Dune Shacks of Provincetown, Series 1
On the wild back shore of Provincetown, Massachusetts, writers, artists and families made summer homes in the early 1900's. Affectionately called the dune shacks, some were originally life-saving huts constructed in the late 1890's but most were built in the 1920's and 30's out of debris and ship wrecked ruins. A cluster of these original shacks exists today - some restored, some bandaged, some dilapidated - all loved. Each shack is unique with its own personality and its own name. The photographs I have taken over the past decade evoke the experience of living in a dune shack and being in the dune landscape. Most shacks are occupied for the summer, very few in the winter. But the dunes themselves are always accessible. The nineteen shacks that remain are in an area called The Dune Shacks of The Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, a part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The shacks were originally built on public land. This was common in those days in Provincetown when there wasn't so much of a distinction between public and private lands. You built a house and you lived in it. No one thought anything of it. Then the National Seashore (a welcome force) came along and swept 18 of the shacks up into a complicated bureaucracy. One owner had clear title to prove he owned the land and the shack. Other shack occupants had to sign different lease agreement with the Seashore. It is not easy to live or stay at a dune shack. First, it is about a two mile walk from your car, or, if you are lucky, someone "authorized" might give you lift over the dunes on one of the two sand roads. The shacks have no running water and no electricity. There are kerosene lamps for light and wells dug in the sand a walk away for hand pumping drinking and washing water. It is heavy going pumping and carrying those gallon jugs of water. Propane stoves are used for cooking, wood burning stoves for heat. If you are lucky you might have a propane refrigerator that works. Otherwise coolers are the order of the day in the summer. Outhouses are a short stroll away. Coyotes will howl in the night, foxes will cry or scream; numerous animal tracks will envelope the sand around your shack in the morning. You wonder where all those tracks came from and how you didn't hear a sound. Solitude abounds with the sound of the sea ever present. This is home for those of us who want to be (t)here, who are lost without the endless vista of sand, the crashing Atlantic Ocean waves, the whales, the seals, the sand, the night sounds, the night skies. We worry about the increasing popularity of walkers and incursion of the "public" on these fragile lands and structures. They will outlive us though. They have so far. We must believe that.