Dune Shacks of Peaked Hill Bars Historic District

By: Marguerite Wiser

The Dune Shacks of Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, which is located in the Cape Cod National Seashore, covers an area of approximately 1,900 acres of beautiful and eroding sand dunes, patches of dune shacks of peaked hill bars historic districtvarious seashore vegetation, including a diverse array of terrestrial, wetland, aquatic, and marine plants that are uniquely adapted to life in this coastal environment, alongside nineteen uniquely constructed, weathered historic dunes shacks.

As the sand within the dune hills continue to shift from the onset of incremental weather conditions, so do these rustic shacks that are barely surviving these ever-shifting hills and valleys of earth. These shacks have served as homes to numerous poets, writers, painters, playwrights and numerous craftsmen and women seeking serenity, peace, and inspiration from the ocean to continue in their craft. Some of these artists include names like from Jackson Pollock, Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, e.e. cummings, and more.

The Dune Shacks continue to serve artist-in-residence and ordinary people seeking peace out in the sand dunes by living a simple life.

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Dune Shacks: From West to East

The names of the dune shacks generally reflect the family or families that inhabited the shack for the longest period of time.

Jean Miller Cohen Shack/C-Scape

Town of Provincetown (Lower Cape)

Lat/Long: 42.08012, -70.19652

Cohen shack_c scape_ dune shacks of peaked hill bars historic district
courtesy of National Park Service

Built in 1937, the Cohen shack, or C-Scape, was once home to painter Jean Cohen. The western-most of the dune shacks, C-Scape is the easiest to reach, just a thirty-minute walk away from the Province Lands Visitors Center. Managed by the Provincetown Community Compact, the shack hosts artists and community members in highly sought residencies. The shack was moved to its current location in 1978 and was featured in Suzanne Lewis’ 2009 picture book, Dune Shack Summer.

Leo Fleurant Shack

Town of Provincetown (Lower Cape)

Lat/Long: 42.08094, -70.19150

fleurant shack_dune shacks of peaked hill bars historic district
courtesy of National Park Service

The Fleurant shack was built in the 1930s by locals for the dual purposes of fishing and socializing. Leo Fleurant lived in the shack year-round from 1963 until his death in 1984, and many still refer to the shack as Leo’s Place. He was known for keeping a horse on the dunes and for leading others on excursions to forage in the cranberry bogs that dot the dune landscape. This shack is visible from the Province Lands Visitors Center.

David and Marcia Adams Guest Cottage

Town of Provincetown (Lower Cape)

Lat/Long: 42.08094, -70.18992

David and Marcia Adams Guest Cottage_ dune shacks of peaked hill bars historic district
courtesy of National Park Service

The Adams Guest shack was built in 1935 and has been moved inland multiple times as the sands have shifted. As the name suggests, this shack was primarily used to house guests of the Adams family, whose own shack is next door. Along with the Adams family’s shack and the Champlin’s down the dune, this grouping was known as ‘Professor’s Row’ for the pair of Michigan professors that spent time in these shacks.

David and Marcia Adams Shack

Town of Provincetown (Lower Cape)

Lat/Long: 42.08082, -70.18910

David and Marcia Adams Shack_ dune shacks of peaked hill bars historic district
courtesy of National Park Service

The Adams shack was built in 1935 as a dune resort by Coast Guardsman Jake Loring, who also constructed the Fleurant and Champlin shacks. From 1953 until the National Parks Service took ownership in 2014, the shack was the home of David and Marcia Adams. David, a professor at Western Michigan University, painted wildflowers, and the dune plants at the shack. The wildflower paintings were turned into greeting cards that were sold in gift stores, including National Park Visitors Centers. When out in the dunes, visitors should keep their eyes peeled for wild cranberries, beach plums, dune heather, beach peas, and the beach rose.

Nathaniel and Mildred Champlin Shack

Town of Provincetown (Lower Cape)

Lat/Long: 42.08099, -70.18781

Nathaniel and Mildred Champlin Shack_ dune shacks of peaked hill bars historic district
courtesy of National Park Service

The Champlin dune shack was built in 1936 by Jake Loring and fellow Coast Guardsman and carpenter Dominic Avila using salvaged materials from a Provincetown barn. It is the largest of the shacks, with multiple rooms and amenities including indoor plumbing. Acquired by the Champlins in 1953, the shack is also known as Mission Bell for its easily recognizable bell to the west of the shack. This shack is closest to the 1778 wreck of the HMS Somerset, whose worn wooden bones emerge from the eroding sand from time to time.

Philip Malicoat Shack (Privately owned)

Town of Provincetown (Lower Cape)

Lat/Long: 42.08004, -70.17945

Philip Malicoat Shack_ dune shacks of peaked hill bars historic district_cape cod sand dunes
courtesy of National Park Service

The only dune shack still privately owned, the Malicoat cottage was constructed in 1948. Artist Philip Malicot used the original 12×16 cottage as a studio and enjoyed the views that came with its high perch on a dunetop. While being used by friends, the original shack burned to the ground in the 1950’s. Philip Malicot and his son and fellow artist, sculptor Conrad Malicot, rebuilt the shack nearby.

"Euphoria" (Hazel Hawthorne Werner)

Town of Provincetown (Lower Cape)

Lat/Long: 42.0778, -70.16680

Euphoria_Hazel Hawthorne Werner_Peaked Hill Trust_ dune shacks of peaked hill bars historic district
courtesy of National Park Service

Euphoria was built in 1936 and sold to Hazel Hawthorne Werner in 1943 for $285. Werner, a writer, and preservationist documented her time on the dunes in Salt House. Werner welcomed visitors to her shack including Jack Kerouac. After a move in 1952 the shack was one of the first to use fencing to keep the shifting sands at bay. Since Hazel’s death in 2000, the Peaked Hill Trust has managed this shack, offering both artist and community residence programs.

Boris Margo/Jan Gelb Shack

Town of Provincetown (Lower Cape)

Lat/Long: 42.07766, -70.16264

jan gelb shack_dune shacks of peaked hill bars historic district
courtesy of National Park Service

The Margo/Gelb shack sits on the original site of the Peaked Hill Bars Life-Saving Station. A series of shacks have been built on this spot from the 1940s-1960s. Husband and wife painters Boris Margo and Jan Gelb were introduced to the dunes as guests of Hazel Hawthorne Werner, and subsequently reconstructed this shack in 1942. Since 1995 the shack has been used by the Outer Cape Artist in Residency Consortium. When it was home to the Margo/Gelbs the shack was known for a wild ‘Full o’ the Moon’ beach party and barbecue, featuring a 40-foot driftwood bonfire.

Tasha/Henry Kemp Shack

Town of Provincetown (Lower Cape)

Lat/Long: 42.07753, -70.16126

Tasha_Henry Kemp shack_ dune shacks of peaked hill bars historic district
courtesy of National Park Service

Tasha or the Henry Kemp shack was the longtime home to the poet of the dunes himself. Henry Kemp was an eccentric poet and author, who spent the better part of 30 years in his modest 8×12 shack, swimming in the ocean regardless of the season. The structure is rumored to have been a chicken coop originally and was rebuilt by Kemp in 1927. Kemp befriended influential figures of the day, including Upton Sinclair, Eugene O’Neill, and Sinclair Lewis. The shack’s name, ‘Tasha’ comes from the last name of the family who cared for Kemp in his later years as his health declined.

Alice Malkin/Zara Ofsevit (“Zara’s”)

Town of Provincetown (Lower Cape)

Lat/Long: 42.07505, -70.16114

Malkin_Ofsevit shack_Zara_ dune shacks of peaked hill bars historic district
courtesy of National Park Service

The original Malkin/Ofsevit shack was built in 1917 by the Provincetown Chief of Police, Charles Rogers. In its early years, this shack was used by Kemp and others. Alice Malkin, stepmother to dune dwellers Zara (Malkin/Ofsevit) Jackson and Ray Wells, loved the dune landscape. The structure was moved to avoid eroding dune cliffs several times. A fire in 1990 demolished the original structure, but it was rebuilt through efforts by the Peaked Hill Trust shortly thereafter. The shack, now known as ‘Zara’s,’ is part of the Peaked Hill Trust Residency Program.

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