124 Alden Street

John A. Francis (1873-1937). It’s never been easy for creative souls to afford Provincetown. But John Francis — who ran the Country Store and an insurance and real estate business — tried to make it easier by offering apartments to them at deeply discounted rents in an apartment house known as Francis’s Flats, 577 Commercial Street. “How many struggling painters and writers John A. Francis helped keep alive during their early days will never be known,” the Advocate said in its 1937 obituary. “Some achieved fame, others oblivion, but it seems that their benefactor never tried to figure it out in advance.” He was perhaps the most beloved man in town. The most famous recipient of his largesse was Eugene O’Neill, who lived at Francis’s Flats before he and his second wife, Agnes Boulton, moved to the old Peaked Hill Bars Life-Saving Station in 1919. Four ceiling beams in their flat are inscribed — tradition has it in O’Neill’s own hand — with lines evidently based on Light on the Path (1895), by the theosophist Mabel Collins.

Francis’s Flats, 577 Commercial Street. It helps to try imagining the building without the parking structure in front. [2010, Dunlap]

In memoriam

• Find a Grave Memorial No. 138417398.

Provincetown’s Historic Cemeteries and Memorials, by Amy Whorf McGuiggan, Memorial No. 85.

¶ Last updated on 12 December 2021.

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