131A Commercial Street.
The pier and pier shed constructed around 1914 to serve the Puritan Fish Freezing Company Cold Storage outlived the plant by nearly 30 years, becoming a picturesque element on the waterfront in the process, attracting artists like the photographer John W. Gregory (1903-1992), who lived nearby, at 72 Commercial Street. The Atlantic Coast Fisheries Company purchased the Puritan site in 1929, two years after the main plant was torched by arsonists, and held on to it until 1951, when the property was sold to Francis A. “Flyer” Santos (1914-2015) for use as a boatyard. The pier shed was deliberately destroyed on 22 April 1956, its passing recorded by an elegiac passage in The Advocate‘s column, “To Fellows and Friends, Afar and Abroad”:
The Puritan Cold Storage Pier and pier shed in 1951, five years before it was deemed a hazard and destroyed. Photograph from the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 4, Page 5, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 371.
“It was a shed of considerable size, as sheds go, and for years it was used by trap fishermen for storing their gear, working on nets, and drying them. In it was a gasoline pump to fill the tanks of the Lathrop-engined trap boats. Once connected with the shore by a catwalk, years of storms removed this.
“It had taken on an air of secretiveness and withdrawal, having severed all connections with the world it had known and its activities, leaning heavily on its ancient pilings, and asking for nothing. And it had about it an air of peace, of remoteness that seemed to extend an invitation for quiet hours of contemplation.
“How many more years its echoes might have whispered back to the coming and going tides, or groaned with the roaring surf is anyone’s guess, but it was deemed a hazard and shortly after 9 Sunday morning it was set afire as the Fire Department pumper Jeep and three pumpers stood by.
“The wind came gently from off shore as flames burst through the shed, and in less than an hour most of the old structure had been consumed, although cross timbers on the old piles burned until high tide that night, and then were extinguished by dousing with sea water.”
Nearly 60 years after the Puritan Cold Storage pier was destroyed, Flyer’s son Francis John “Grassy” Santos proposed building a new pier extending nearly 1,000 feet into Provincetown Harbor.
Judging from how many reproductions I’ve seen of this 1954 photograph of the old Puritan Cold Storage Pier, by John W. Gregory, it must be one of the most popular images of Old Provincetown among Old Provincetowners. Posted by Salvador R. Vasques III in “My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection” on Facebook, 2 August 2018.
¶ Last updated on 16 January 2019.
131A Commercial Street on the Town Map (closer to the Puritan site than the current 133 Commercial Street).
Also at 131A Commercial Street:
Flyer’s Boat Rental | Flyer’s Boat Shop (General article).
Thumbnail image: Detail of a photo, 1954, by John W. Gregory, posted by Salvador R. Vasques III in “My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection” on Facebook, 2 August 2018.