PROVINCETOWN -- If Tennessee Williams were still around, he'd find Captain Jack's Wharf a changed place. The rambling little rooms stretched out over the water still have the same extraordinary view of the tidal flats and harbor that they did in the 1940s, when Williams camped here. But while the playwright wrote a friend about ``an extraordinary all-night party" on the wharf, these days such a thing might get him thrown out on his ear.
On the list of rules for guests of this charming vacation rental property in Provincetown's West End is this: ``Please don't invite crowds of non resident visitors to the Wharf."
Understandable, really. Because what was built as storage for fishermen at the turn of the 19th century , and later became summer housing, performance space for Eugene O'Neill's Experimental Playwrights Theatre, and even a speakeasy known as the Circus Bar , is now a dozen condominiums worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Their owners surely want to protect their investment. But that doesn't make them unapproachable. Visitors with a penchant for Provincetown history -- or merely in search of affordable, quiet lodging -- can rent them by the week or, during the shoulder-season months of June and September, for a few days at a time.
Be forewarned: Captain Jack's has so much character you might not feel the need to leave. A friend and I checked into a second-floor space dubbed Sunrise for a long weekend in mid-June, before the summer heated up, and were instantly charmed by all the painted wood, paper lanterns, window shutters, and a deck overlooking the water's edge.
At Captain Jack's, on the water means on the water, which means heavenly sleeping amid sounds of the tide. And even though we had that little deck of our own, the whole place is pretty much a deck, with old buoys and lights strung from the pilings all along the way.
Inside, Sunrise's open plan puts a double bed on one end near a tiny bathroom, a kitchen and dining area in the middle, and a little daybed and book-lined reading area leading to the deck on the other end. With paint-splattered floors, yellow and white walls, and multi colored wooden chairs around the dining table, Sunrise seems like an artist's cottage, perhaps part of an artist's colony, the kind of place you come to get inspiration and write a novel.
It's dripping with history. A collection of photos from the 1960s on one wall shows a girl, presumably the current owner, cavorting with her young parents on this very wharf. The Captain Jack's web site links to historical photos, including one from around 1900 of fish being unloaded from dory to horse-drawn cart, and a 1944 letter from Williams to writer Donald Windham on Captain Jack's letterhead, complaining that ``the whole lunatic fringe from Manhattan is already here."
The condos are called ``cabins" for good reason, since they have neither air conditioning nor heat, and the bathroom, particularly, feels a little like camping. The lack of air conditioning isn't really an issue, what with all the windows and breezes right off the water, but on the chilly June weekend we visited, manager Gregory Saint Jean demonstrated how the cold could be staved off with a little space heater, or even the oven. ``That should take the chill off," he said, but please don't leave the premises with either of them running.
As it happened, we mostly employed the stove for its intended use: cooking. With fresh bluefish, oysters, and produce from nearby Wellfleet, we threw a dinner party for a half-dozen friends who were in town, too. The kitchen comes equipped with all the basic necessities -- pots, pans, glasses, plates, and silverware -- and there's a little boom box (but no TV) for ambience.
The food and conversation were a hit, but as the night wore on, the clock could be felt ticking; another of the posted rules states: ``Wharf quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m." If we wanted to keep laughing and listening to music, the party had to move elsewhere. But by that point we were ready, again, to hear nothing but the sound of water lapping the shore.
Contact Joe Yonan at firstname.lastname@example.org. CHECK OUT ALL THE INNS
See a state-by-state archive at explorenewengland.com.