2020 Commercial 070A


There’s no plaque to say so, but this was the birthplace of Captain Jack — Jackson R. “J. R.” Williams (1861-1935) — whose wharf at 73A Commercial Street is among the most recognizable and cherished landmarks of Provincetown. His sister, Elizabeth B. “Lizzie” (Williams) Foster (1870-1956), was credited by Nancy W. Paine Smith as one of the stalwarts who helped rebuild the Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church at 170 Commercial Street after it burned to the ground in 1908, killing two young boys as it collapsed. In her 97th year, she was one of the first two residents of the Cape End Manor at 26 Alden Street. Her husband was Capt. Charles A. Foster (1863-1920), who commanded the schooner Frank Foster, which was badly damaged during the 1898 Portland Gale. Capt. Charles A. Bennett (1904-1992), who was one of their grandsons, grew up in this house and acquired it from Mrs. Foster in 1952. He lived here with his wife, Amelia M. Bennett.

In 1973, Captain Bennett and the abutter, Patricia Helen “Trisha” (Cabral) Papetsas of 70 Commercial Street, went to legal war over the question of whether Bennett had the right to drive over a portion of Papetsas’s property to get from West Vine Street to his house, and also whether he had a legitimate claim to a 400-square-foot panhandle at the northwestern corner of her property, on which Bennett kept a shed. Papetsas prevailed in Superior Court, but Bennett ultimately won in the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

The property was purchased in 1996 by Kenneth Freed of Boston, as the Bagnoir Trust. Freed, an accountant and investment adviser, is on the board of the Fine Arts Work Center. His garden at 70A Commercial was among those featured in a 2016 tour sponsored by the Garden Club of the Back Bay, which said:

Visitors to this small town garden surrounding a historic 19th-century house are greeted by cloud-pruned boxwood in the front garden and a gravel area filled with a riot of self-seeding lupines, corn poppies, larkspur, oxeye daisies, foxgloves, and California poppies. Other features include a spectacular display of coleus of all shapes and colors in an array of pots; a mixed planting of hardy and tender perennials (including thalictrum, euphorbia, veronicastrum, salvias in variety); and a rock wall with a hot and dry western exposure covered with a mosaic of sedums accented by sempervivums massed in a well-curated collection of unique containers.

For a view of the shed, please see 70A Commercial Street.

¶ Last updated on 8 July 2018.

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