photography service from this address.

The Van Arsdales sold the house in 1974, for $137,500. Thirty years later, the property was purchased — for $4.2 million — by Robert Duffy, who was then the president of Marc Jacobs Inc. Twenty-Seven Commercial would never be the same.

For a view of the Robert Duffy expansion, please see 27 Commercial Street.

¶ Last updated on 5 May 2018.

Gary Eggleston wrote on 4 August 2015: My first time spent [in Provincetown] was the summer of 1944, when my family rented 42 Commercial Street, a Helena Rubinstein property. In the fall of 1945, they purchased 29 Commercial Street. My father, Paul, was a Boston businessman, a photographer, and a member of the Beachcombers. Next door No. 27 was owned by Paul Thurlow, owner of the ship company which owned the Boston-Provincetown boats, Dorothy Bradford, and its successor, Steel Pier. Interestingly, the owner of the Boston-Provincetown boat line sold his home to the owner of the Provincetown-Boston Airline, John Van Arsdale.




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