Behind one of the grandest and noblest of Provincetown’s street trees sits a longtime locus of influence: the home in turn of Ralph Snow Carpenter (1884-1970) and his wife, Constance V. Carpenter (1888-1984), and, since 1986, the summer home of Daniel A. Mullin (1942-2020), a prominent residential real-estate broker in Boston and a trustee of the Fine Arts Work Center. Most memorably, Mullin played host on 2 July 2015 to a presidential fundraising event for Hillary Clinton, organized by neighbors Alix Ritchie of 8 Commercial Street and Bryan Rafanelli of 117 Commercial Street. The 325 guests added $502,000 to Clinton’s campaign that day. “In a rousing and at times moving speech, Clinton spoke of L.G.B.T. equality — both celebrating the recent Supreme Court decision [finding that the 14th Amendment guaranteed same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry] and talking about the plight of so many L.G.B.T. individuals who still face crushing discrimination,” Ritchie told Peter J. Brown of The Banner.
Carpenter would have been appalled.
When he was a selectman in 1952, he was one of three signers of “An Appeal to All Decent People in the Town of Provincetown,” warning that “we are at this moment overrun with a throng of men described by Archbishop [Richard] Cushing [of Boston] as ‘the lowest form of animal life'” — homosexuals!
Unbelievable as it may seem, they have their friends, defenders and supporters among our own people. … We are not getting the support we should in our effort to rid our town town of these degenerates. … [N]ight clubs … are the nests where the homosexuals congregate … Exert the power of your influence to help stamp out this degrading and soul-destroying influence. … Let us not permit our town to become a Sodom or Gomorrah. “Come over into Macedonia and help us.”
Carpenter — retired general manager of a 25,000-acre Caribbean Sugar Company plantation in Manopia, Cuba — was the developer of the Delft Haven cottage colony, which abutted his own home, and a tireless promoter of the West End, particularly its romantic if unfounded claim to have been the spot where the Pilgrims landed.
“Owners of tourist homes and cottages in Provincetown should realize that the rest of the world enjoys a bath once in a while,” Carpenter said in 1937, deploring what he took to be the generally substandard quality of visitor accommodations.¹ That same year, he attacked the town’s traffic regulations, saying that they created what amounted to a maze that led motorists straight out of town. “This town does not live on fish, but on summer business. We are spending money and labor to ‘bring ’em in, bring ’em in,’ and then we turn around and kick them out.”²
In 1953, he and his wife purchased this property from a cousin of Flora May Smith, who had shared the home with her husband, Augustus W. Smith. I don’t know whether the Sandhurst Cottage, 9-11 Commercial Street, was still standing at that time, but it was long ago demolished.
After Mrs. Carpenter’s death, the property was purchased by Mullin, head of Daniel A. Mullin Associates, a real-estate concern on Newbury Street. He is known in Provincetown for an art collection that includes works by Michael Costello, John DiMestico, Harvey Dodd, John Dowd, James Hansen, Chet Jones, Paul Kelly, Dermot Meagher, Hilda Neily, Anne Packard, Cynthia Packard, and Leslie Packard. Besides the Fine Arts Work Center, other objects of Mullins’s philanthropy are the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod and G.L.B.T.Q. Legal Advocates & Defenders.
Six years into a battle with cancer, and shortly after his 78th birthday, Mullin died on 26 November 2020.
¶ Last updated on 2 December 2020.
Amy Whorf McGuiggan wrote on 20 January 2014: My first job as a teenager in the early 1970s was cleaning house and running errands for the gentle and kind Mrs. Constance Carpenter who, at the time, was in her early to mid-80s but was as spry and as sharp as could be. If memory serves me, she owned a handsome Ford Zodiac, and every few weeks I drove her to Hyannis for appointments. I wonder if she realized that I had had my license for mere months!
What I remember most about 11 Commercial Street are the stunning Spanish bells, brought back from Cuba, that hung from wooden frames in the yard. They gave that beautiful corner of Provincetown a distinct look and feel. The Carpenters traded one of their bells for a magnificent Frederick Waugh seascape that graced their living room wall adjacent to a large window that looked out across Provincetown Harbor. Waugh had his bell installed in the belfry of St. Mary’s of the Harbor, the church that had been his devotional project in the last years of his life.
¹ “‘Every Visitor Deserves a Good Bed,’ Says Creator of Tourist Village,” by Hartley P. Thompson, The Provincetown Advocate, 9 September 1937.
² “Carpenter Flays Traffic Rules,” The Provincetown Advocate, 17 June 1937.