2020 Commercial 008


Rich in associations but hard to see from the road, 8 Commercial Street was once home to the abstract painter Otto “Karl” Knaths (1891-1971), whom The New York Times called “a musician in color”; his wife, Helen Lena (Weinrich) Knaths (1876-1978); and her sister, Agnes Weinrich (1873–1946), who cofounded the New York Society of Women Artists. Knaths arrived in town in 1919 and stayed because it was cheap and quiet. He began building on the 8 Commercial Street parcel — before it was subdivided into Nos. 8, 8A, 8B, and 8D — in the mid-1920s. In discussing the work of Knaths, John Canaday of The Times said his typical subjects were “the wharves, nets, fishermen and boats of Provincetown transposed, as he likes to call it, into increasing abstract schemes defined by black linear skeletons.” Knaths said in 1962 that much of that fishing town had disappeared. “They have all these places with pink shutters.” He died in 1971. Five years later, in the Massachusetts Historical Commission Inventory, Josephine Del Deo wrote, “The complete complex of the Knaths home and studio, his two cabins used by himself and other painters as studios, and the rear cabin used by Tennessee Williams to write The Glass Menagerie could easily be placed in the category of national landmark status.” Since 1988, the main house has been owned by Alix Ritchie, the founder and former publisher of The Provincetown Banner, and her wife, Marty Davis, an artist and designer.

For a view of the Tennessee Williams shack, please see 8 Commercial Street.

For a view of the Karl Knaths cottage, please see 8D Commercial Street.

¶ Adapted from Building Provincetown (2015).

For further reading online

Articles on Karl Knaths from Inside Provincetown (1966) and Provincetown Arts (1989). Provincetown History Preservation Project, Municipal Collection, Page 6348.

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