Crowne Pointe Hotel and Spa (Mansion).
There’s no question that Crowne Pointe does occupy a crowning point in the town landscape, at the Y-shaped juncture of Bradford and Prince Streets, with a commanding view downtown from the top of Mill Hill. And while its defining turret is not a product of the Queen Anne Revival of the 19th century, as it appears to be, it’s still an effective architectural punctuation when looking up Bradford Street. The Mansion, as 82 Bradford Street is known, is the most noteworthy of the five buildings that make up the Crowne Pointe complex (the others being the Abbey, 80 Bradford; the Garden Residence, 80 Bradford; the Shui Spa, 78 Bradford; and the Captain’s House, 4 Prince Street).
It is also reliably reported to be haunted.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, we had a guest come down to the front desk and he looked shaken,” David M. Sanford, the co-owner of Crowne Pointe, told me in December 2020. “He said he was woken up by a female ghost all night. She was asking him questions like: ‘Where is the captain?’ ‘Did you see my husband?’ We kindly changed his room.”
82 Bradford Street is at the center of this 1910 postcard, with the green roof.
“A very old man, believed to be the original inn’s sea captain, is seen pacing the hallways of the main inn,” the hotel notes on its website, which includes a “Ghost Stories” page. “A ghostly image, often spotted on lobby surveillance cameras, shows a person wearing a flowing white robe, briskly strolling through the lobby late at night. A heavy kitchen door that mysteriously opens in the evening and then closes again without human assistance.”
Lisa Block of Brewster confirmed the haunting of 82 Bradford Street. She lived there as a young girl. Her mother, Joyce Block, ran the inn as Room at the Top, with her partner, Anne Kane Jr. “In the winter time they would close off the upstairs to conserve heat and I would sleep on a trundle bed in the living room,” Lisa told me in 2020.
“There were many times when we would hear what sounded like a lively party happening upstairs. … I recall hearing music and what sounded like dancing. It is the only place I lived that I ever thought was haunted. We were never fearful though, it just sounded like the spirits were having fun.”
Who might those spirits be? Well, there’s the sea captain for whom the house was said to have been built. Or perhaps they may be Alexander McKenzie (1833-1908) and his wife, Lydia B. (Reed) McKenzie (1837-1903), who lived here in the late 19th century. McKenzie was a house painter who had immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1847. Or perhaps the spirits are the McKenzies’ successors in the house: Salome A. G. (Gifford) Elder (1845-1937) and her husband, William Allen Elder (1835-1911), who had come to Provincetown from Baltimore.
Salome Elder had the distinction of being the first librarian of the Provincetown Public Library, according to her obituary in the Advocate. She was also a school teacher and an active member of what is now the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, but was then the Church of the Redeemer.
The south elevation of No. 82, from which the modern additions are less evident. David W. Dunlap, 2010.
She sold this property in 1927 to Winifred I. (Hopkins) Steele (1893-1981), who was married to Seraphine Gabriel “Phinney” Steele (1892-1952), the proprietor of a trucking company known alternately as Steele Brothers and S. G. Steele. Its business address was here, at No. 82.
The Steeles sold in 1948 to John F. Linskey (1898-1953), a mechanic, and his wife, Dorothy E. (Atwood) Linskey (1905-1996). As far as I can judge, the Linskeys were the first owners to operate 82 Bradford Street as a transient accommodation. It was listed as the Lynn House in a 1954 directory published by the Chamber of Commerce. Dorothy Linskey was an organist at the Church of St. Peter the Apostle in the early 1950s, often providing music for newlyweds.
Lorenzo Dow Baker Jr. (1863-1950), whose father co-founded the United Fruit Company and owned 162 Commercial Street, moved in with the Linskeys in the fall of 1949. He died in this house on 16 January 1950, at age 86, of a cerebral hemorrhage. Like his father, Lorenzo Jr. was a director of the Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association, which built the Pilgrim Monument. It would be nice to think he could see it from his window here. Though he’s buried at the Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Wellfleet, perhaps he comes back here for some occasional merry-making.
What had been an angular corner at Bradford and Prince was rounded off in 1955 when Mrs. Linskey sold a 368-square-foot, arrow-shaped parcel to the Town of Provincetown, allowing for the widening of the roadway around a 54-foot curve. She sold the rest of the property in 1959 to Robert B. Frederick, who turned around and sold it to James Lunt of Rochester, N.Y., four months later. The next year, 1960, the Board of Selectmen (as it was called) granted Lunt a new innkeeper’s license for the property. I don’t know whether he continued to operate it as Lynn House, or changed the name.
Left: Site plan in the early 1950s shows the original main house, a garage, and the angular intersection. Right: The current site plan shows the rounded property line and the major addition to No. 82. Map by Dunlap.
It was Lunt who sold the property in 1969 to Joyce Block and Anne Kane. They ran it as Room at the Top, and the house was painted barn red. “There were four rooms and a shared bathroom upstairs that they rented out in season,” Lisa Block told me. “Downstairs was the kitchen, dining room, TV room, living room, bedroom, and bath.
“In addition to the regular stairs, there were also another set of stairs that went from the dining room to the upstairs area. There, there was a large space that was open. Off of that were rooms 1, 2, and then 3, which had 4 added onto it. I once went to Crowne Pointe when it first opened and tried to see the old spaces, but so many changes had taken place. I have heard from many people that we were not the only ones who thought 82 Bradford was haunted.”
Joyce Block, Lisa’s mother, sold her interest in the property in 1972 to Kane, who sold the property in 1977 to Gerald Roll, for $63,000. A year later, Roll sold it for $128,500 to Edward J. and Patricia A. Doherty of West Newton. The Dohertys held it for three years before selling in 1981, for $165,000, to Mary M. Nowd and Carole A. Whitman (1945-2002) of Framingham. That marked the beginning of a new chapter.
Advertisement in the 1985 Provincetown Business Guild guide book. The drawing is of a dusty miller. Collection of David Jarrett.
Nowd and Whitman renamed the place the Dusty Miller Inn; presumably after the distinctive and hardy annual, Jacobaea maritima, also known as silver ragwort, whose multi-lobed leaves look as if they’d been dusted in silver.
Whitman was counted among the pioneering women innkeepers who “filled their rooms with lesbians from all walks of life” by Karen Christel Krahulik, writing in Provincetown: From Pilgrim Landing to Gay Resort. Others were Betty Adams of the Windamar House, 566-568 Commercial Street; Diane Baines and Dottie McKay of the Check’er Inn, 25 Winthrop Street; Angela Calomiris of Angels’ Landing, 353 Commercial Street; Diane J. Corbo of the Ravenwood, 462 Commercial Street; Jackie Kelly and Karen Harding of the Greenhouse, 18 Pearl Street; Sandra Rich of the White Wind Inn, 174 Commercial Street; and Michael Wright of Plums Bed & Breakfast Inn, 160 Bradford Street.
Whitman bought out Nowd’s interest in 1986 and held the property until January 1999, when she sold it for $630,000 to David M. Sanford and Thomas J. Walter, doing business as the Crowne Pointe Realty Trust.
The east elevation during construction in 1999. The expansion of 82 Bradford Street was already in place, but the trademark turret had yet to be constructed between the old and new wings. From the “History of the Inn” page of the Crowne Pointe website.
January. That gave the new owners four months to prepare for the season. “All hands turned industriously to the main house for its anticipated opening in May of that year,” said the “History of the Inn” page on the Crowne Pointe website.
“The clock was ticking, construction crews worked seven days a week, from sun up until long past sundown, in the effort to put Crowne Pointe back together. At times, as many as 60 people were working on the site on one day. At the end of a shift, one painting crew would deboard the scaffolding only to let the next crew on. One of the most arduous tasks for the team of artisans and carpenters was to salvage key architectural remnants of the original buildings, then piece them back together so as to be artfully blended with new period-inspired renovation.”
I believe it was at this time that the 35-foot-long, two-story extension was appended to the main house, along with the octagonal porch turret. The designer was Robert Valois. Sanford and Walter also acquired 80 Bradford Street in 1999, followed by 4 Prince Street in 2000, and 78 Bradford Street in 2003. Four years later, they acquired the Brass Key Guesthouse, 67 Bradford Street.
A delightful rendering of the Crowne Pointe complex shows the Mansion, 82 Bradford, at the far right. From the “Property Map” page of the Crowne Pointe website.
Crusty old-timers were known to refer to the new hotel as “Crowny Pointy,” to poke fun at the slightly pretentious spelling of its name. But kidding aside, the Crowne Pointe Historic Inn was soon regarded among the top luxury guest houses in town.
Fodor’s Cape Cod gave it a rave review in the 22nd Edition of 2003: “This inn has not left a single detail unattended. Owners Tom Walter and David Sanford meticulously mix luxury and comfort. Period furniture and antiques fill the common areas and rooms; a queen-size bed is the smallest you’ll find, dressed in 250-thread-count linens, with treats on the pillow for nightly turndown service. Many rooms have fireplaces; in one room, view the flames from your bed or the whirlpool tub. Penthouse suites have two floors of living space with a full kitchen; and many rooms have private balconies with water or town views. The grounds are accented with brick pathways, flowers, and trees. All rooms are equipped with high-speed DSL, and a terminal in the reception area is available for chronic email checkers. Start the day with a full, hot breakfast and graze freshly baked treats and wine and cheese in the afternoon.”
(Amenities have, of course, kept up with the times. For instance, wireless internet access is now available at no cost in all guest rooms and public spaces.)
Left: The restaurant at 82 Bradford was originally known as the Bistro. Right: It is now the Pointe.
Crowne Pointe came to national attention in 2004 when, in anticipation of legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, the hotel stretched a 25-foot-long banner across the facade of the Mansion saying, “Congrats newlyweds.”
Olympia Dukakis stayed here in 2008 when she was a special guest of the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. She appeared in a program titled, “Olympia Dukakis — From Streetcar to Milk Train,” in which she was interviewed and performed several monologues from Williams’s plays. “She epitomized charm,” recalled Stephen Borkowski, who escorted her that weekend.
Three years later, John O’Connell included the Crowne Pointe in a roundup called “The Best Rooms in Town,” for Boston Spirit: “A homey, romantic feel pervades the Crowne Pointe. The original captain’s home houses the Bistro, serving up daily hot breakfasts for guests and candlelight seating in the restaurant at night. A full-service bar offers a comfortable waiting room and the downstairs Club Room, with elegant slipper chairs, sofas, and wine cabinets, feels like a C.E.O.’s private wine cellar.”
The restaurant is now known as the Pointe. (Robbin Haas is the executive chef.) Room rates for the 2021 season ranged from $109 to $359 in the dead of winter to $279 to $769 at the height of summer. At this writing, Crowne Pointe held an “Excellent” rating from Tripadvisor (4.5 out of a possible five). Among 934 reviews, 828 travelers rated it “Excellent” or “Very Good.” The Crowne Pointe and Brass Key continued to be run as affiliated properties.
And as for the ghosts, the management stated: “Don’t worry, all of our ‘extra’ visitors are friendly – so far!”
¶ Last updated on 15 December 2020.
82 Bradford Street on the Town Map.
Also in the Crowne Pointe complex:
• Shui Spa, 78 Bradford Street.
• Abbey, 80 Bradford Street.
• Garden Residence, 80 Bradford Street.
• Captain’s House, 4 Prince Street.
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2008, by David W. Dunlap.
• Lorenzo Dow Baker Jr. (1863-1950)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 152387057, Wellfleet.
• Salome A. G. (Gifford) Elder (1845-1937)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 152203501.
• William Allen Elder (1835-1911)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 152203186.
• Alexander McKenzie (1833-1908)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 155200448.
• Lydia B. (Reed) McKenzie (1837-1903)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 155364448.
• Seraphine Gabriel “Phinney” Steele (1892-1952)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 124856772, Truro.
• Winifred I. (Hopkins) Steele (1893-1981)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 174893125, Truro.