Provincetown is a New England town located at the extreme tip of Cape Cod in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 3,431 at the 2000 census, with an estimated 2007 population of 3,174. Sometimes called "P-town", the town is known for its beaches, harbor, artists, tourist industry, and its status as a gay village.
The area was originally settled by the Nauset tribe, who had a settlement known as Meeshawn. Provincetown was incorporated by English settlers in 1727 after harboring ships for more than a century. Bartholomew Gosnold named Cape Cod in Provincetown Harbor in 1602. In 1620, the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact when they arrived at the harbor. They agreed to settle and build a self-governing community, and then came ashore in the West End. Though the Pilgrims chose to settle across the bay in Plymouth, Provincetown enjoyed an early reputation for its fishing grounds. The "Province Lands" were first formally recognized by the union of Plymouth colony and Massachusetts Bay colony in 1692, and its first municipal government was established in 1714. The population of Provincetown remained small through most of the 18th century.
Following the American Revolution, however, Provincetown grew rapidly as a fishing and whaling center. The population was bolstered by a number of Portuguese sailors, many of whom were from the Azores, and came to live in Provincetown after being hired to work on US ships. By the 1890s, Provincetown was booming, and began to develop a resident population of writers and artists, as well as a summer tourist industry. After the 1898 Portland Gale severely damaged the town's fishing industry, members of the town's art community took over many of the abandoned buildings. By the early decades of the 20th century, the town had acquired an international reputation for its artistic and literary output. The Provincetown Players was an important experimental theater company formed during this period. It was an example of intellectual and artistic connections to Greenwich Village in New York that began then.
The town includes eight buildings and a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the mid-1960s, Provincetown saw population growth. The town's rural character appealed to the hippies of the era; furthermore, property was relatively cheap and rents were correspondingly low, especially during the winter. Many of those who came stayed and raised families. Commercial Street gained numerous cafes, leather shops, head shops — various hip small businesses blossomed and many flourished.
By the mid-1970s a substantial number of members of the gay community began moving to Provincetown. However, homosexuality had been prevalent in Provincetown as early as the turn of the century with the introduction of the artists' colony and further accentuated by the arrival of the "beatniks" in the 1920s. Drag queens could be seen performing as early as the 1940s in Provincetown. In 1978 the Provincetown Business Guild (PBG) was formed to promote gay tourism. Today more than 200 businesses belong to the PBG and Provincetown is perhaps the best-known gay summer resort on the East Coast.
Since the 1990s, property prices have risen significantly, with numerous condo conversions, causing some residents economic hardship. The recent housing bust (starting in 2005) has so far caused property values in and around town to fall by 10 percent or more in less than a year. This has not slowed down the town's economy, however. Provincetown's tourist season has expanded to the point where the town has created festivals and weeklong events throughout the year. The most established are in the summer: the Portuguese Festival and PBG's Carnival Week.
In 2003, Provincetown received a $1.95 million low interest loan from the Rural Development program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help rebuild the town's MacMillan Pier. It primarily serves tourists and high-speed ferries that charge their passengers up to $45 per one-way trip. Between 2004 and 2007, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum received four Rural Development grants and loans totalling $3 million to increase the museum's space, add climate-controlled facilities, renovate a historic sea captain's house (the Hargood House) and cover cost overruns. As the mission of the Rural Development program is "To increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for all rural Americans", the USDA considered Provincetown's residents in the 2000s to still be rural and to still require such federal assistance.
The Atlantic House in Provincetown is a contender for the oldest gay bar in the US and Frommer's calls it "the nation's premier gay bar".
The Art House provides a venue for numerous entertainers and shows during the summer season, in particular Varla Jean Merman, Miss Richfield 1981, Ms. CoCo Peru, and other town favorites. In off season, the Art House remains open providing nightly entertainment that includes a Wii Bowling League, Trivia Night, and similar events.
Other notable festivals during the year include the Christmas-themed "Holly Folly", "Bear Week", "Mate's Leather Weekend", "Women's Week", "Family Week", "Single Men's Weekend", "Provincetown International Film Festival", "Provincetown Rocks: The Festival!" and the "Provincetown Jazz Festival". In October, Provincetown sees the arrival of transvestite, transgender and transsexual people for the annual Fantasia Fair. Started in 1975, it is the longest running event of its kind in the USA.
The Provincetown International Film Festival, held each June, honors the best in independent and avante garde film. Among the honorees for 2010 were actress Tilda Swinton and director Kevin Smith. Prior honorees have included Quentin Tarantino, Jane Lynch, Gael Garcia Bernal, Kathleen Turner, Jim Jarmusch, Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant, and John Waters. Waters, a summer resident, is a major participant in the festival.
The Gold Dust Orphans have been performing in Provincetown and Boston for 14 years. Notable summer productions have included: The Gulls, Scarrie, The Stepford Wives, Golden Squirrels, Cinderella Rocks!, Cleopatra, The Milkman Always Comes Twice, Wizzin' and "Willy Wanker and the Hershey Highway". Current and past company members, led by the group's founder and lead Ryan Landry, include Penny Champayne, Olive Another, Afrodite aka Andre Shoals, Windsor Newton, Amber Dawn (a.k.a. Oosha Boom), P.J. McWhiskers, David Hanbury, Adam Berry, Deborah Downer, Megan Ludlow, Ariana Shulman, Mark Meehan, Gene Dante, Billy Hough, Larry Coen, Cheryl Singleton and many others.
Norman Mailer's novel Tough Guys Don't Dance and Annie Dillard's novel The Maytrees are primarily based in Provincetown.
Provincetown was mentioned, along with various other Cape Cod locations, in the Vampire Weekend song 'Walcott', which featured on their 2008 debut album Vampire Weekend.
Provincetown: From Pilgrim Landing to Gay Resort (American History and Culture) by Karen Krahulik
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: NYU Press (May 1, 2007)
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How did a sleepy New England fishing village become a gay mecca? In this dynamic history, Karen Christel Krahulik explains why Provincetown, Massachusetts—alternately known as “Land's End,” “Cape-tip,” “Cape-end,” and, to some, “Queersville, U.S.A”—has meant many things to many people.
Provincetown tells the story of this beguiling coastal town, from its early history as a mid-nineteenth century colonial village to its current stature as a bustling gay tourist destination. It details the many cultures and groups—Yankee artists, Portuguese fishermen, tourists—that have comprised and influenced Provincetown, and explains how all of them, in conjunction with larger economic and political forces, come together to create a gay and lesbian mecca.
Through personal stories and historical accounts, Provincetown reveals the fascinating features that have made Provincetown such a textured and colorful destination: its fame as the landfall of the Mayflower Pilgrims, charm as an eccentric artists’ colony, and allure as a Dionysian playground. It also hints at one of Provincetown’s most dramatic economic changes: its turn from fishing village to resort town. From a history of fishing economies to a history of tourism, Provincetown, in the end, is as eclectic and vibrant as the city itself.
Returning Tides (Provincetown Tales 6) by Radclyffe
Paperback: 275 pages
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (November 17, 2009)
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Insurance investigator Ashley Walker faces more than a dangerous opponent when she returns to the town, and the woman, she left behind.
In the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster, Reese Conlon and Tory King deal with the challenges of a community in turmoil while insurance investigator Ashley Walker faces more than a dangerous opponent when she returns to the town, and the woman, she left behind.
The sixth in the Lambda Award winning Provincetown Tales.
Where The Boys Are by William J. Mann
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Kensington (May 1, 2004)
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In William J. Mann's witty and provocative follow-up to his acclaimed bestseller The Men From the Boys, Jeff O'Brien-still in search of love and sex-navigates the circuit in the company of friends, tricks, old loves, and irresistible strangers, going any place... Where The Boys Are "Someday, when they look back and write about these times, I will be able to say that I was here. I danced every dance and knew the words to every song." Jeff and his on-again, off-again lover Lloyd Griffith are thirty-something professionals still grieving the death of their mentor, Javitz. Jeff bounces from party to party, forgetting his pain only when he's on the dance floor, immersed in a sea of beautiful boys with sculpted pecs and speed-bump abs. At his side is his protege, best friend, sister, and not-so-secret admirer Henry Weiner, once a ninety-eight-pound weakling who has lately blossomed into a hunky muscle-boy escort. As the lives of Jeff, Lloyd, and Henry intertwine, each confronts a different challenge. Henry's repressed feelings of love for Jeff propel him on a quest to discover his own identity amid the often-seedy world of sex for cash. Lloyd deals with the dark side of the "fag hag" experience when his Provincetown housemate, Eva, exhibits increasingly bizarre behavior. But the most intriguing mystery of all involves the beautiful stranger Jeff meets at yet another circuit party and invites to move in. Anthony Sabe is a young man seemingly without a past, whose bright-eyed ingenuousness at first charms everyone, but later raises suspicions. When Jeff sets out to uncover the truth about Anthony, what he finds is progressively more disturbing, raising questions not only about Anthony but also about himself. Over the course of a life-changing summer, Jeff, Lloyd, and Henry deal with the myriad issues confronting gay men today: sex, drugs, grief, AIDS, barebacking, body image, commitment, one-night stands, and the search for love. The first novel to be set on the gay party circuit, Where The Boys Are evokes a world with its own language, customs, traditions, and idiosyncracies, set to a backdrop of sex, drugs, and dance music. "Guaranteed to send your temperature soaring."-The Advocate