2020 Commercial 085 Lyars Bench 1935 Boxell 09-001


Sandbar Club (First clubhouse).

The East End has its Beachcombers Club, the ramshackle gathering spot for the art colony elite. (At least, the male of the species.) In the 1930s, the West End had its Sandbar Club, where old sea-dogs and their neighbors could regale one another with tales that might be — let’s say — just a bit tall. Regulars included Ralph Snow Carpenter (1884-1970), developer of the Delft Haven cottage colonies and general West End promoter; John B. Sants (1880-1960), veteran of the Grand Bankers Mary P. Goulart, Mary C. Santos, and Rose Dorothea; Capt. William O’Donnell, skipper of F/V Wallace & Roy; and Capt. Charles Bennett, skipper of F/V Elsie. Besides amusing themselves, members of the Sandbar Club fulfilled civic responsibilities. As the Great Depression deepened in 1933, they sponsored a Christmas dinner for 200 children. They also helped out in the annual task of destroying ragweed patches.

The club was originally headquartered in this former boat house at 85 Commercial Street, photographed in 1935 by W. G. Stiff, a picture that survives in the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell.¹ In the mid-1930s, the structure was demolished. However, in designing the Church of St. Mary of the Harbor, 513-519 Commercial Street, the artist Frederick J. Waugh (1861-1940) used salvaged timbers from that building for the chancel.

Club members then moved to a former fish house at 81 Commercial Street. A retired sea captain was quoted in 1940 as saying that the club’s old salts had offered help to the Wharf Players Theater, 83 Commercial Street, when it became obvious that the pier foundations had to be shored up. For whatever reasons, the offer was not accepted and the theater was lost to a storm. The Sandbar Club was associated with the Lyars’ Bench, both at 81 Commercial Street and at No. 85.

Edwin Rosskam took revelatory photographs of the Sandbar Club and Lyars’ Bench for the Farm Security Administration in 1940.² Along with an article, “Winter Week End at Cape Cod,” The Worcester Telegram published a photograph of Sandbar Club members gathered here in 1947. But by 1949, the club was being referred to in the past tense.

¶ Last updated on 24 July 2018. ¶ Image courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project (Dowd Collection), Page 2226. Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 9, Page 1.

2020 Commercial 081 Gallery MapThe Sandbar Club pictured in the thumbnail was at 85 Commercial Street. A later clubhouse was at 81 Commercial, causing some confusion. Neither building survives, though No. 85 was salvaged and incorporated into the Church of St. Mary of the Harbor. The West End Racing Children’s Community Sailing house now occupies the site of the Wharf Players Theater, which was destroyed in 1940. Map by David W. Dunlap.

¹ Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 9, Page 1. Provincetown History Preservation Project (Dowd Collection), Page 2226.

² “Commercial Street, the main street of Provincetown which runs along the waterfront, including a view of the ‘Sand Bar Club’ and the tourist bus which runs out to the beach. Provincetown, Massachusetts,” by Edwin Rosskam (1940). Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Digital ID No. fsa.8b14612.

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