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Antique Provincetown town hall photo
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This view was taken circa 1905 from an upstairs window in one of the houses across Commercial Street prior to the widening of Ryder Street in 1920. On the lawn are a watering trough and a tablet commemorating the signing of the Mayflower Compact.

Provincetown’s first town hall, destroyed by fire on February 16, 1877, had been built in 1853 on High Pole Hill on the site of the present Pilgrim Monument. Prior to that time, church buildings had been used for town business. The present Town Hall was erected in 1880 at a cost of $50,400. The old Ryder homestead land was donated for the site and the clock and bell were also given by prominent citizens. Among the hall’s accoutrements described in accounts of the opening were “tables, dishes and necessary appliances in the basement for setting up a collation or supper” and in the auditorium a large stage with a “fine and full set of scenery” which cost over $1000. A rare broadside of the time advertised “First Entertainment in the New Town Hall Aug. 30. Illustrated tour of Europe with stereopticon by Sidney Dickinson, A.M. will furnish the citizens of Provincetown an unequalled opportunity to see the fitness of their new and superb hall for the highest class of amusements.”

To the left of Town Hall stood the Congregational Church, also called Church of the Pilgrims. Built in 1843, it incorporated portions taken from the frame of the old White Oak Meeting House, so called because locally cut white oak had been used. That building, dating from 1792, was the third church built in Provincetown and stood on the site now occupied by the Catholic Church. In 1873 the Congregational Church was renovated. A brick basement was installed to house one large and two smaller vestries. It was rededicated on February 20, 1874, just 100 years after the dedication of the original White Oak Church. The building has not been used as a church for many years; most recently it was run as a movie house, the long area in front serving as an outdoor cafe.

This was from the book Old Provincetown in Early Photographs by Irma Ruckstuhl, 1987.


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