101 Commercial Street | A Home to Last | Formerly A Home at Last.
A retired ship captain is said to have given the name “A Home at Last” to this once-snug cottage, a remnant of the many wharf-head buildings associated with the Union Wharf. For much of the 20th century, this parcel and 99 Commercial Street were under common ownership. In 1965, Salvatore Del Deo and his wife, Josephine Del Deo (1925-2016) — who were already operating Sal’s Place next door — bought the 99-101 Commercial Street property. Among the summer visitors whom the Del Deos regularly lodged at 101 Commercial Street were the Whorfs of Hingham: John Whorf (1927-2010), a printer and artisan, and son of the famous painter by the same name; his wife, Marjorie (Osborne) Whorf; and their children, Amy (Whorf) McGuiggan, John Whorf, and Matthew Whorf.
Ten years separate these photos, taken in 2008 and 2018 by David W. Dunlap.
Amy wrote a lovely, illuminating memoir, My Provincetown: Memories of a Cape Cod Childhood (2003). In it, she described the house, and lost way of life:
All these years later, I can still remember precisely the layout of A Home at Last. We stayed upstairs, in two rooms. That five of us — not to mention the occasional friend or relative from home who came to visit — could coexist for weeks under such conditions was probably only possible because we had pared down our needs to the minimum and we were rarely inside. …
The deck railings were draped all summer with bathing suits, bulky orange life jackets, and an assortment of wet towels, no two of which matched. The only permanent outdoor furniture were a faded wicker settee whose cushion was always wet and a cable spool table littered with coffee cups and wine glasses, binoculars, packs of Pall Malls, books of matches, and a clam-shell ashtray spilling over with stubbed out butts, half of them rimmed with red lipstick. …
Inside, the cottage was airy, unfinished, the ceiling with exposed beams, the walls whitewashed with exposed studs. A tiny gas stove sat to the left of the front door and next to it, the icebox, round-edged and resembling an old-style radio. … The white-speckled, gray-blue bare floor coughed up the sand of summers past and collected our contribution in its interstices. Over the course of the summer, the walls became a gallery where my mother thumbtacked her impressionistic watercolors of the world outside our front door. …
The back room of our cottage, like the front, was an open grid of two-by-four studs, the walls in many places showing the points of nails that held the shingles fast to the outside. The studs served all summer as shelves where my seashell and starfish collections accumulated. …
I would not have traded our little cottage and its perfect location, the freedom it gave me, for any other place in town.
A Home at Last remained part of the Sal’s Place complex until October 2014, when the owner, Lora Papetsas, sold it to an entity called the Huey Trust, for $1.257 million. The actual buyer was Gregory Connors, a fixture on the social and benefit circuits. In the mid-2000s, Donald A. Burns, his partner at the time, owned the Old Trees estate on Lake Agawam in Southampton, at the eastern end of Long Island. Burns also owned a property called Dab-a-Dunes in Palm Beach. The couple were frequently photographed at charitable events. In Provincetown, Connors joined the Collectors’ Circle at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Members either give at least $5,000 to the association’s art acquisition fund, or irrevocably pledge a future gift of art. He also became a sustaining donor of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, in a category with a minimum contribution of $2,500.
At the time Connors finalized his purchase of 101 Commercial, Sal’s Place had been permanently closed by the Papetsas, after a joyful, tearful farewell dinner in late September. Perhaps Connors imagined — hopefully — that the restaurant space would remain forever dark, relying on a provision in the master deed of the condominium that contemplated and permitted the conversion of the restaurant unit to residential use.
For his own dwelling, Connors lost no time applying to the Historic District Commission for permission to renovate the entire structure. The design was by Hammer Architects. Though commission members criticized and balked at elements of the plan, they approved it in November, by a vote of 3-to-0. Two months later, in January 2015, Connors applied to the Conservation Commission for permission to demolish and reconstruct 101 Commercial Street “in compliance with new FEMA V Zone regulations,” meaning that both the new house and new deck would be four-and-a-half feet higher than the existing structures. (Zone V is mapped along coastlines, denoting areas in which there is a 1 percent annual chance of damaging floods and an additional hazard posed by storm-induced waves. Flood insurance is mandatory in these high-risk zones.) The commission gave its approval, by a vote of 4-to-0. Seemingly in testament to the building’s elevation above the floodplain, Connors renamed it A Home to Last.
It was in 2015 that the Boston restaurateur Siobhan Carew came on the scene, planning to reopen Sal’s. Connors fought her from the start, registering his opposition at a November 2015 hearing of the Zoning Board of Appeals. (The story of their battle is told in some detail in the entry for Sal’s Place, 99-101 Commercial Street.) This struggle among abutters turned into a town-wide issue, a bright line separating Old Provincetown from Nouveau Provincetown. Fairly or not, Connors and the owners of the pier sheds were cast as the personification of wealthy wash-ashores who can afford to ignore or even subvert the institutions and communal values that once made the town so special.
As of this writing, Carew has won her battle to stay open, despite Connors’s opposition. But it still may be quite a while before the sense of calm returns that inspired the building’s original name — from a sea captain who had tired of storms.
¶ Last updated on 3 September 2018.
For further reading online
Provincetown Historic District Commission, Minutes, 5 November 2014.
Provincetown Historic District Commission, Minutes, 19 November 2014.
Provincetown Conservation Commission, Minutes, 6 January 2015.