Exterior and Lobby
The Tourists by Chaim Gross
Arriving in the front yard of the Provincetown Public Library on the corner of Commercial and Center Streets, one is greeted by The Tourists, a bronze sculpture donated in 1976 by noted artist Chaim Gross. The building itself is undergoing restoration on the decorative Italianate-style façade of what was once a Methodist church boasting a 162-foot spire. After the Portland Gale in 1898, 62 feet were removed. At its present height of 100 feet, the belfry is still one of the first landmarks glimpsed by mariners arriving in Provincetown Harbor. It houses the Holbrook Bell, cast in the 1830’s, which rings each day at the Library’s opening.
The building has had many lives. After its time as a church, it became the Chrysler Art Museum, then a Center for the Arts, and later, in 1976, the Provincetown Heritage Museum. In 2005, after completion of a five-year major renovation and reconstruction, it opened as the new home of the Provincetown Public Library. (Until that time, the library had been one block away at 330 Commercial Street).
Upon entering the Library one immediately sees one of the key elements which qualify it for the National Register of Historic Places; the matching wooden staircases which spiral from the front lobby to the second floor. The Suzy Fults Historic Lobby features an original mural by John Down showing a moonlit harbor scene.
The first object visitors notice when entering through the Commercial Street doors is the Lipton Cup. This magnificent trophy was awarded to Provincetown’s Captain Marion Perry by the legendary tea baron, Sir Thomas Lipton. The Grand Banks schooner Rose Dorothea won the Boston-Gloucester Fishermen’s Race in 1907. A half-scale model of this ship is exhibited on the Second Floor. Behind the Lipton Cup is a display case for artifacts from the Heritage Collection. A kiosk invites library users to view two short films, Abraço o Barco (Embrace the Boat), the story of the Rose Dorothea, and Safe Harbor: Provincetown- A Community Responds to AIDS: The First Decade, 1983-1993.
Provincetown Library’s collection of over 30,000 books, periodicals and audiovisual materials begins here. Incorporated into the design of the bookshelves are end panels made of the arm rests from the church pews that once seated the Methodist congregation. Many of the panels bear placards inscribed with the names of donors. Information on this and other naming opportunities is available at the Arthur F. Griffin Circulation Desk.
A cartoon by one of our beloved patrons, the late Howie Schneider, is a wry comment on the unfinished state of the Library in 2004, with a huge crane in the yard doubling as a book depository. A hutch, decorated in the distinctive folk style of Peter Hunt, displays a variety of Library memorabilia for sale. Behind the Circulation Desk is a painting entitled Sailing by local artist Anne Packard. The Provincetown Art Commission displays throughout the library recently restored work from the town’s collection of over three hundred paintings by artists with local roots. A Guide Book is available for those who would like to learn more about the artists whose work is exhibited.
You'll enjoy the Marc Jacobs Reading Room, a technology-free zone for quiet reading and study.
Below the two paintings by Karl Knaths and Ada Gilmore on the Center Street side, several public computers are available for half-hour periods by reservation.
Heading up to the second floor via the public stairway one notices a trio of large black-and-white pictures showing fishing schooners at sail. These were photographed during the legendary Boston-Gloucester Fishermen’s race in 1907.
Entering the Gerald and Henry Fowler-Bombardier Children’s Library and standing at the starboard side of the Rose Dorothea, we see a portrait of Francis “Flyer” Santos by Sal Del Deo. Captain Santos and others tell the story of the giant model’s construction which took place from 1977 to 1988 in the film Abraço o Barco, viewable at the kiosk on the first floor. To the left of Del Deo’s painting is the Young Adult area featuring fiction and non-fiction materials for tweens and teens, four public computers for patrons under the age of 19, and a Reference Desk.
Two comfortable chairs and three artworks inspired by Alice in Wonderland delineate the Parenting Area, where resources ranging from books about child development to educational videos to foreign language instruction courses can be found.
Rounding the stern of the Rose Dorothea to the Brian, Shea and Jona Bowen-Smith Arts and Crafts Center, children and their caregivers find an inviting area for structured and unstructured activities. Walking toward the bow of the ship, one notices nautical design touches inspired by the Rose Dorothea, including port-hole windows and wave-shaped bookshelves.
A cozy Reading Corner commemorates Alice O’Grady Joseph, who directed the Provincetown Public Library from 1965-1982. When the card catalog became obsolete, the nostalgic cabinet was reused to file a large collection of recipes. Above it is a painting by Henry Hensche, titled Margaret Mayo, Expecting Motherhood. Two upholstered chairs invite patrons to read, relax and remember how the Library was in Mrs. Joseph’s day.
The front spar of the Rose Dorothea extends cleverly into the glass-doored Bowsprit Room (which once served as the choir loft). Two patron worktables are provided, one donated by the Nautilus Club and the other “In Honor of Nelson Hitchcock’s 50th Birthday.”
Ascending the public stairway to the third floor on the Johnson Street side, we note the portrait of former library Trustee J. Arthur Lopes, painted by Henry Hensche, and William L'Engle's painting, Marya.
The section of the mezzanine on the port side of the Rose Dorothea (the side with the red running light on the rigging) is the Daniel Petrucci Mezzanine Gallery, where Oppenheim’s Portrait of Harry Kemp (Poet of the Dunes) seems to gaze contentedly at the Carol Noyes & Rose Basile Poet’s Corner. The best view in town is offered by the 15-foot tall windows of the Wesley Russell de Oliviera Arts & Literature Room. Sometimes whales can be seen in Provincetown Harbor. Library Trustee emeritus Arthur Pike has calculated that, on a clear day, one can see 15.5 miles. Three of the windows recognize dedicated patrons, the west window in honor of Barry J. Aaron and Stephen E. Smith, MD; the front window in honor of Roberta Lasley; and the east window in gratitude to Anne Packard.
Another impressive view from the Balcony is the 66 ½ foot model of the schooner Rose Dorothea. On her deck are two dories representing the twelve dories on the actual schooner; one can also see the authentic detailing on the handmade sails and rigging. Looking up, notice the two ovals cut out of the historic vaulted ceiling to accommodate the masts of the ship.
On the Center Street side is the Hans Hoppenbrouwers Mezzanine Gallery and the elevator. Though not original to the building, the glass-block walls of the elevator let in natural light from the arched windows.