169 Bradford Street

Ptown Landing Condominium | Also, 10 Dyer Street

The “Hand of Fatima” as it was first installed on 169 Bradford Street. [2011, Dunlap]

[2011, Dunlap]

Throughout his life, Manuel Lourenço Pires maintained his Portuguese citizenship, as attested to by this certificate issued by the consulate in Boston in 1958, just a few months before he died. Where is signature was meant to be, a consular official wrote, “Não sabe escrever” — He doesn’t know how to write. [Courtesy of Jill Pires]

Left: Manuel Pires in 1958. [Courtesy of Jill Pires] Right: His granddaughter Jill Pires in 2010. [Dunlap]

The “Hand of Fatima” was located on the Dyer Street facade. [2012, Dunlap]

169 Bradford was also denominated 10 Dyer Street. [2012, Dunlap]

U.S.S. Leonard Wood, on which Donald Edward Langley served during World War II, while his family lived at 169 Bradford Street. [Wikimedia Commons]

Left: Donald Edward Langley Jr. as a high school senior. From the 1956 Long Pointer. [School Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 5543] Right: Versie Anna Langley as a high school senior. From the 1958 Long Pointer. [School Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 5545]

The first noteworthy change in the transformation of 169 Bradford Street was the removal of the asbestos siding to reveal a clapboard facade. Left: Taken in April 2014 by the author. Right: Taken in December 2014 by Stephen Borkowski.

Rosemary Hillard captured the most remarkable moment of the renovation and expansion, in March 2015, when the removal of clapboards revealed the clear structural ghost of the very old Cape house underlying the later Pires-Langley home.

Diagram of the original house superimposed on the expanded building. [Hillard and Dunlap]

Left: The Dyer Street facade under reconstruction in April 2015. [Stephen Borkowski] Right: The completed facade in 2018. [Dunlap]

The “Hand of Fatima,” restored and protected, adorns a blind door on Dyer. There is a bathroom directly behind the door, so don’t knock. Someone may be in the shower. [2018, Dunlap]

The completed Ptown Landing condominium in 2016. [Dunlap]

Text last updated on 28 June 2020 | A story far older than Provincetown — indeed, older than Portugal itself — is told in the Dyer Street doorway of this house. There, you will find an iron door knocker in the form of the “Hand of Fatima” (“Mão de Fátima”); protection of those who live within from the hand of Muhammad’s daughter. Door knockers like this are common on the Iberian Peninsula and through the area of Northwest Africa known as the Maghreb, which were once part of the Muslim world. These little architectural features speak quietly of the enduring influence of Islamic culture for centuries after the Portuguese Reconquista ended in 1249 with the capture of the Algarve, the southernmost region of the country, known to Muslims as “al-Gharb” (الغرب) — or, “the West.”

How fitting, then, that the family that owned this house from 1925 to 2011 should have originated in the Algarve. That was where Manuel Lourenço Pires (1876-1958), was born, in the parish of Olhão. He came to the United States as a 15-year-old, and settled in Provincetown in 1901. His wife, Anna Madeline (Salvador) Pires (1881-1948), was also born in Olhão. That, too, was where their son, Capt. Manuel L. Pires Jr. (1910-1995) — father of the ebullient Roxanne “Jill” Pires of 100 Commercial Street — was born, though their daughter, Mary R. Pires (1914-2013) was born in Provincetown.

In Provincetown, Manuel Sr. was known to have fished aboard Fannie Parnell, a 50-foot flounder dragger, Capt. Michael Diogo. Fannie Parnell would steam as far as South Carolina in winter. It may be that Pires crewed on Fannie Parnell at the same time as Salvador Rodriques Vasques Jr. (His son Salvador R. Vasques III is well known to history lovers as the curator of My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection on Facebook.)

Anna and Manuel Pires bought 169 Bradford Street in 1925 from Annie F. Flores. (Their name is spelled in the deed as “Peires.”) Flores had purchased the house three years earlier from John and Mary Michael, who had also owned it only three years, having bought it in 1919 from John D. and Mary E. Silva.

In 1937, Mary Pires married Donald Edward Langley (1914-1998). Langley had come to Provincetown two years earlier from Loganville, Ga. He was stationed here as a member of the Coast Guard, in which he enlisted in 1933. The young couple joined her parents in this house. Donald Edward Langley Jr. was born in 1939, followed two years later by Versie Anna Langley. Before Versie’s first birthday, her father was called into war service as a member of the Coast Guard crew assigned to the U.S.S. Leonard Wood, a 20-year-old transport commissioned by the Navy in 1941 and converted into an attack transport.

Leonard Wood had a remarkable record, participating in the invasions of North Africa and Sicily in 1942 and 1943; the Marshall Islands, the Marianas, and Southern Palau in the Pacific in 1944; and the liberation of the Philippines in 1944 and 1945. For “exceptionally meritorious service in action against enemy aircraft, shore batteries, mines, and submarines,” Leonard Wood and its crew members were awarded the Navy Unit Commendation. Langley was at the time a chief machinist mate. His three brothers served in the Navy and his sister served in the WAVES.

On the death of Anna Pires in 1948, title to the house passed through her husband, Manuel to their daughter Mary Langley, “upon the condition that the grantee maintain and support her father, the grantor, during the term of his natural life.” Manuel lived another 10 years. In 1967, Mary Langley included her husband, Donald Sr., on the deed. He died in 1998. She owned the house until 2011, when it was sold to Timothy G. Brown of Rockport, Me., for $550,000.

Through these transitions, the “Mão de Fátima” remained next to the Dyer Street door.

Christine Barker purchased the property in 2014 for $607,500, through Ptown Landing L.L.C. She is the founder and principal broker of Barker Hudson Real Estate of Woodstock, N.Y., and the principal and founder of Ecotekture Development and Design, which she describes as a development company focused on sustainable design. Barker is also the developer of a new hotel and pier proposed on the site of the ruined Old Reliable Fish House restaurant and the pile field that marks where Benjamin Lancy’s Wharf once stood, behind 229 Commercial Street, the former Colonial Cold Storage engine house.

At 169 Bradford Street, Barker planned a two-story, 16-by-18-foot addition to the west elevation. This allowed the creation of two residential condos. One unit is composed of the first floor of the Pires-Langley house, plus the first floor of the addition. The other unit is on the second and third floors of the Pires-Langley house, plus the second floor of the addition. Both units have decks.

Hammer Architects of Cambridge designed the project. When Don DiRocco of Hammer presented it to the Historic District Commission in 2014, he said there was evidence that the Pires-Langley house was the much expanded descendant of a very old Cape.

Sure enough. As the asbestos siding and clapboards were removed in the winter and spring of 2014 and 2015, the perfect structural silhouette of the original Cape emerged briefly at the western elevation.

“You wouldn’t know this from the outside, but much of the original wood flooring lives on in the form of doors, wall covering, and cabinetry,” Barker told me in 2020. “Much of what remained was also donated to the restoration of the Mary Heaton Vorse house [466 Commercial Street] that Ken Fulk just competed. I preserved as much wood as possible. We painstakingly removed a lot of nails.”

“The original restored ‘Hand of Fatima’ is alive and well, and is preserved behind a fixed door on the Dyer Street side. I apologize for the color of the door, I know it’s a little ‘islandy’. Do forgive me, I spent many formative years in Bermuda, which, ironically is replete with a large Portuguese contingent who like to paint their homes colorfully.”

And so the influence of the Portuguese diaspora still shows itself subtly at 169 Bradford.

In memoriam

• Donald Edward Langley (1914-1998)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 114939086.

• Mary R. (Pires) Langley (1914-2013)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 114939037.

• Anna Madeline (Salvador) Pires (1881-1948)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 125256170.

• Manuel Laurenço Pires (1876-1958)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 129160243.

¶ Republished on 28 September 2023.

169 Bradford Street on the Town Map, showing property lines.

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