Provincetown Tennis Club | DNA Artist Residency.
A synergy you’d only find in P’town: a nonprofit tennis club and a well-established art institution. They are both housed in a structure that was built by Gladys Godfrey (Kissel) (Miller) Rokos (1888-1976). She sold the property in 1924 to the fledgling Tennis Club of Provincetown — a different entity than the modern Provincetown Tennis Club — which was founded that year by the artist Charles W. Hawthorne (1872-1930); Dr. Percival J. Eaton (1862-1938), a prominent Pittsburg pediatrician who lived in what we now think of as the Norman Mailer house; and Grace Coolidge (Davenport) Winslow (1877-1970), whose husband was president of CambridgePort Savings Bank, which merged into Citizens Bank decades later.
The lot was extraordinary: 111-feet-1½-inches wide, it stretched a mile and a half from Bradford Street “to the ocean,” excepting a swath owned by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company, through which tracks ran to the Provincetown passenger depot and Railroad Wharf — a 20-acre ribbon, in all.¹
A contemporary map shows the route of a right-of-way from the Tennis Club of Provincetown to Provincetown Harbor. It permitted the organization to identify itself in 1950 as the Provincetown Yacht and Tennis Club — with a straight face
The right-of-way offers a lovely path between Bradford and Commercial Streets to this day. Photo, 2019, by David W. Dunlap.
There was something else very special in the conveyance from Gladys Miller: a “right-of-way five (5) feet in width extending southeasterly along the northeasterly side of other land owned by me, opposite the above parcel and between said Bradford Street and Commercial Street, and from Commercial Street to the shore, said right-of-way to be used for all purposes for which foot passengers commonly use such rights-of-way.”
In other words, the Tennis Club of Provincetown acquired a property that ran from shore to shore. (The national park had not yet been created.)
Probably battered by the Great Depression, the club sold its property in 1939 to
Lauren W. Cook (1902-1961), who already owned a lot across the road, fronting on 287 Bradford Street and 594 Commercial Street. Cook was born in Iowa and educated at the College of Fine Arts in Syracuse (now Syracuse University: College of Visual & Performing Arts). His wife, Marion M. Moran, was also an accomplished commercial artist. Lauren worked in New York as an illustrator for publishing houses and advertising agencies.
The East End Club, forerunner to the Provincetown Tennis Club, was founded in 1939 by Lauren and Marion Cook. The ad appeared in The Advocate on 22 June. The club used the address No. 386, but that is now a separate lot.
But it seems that his first love was tennis. In 1939, he and Marion organized the East End Club, a place to play tennis and socialize. Cook acquired 288 Bradford Street in April through a deed signed, on behalf of the old tennis club, by the artist William J. L’Engle (1884-1957).² The Cooks hired the architect Brit Bolton to undertake renovations inside and out. In June, the East End Club opened with a party for some 200 people. The Advocate said the Cooks “will manage Provincetown’s new ‘country club’ this season” and “are planning other parties to make the new club one of the town’s brightest spots.”³
Beside the Cooks, charter members included Ethel Archer Ball, a prominent real estate broker; Francis Dears; Christine Foster; William F. Gilman; Joseph Seaman; Henry Scheel; Paul Smith, the founder of the Provincetown Bookshop; and Katherine Young.
Further improvements made in the building during the fall and winter of 1939-1940 delighted the social set. Chief among these, The Advocate said, was a “new Blue Room with facilities for spectator sports” — a description that suggests it may refer to what is now the second-floor DNA art space.⁴ Archery was added to the program.
The clubhouse in 2008 (left) and 2013. Photos by David W. Dunlap.
World War II put a damper on all things social and recreational. Artistic programs and uses began taking their place here in the wartime years. Ballet classes for youngsters were offered in 1942, and in 1944, Jerry Farnsworth (1895–1983), a former Hawthorne student, taught art classes in the second-floor space.
After the war, interest was revived in tennis and sailing. So it seemed a logical step in 1946, to fold the Provincetown Yacht Club, which had been inactive for six years and had only 25 members left, into the healthier East End Club, which had a roster of 128 members. The merger created the Provincetown Yacht and Tennis Club.
“The union of the two groups will centralize tennis, yachting, and social interests,” The Advocate said.
“There are three tennis courts, and the clubhouse is well equipped. There is a large ballroom, and two spacious lounges with fireplaces, lockers, dressing rooms, hot and cold showers, service bar, and lounge with lockers.”⁵
But … a yacht club on Bradford Street? The Advocate explained:
“Although the club is not on the water there is a right-of-way to the harbor one block away where a deck is proposed, moorings for small boats, and a flag pole to fly the club burgee [a triangular yacht club flag].”⁵
In 1950, the Cooks sold 288 Bradford Street — and the all-important five-foot right-of-way — to the four-year-old Provincetown Yacht and Tennis Club.⁵ᴬ No later than 1952, the Artisan Shop opened at the clubhouse. Lucy L’Engle (1889-1978), whose husband signed the property over to the Cooks, had an exhibition, “Montages,” at this gallery in 1955.
Then came Ruth (Schindler) (Hirsch) Bocour (1911-2000), the artistic director of the Provincetown Dance Workshop, which was conducted at the club in the late 1950s. “The Workshop’s primary interest is to establish a center for beginners and professionals, children and adults, where a greater and deeper understanding of dance can be experienced,” The Advocate said in 1958. Bocour taught youngsters. Lydia Weissman taught teen-agers, and Frances Rainer taught adults.
The clubhouse in 2011, by David W. Dunlap.
Bocour was born in Philadelphia. In her youth, she studied dance with Martha Graham, appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra, worked in a research laboratory at Temple University, was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and taught dance at Bryn Mawr College. Her first husband, Joseph Hirsch, created the indelible image of a stoop-shouldered Willy Loman for the 1949 production of Death of a Salesman.
They divorced in 1955. Her second husband, Leonard Bocour, ran Bocour Artist Colors in Manhattan with his nephew, Sam Golden. They developed the first acrylic paints for artists, including the brands Magna and Aquatec. Among Provincetown artists who used them were Helen Frankenthaler, Hans Hofmann, Irving Marantz, and Mark Rothko.
At her death in 2000 in Santa Monica, Bocour was well known for curating and donating the family’s remarkable art collection, and the company’s papers and paint formulas.
The Yacht and Tennis Club was the home of the short-lived East End Players and of June Gebelein’s dance classes in the early 1960s. The club dropped the “Yacht” from its name in 1964, becoming simply the Provincetown Tennis Club. (As such, it is a spiritual — but not actually a corporate — successor to the Tennis Club of Provincetown.)
Sheldon Caldwell (left), was the pro in the 1950s and ’60s. Christopher Busa (center), played that role from 1970 to 1984. The pro at this writing is Mary Fink (right). Photo of Caldwell from the “Past Presidents” gallery on the United States Professional Tennis Association website. Photo of Busa in 2015 by David W. Dunlap. Photo of Fink from the Provincetown Tennis Club website.
At the time, the pro was Sheldon Caldwell (1931-2012), who had been associated with the club since 1952. Caldwell resigned in 1967 to become the pro at the Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest, Ill. Nine years later, he was elected president of the United States Professional Tennis Association, representing tennis teachers nationwide.
From 1970 until 1984 — a year before he founded Provincetown Arts with Raymond S. Elman — Christopher J. Busa was the club pro and an instructor. He established the Year-Rounders’ Tournament. Among his students were various members of the (very) extended Norman Mailer clan, including Mailer’s nephew Peter Alson.
“Chris had an enormous enthusiasm for tennis and for teaching,” Alson recalled in a 2011 interview, “and he also had a way of explaining difficult concepts in very vivid, graphic terms that made concepts that might otherwise have been a bit abstract more accessible. Anyway, he got me excited about playing and improving my game.”⁷ A distressing and litigious period ensued after Busa retired, when a new board denied him what had been intended as lifetime honorary membership.⁸
For a time in the 1980s, the pro was Greg Sneden, who came to Provincetown from University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “His philosophy is to uncomplicate tennis, to make it ‘easy’ to play,” Jan Kelly wrote in Provincetown Magazine.⁹
The view from the back porch of the clubhouse in 2010, by David W. Dunlap.
Also in the ’80s, the nonprofit Provincetown Group Gallery made its home upstairs in the clubhouse. It was founded in 1964, at 359 Commercial Street, by Reeves Euler, Jim Forsberg, Joseph Kaplan, Ross Moffett, and Ray Martan Wells. Members at one time or another included Arthur Cohen, Morris Davidson, Salvatore Del Deo, Elman, Richard Florsheim, Dorothy Lake Gregory, Lily Harmon, Gerrit Hondius, Jack Kearney, Nancy Whorf Kelly, Conrad Malicoat, Philip Malicoat, Bruce McKain, S. Edmund Oppenheim, Mischa Richter, Alvin Ross, Judith Shahn, Henry Steig, Tony Vevers, and George Yater.
Its successor was the DNA Gallery — Definitive New Art — founded in 1994 by the painter Nick Lawrence of Boston, whose “neo-expressionist canvases delve into the gulf between men and women, the deep gully of the unconscious, and the fate of the earth,” Cate McQuaid wrote in The Boston Globe in 2008.¹⁰ His mother, Merloyd Ludington Lawrence, is the president of the Merloyd Lawrence Books imprint.
Two views of the DNA Gallery in 2010, when Jay Critchley’s “Insurgent Bodies” was on exhibition. Photos by David W. Dunlap.
The DNA logo employs the double helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid. The club’s logo, shown here on a 2012 promotional card, uses the Pilgrim Monument.
Lawrence told The Globe that he’d become interested in gallery work having organized an exhibit about nuclear proliferation at the Mills Gallery of the Boston Center for the Arts in the early 1990s. After establishing the DNA Gallery in Provincetown, Lawrence cofounded the LFL Gallery (later the Zach Feuer Gallery) in the Chelsea section of Manhattan in 2000, the Freight + Volume Gallery in Chelsea in 2005 (it is now on the Lower East Side), and the Arts + Leisure Gallery in East Harlem in 2014.
The DNA Gallery’s inaugural ad in Volume 10 of Provincetown Arts said it would feature “innovative work in a variety of media by artists of Provincetown, New York, Los Angeles, and Boston,” with an “emphasis on environmental/biological art.”
Celebrating its first decade in 2003 — an impressive enough milestone in its own right — DNA staged eight shows from May through November, including works by Bailey Bob Bailey, Paul Bowen, Jay Critchley, Brion Dunigan, Peter Hutchinson, Joel Meyerowitz, Jim Peters, Daniel Ranalli, Tabitha Vevers, Tony Vevers, and Bert Yarborough, among others.
The directors at the time were Lawrence, Stephen Borkowski, Kaolin Davis, and Hillary Shugrue. Other directors have included Jennifer Liese, Pamela Mandell, and Eric C. Webster.
Lawrence moved DNA in a new direction in 2012 with the inception of a residency program. Sixty or so artists are given the chance — by invitation — to spend one or two weeks in Provincetown, with housing provided, as well as use of the 2,000-square-foot gallery space in the tennis clubhouse. A group show is conducted at the end of summer.
The landing page of the tennis club’s website in 2019.
Downstairs, at the club, Ken Ventimiglia — an alumnus of the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla. (now IMG Academy) — became director of tennis in 2010.
At this writing, in 2019, the head pro and director of tennis is Mary Fink, who teaches in the winter months at the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center, a 21-court municipal facility in Fort Lauderdale. She also worked for WCI Communities, a division of the Lennar Corporation, which develops luxury properties in Florida. Fink manages the club and the staff, and orchestrates the tennis programming, including drop-ins, clinics, tournaments, and social events. The assistant pro is Joshua Bookman. Kim Mimides is the office manager.
The club today has five Har-Tru clay courts and two Omni synthetic grass courts. The season runs from 15 May to 15 October. In 2019, an annual full membership cost $750, while monthly membership was $425. Guest fees were $20 an hour. Residents of Provincetown and Truro may play for free after 4 p.m. on summer Wednesdays.
The club’s seven courts are highly visible in this Google Maps view.
¶ Last updated on 14 September 2019.
288 Bradford Street on the Town Map.
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2011, by David W. Dunlap.
For further research online:
• Ruth (Schindler) (Hirsch) Bocour (1911-2000)
“Ruth Bocour; Managed Art, Papers From Husband’s Pioneering Career With Paints,” by Jon Thurber, The Los Angeles Times, 16 October 2000.
• Nick Lawrence
“Returning From a Brush With Disaster / After Losing 1,200 Artworks, He Found a New Purpose,” by Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe, 2 November 2008.
• Gladys Godfrey (Kissel) (Miller) Rokos (1888-1976)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 64061807 (Albuquerque).
• Grace Coolidge (Davenport) Winslow (1877-1970)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 148420943 (Cambridge).
• DNA Gallery / DNA Artist Residency
DNA Gallery website.
Freight + Volume website.
• Provincetown Tennis Club
Provincetown Tennis Club website.
¹ Miller to Tennis Club, 11 June 1924, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 407, Page 520.
² Tennis Club to Cook, 26 April 1939, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 551, Page 116.
² “Town Welcomes East End Club / Tennis Club Takes on New Spirit for Season,” The Provincetown Advocate, 15 June 1939.
⁴ “Party Marks Club Opening / East End Club Guests Delighted With Improvements,” The Provincetown Advocate, 6 June 1940.
⁵ “Yachting-Tennis Merger Is Planned / East End Club Will Be Quarters of Combined Group — Plans Made for Racing,” The Provincetown Advocate, 5 September 1946.
⁵ᴬ Cook to Provincetown Yacht and Tennis Club, 5 July 1950, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Page 756, Page 167.
⁶ “Dance Workshop Opens Season at Yacht & Tennis Club,” The Provincetown Advocate, 3 July 1958.
⁷ “Going All In: A Conversation With Peter Alson,” by Raymond Elman, Provincetown Arts, Volume 26 (2011-2012), Page 120.
⁸ The roots of the conflict were described by Peter Manso in Ptown: Art, Sex, and Money on the Outer Cape, Pages 267-268.
⁹ “Kelly’s Corner,” Provincetown Magazine, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 6388.
¹⁰ “Returning From a Brush With Disaster / After Losing 1,200 Artworks, He Found a New Purpose,” by Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe, 2 November 2008.