When I was casting about for ideas for novel about Provincetown, I found myself asking, “what if…”.
What if one of the Yankee whalers who made Provincetown one of the richest towns in the state had kept his home and fortune intact? What would the house look like? What would his descendants be like? What if the family home had extensive grounds in a then-distant part of town, would it be possible for the house to stay as it always had been? What if there was an unsolved mystery that tarnished the family’s name? I found it difficult to think past these questions until I realized at least part of the answer was right in front of me.
The house to the right has gone through several iterations, and is about to go through another as the real-life model for the HomePort mansion, home to the illustrious Provincetown whaling family, the Stauntons. Built in 1874 by Benjamin Lancy, the Commercial Street house was lived in by members of his family for nearly 100 years. Rumor has it his wife was kept upstairs after her death, until the ground thawed and she could have a proper burial. For a time it was home to the Provincetown Historical society, and now it houses two Provincetown favorites: Front Street Restaurant and the Cortile Gallery.
The HomePort mansion has become a major character in The HomePort Journals. Even so, it’s the Lancy Mansion I see when I imagine it.