“Napiville,” Building 3 | Former Barn (or Barnstormers) Theatre and Barn Night Club
Building 3, former Barn Theatre. The tall structure was the fly loft. [2014, Dunlap]
[Provincetown’s West End (1977), by Josephine Del Deo et alia, in the Massachusetts Historical Commission Inventory of 1973-1977 / Provincetown Public Library]
Left: A Barn Theatre program from 1924, where four O’Neill plays were first produced together as S. S. Glencairn. [Stand-Alone Documents / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 460] Right: By 1926, Harold Winston and Raymond Moore had supplanted Frank Shay’s troupe. From the 1926 Provincetown Art Association catalog. [Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 5634]
The two-story gabled structure at center was the auditorium house of the Barn Theatre. [2014, Dunlap]
The box office of the Barn Theatre. [2016, Dunlap]
Anton “Napi” Van Dereck Haunstrup, the owner of the Napiville complex, in one of the residential units created from the old Barn Theatre. [2014, Dunlap]
A residential unit in Building 3. [2014, Dunlap]
A residential unit in Building 3. [2014, Dunlap]
Napiville, a tatterdemalion hilltop compound overlooking Provincetown Harbor, takes its informal nickname from the fact that the property was purchased in 1986 by the restaurateur Anton “Napi” Van Dereck Haunstrup (1932-2019) and his wife and business partner, Helen (Schmitt) Van Dereck Haunstrup. Napiville provided desperately needed housing for workers at Napi’s restaurant and others who would have been priced out of Provincetown without it. Luxurious, the apartments were not. “Modest” might even have been too generous a word. But the 14 units at Napiville were affordable.
To top off its important social role with a historic flourish, the compound includes the last significant architectural remnant of the golden theatrical age of Eugene O’Neill. That amazing tower rising over the gabled rooftops was originally the fly loft of the Barn Theatre, home of the avant-garde Barnstormers troupe in the 1920s. It was here that Eugene O’Neill’s S. S. Glencairn plays were first performed as an ensemble. Paul Robeson appeared on stage here. Bette Davis may have, too. And though not often remembered as such, the Barn Theatre was also effectively the birthplace of the Cape Cod Playhouse. Its founders first collaborated here in 1926 under the name Winston-Moore Players.
Frank Shay (1888-1954), was an author, editor, playwright, theatrical producer, proprietor of the Washington Square Book Shop in Greenwich Village, and a friend of O’Neill, whose early plays he published. Their relationship was described by Arthur and Barbara Gelb in O’Neill:
Shay was as Irish as O’Neill in temperament and enjoyed nothing better than a rousing, hypothetical argument with O’Neill as to which of them was descended from the more illustrious Gaelic line. The two Irishmen made a striking picture — Shay, with his blazing, blue eyes, tawny shock of hair and sandy mustache, and O’Neill, dark-eyed, dark-haired, dark-mustached and glowering — as they traded extravagant verbal blows with esoteric Celtic references.3
Shay purchased the Bradford Street property from George and Frances Louise Ellis in 1924. Shay lived in Building 5. That year, on 14 August, his Barnstormers theater troupe introduced playgoers to the S. S. Glencairn cycle, consisting of four one-act plays about the sea: The Moon of the Caribbees, In the Zone, Bound East for Cardiff, and The Long Voyage Home. (Eight years earlier, on Lewis Wharf, the Provincetown Players had staged Bound East for Cardiff; the first O’Neill play ever to be produced.)
All the plays in the cycle except The Long Voyage Home are set aboard Glencairn, a fictitious name for the British tramp steamer Ikalis, on which O’Neill served in 1911 as an ordinary seaman.4 “The success of the S. S. Glencairn cycle led to its subsequent production in New York City,” Leona Rust Egan wrote.5
Before Breakfast, another O’Neill play, was produced here in the 1924 season, with Frances Hyde playing the single character who appears on stage. O’Neill personally coached her for this performance, but she found it difficult to rehearse at all, as the Barn’s amenities as a performing arts center left something to be desired. For instance, the smell of the outhouse next door was strong enough in the theater that Shay would give lye to the neighbors before each performance in an effort to cut down the stink.6
Mary Heaton Vorse, who was directing a play by William Gaston that season, described the bedlam attendant the simultaneous rehearsals of Before Breakfast and Moon of the Caribbees one afternoon and evening:
The barn is littered with benches and chairs. There are dark-green backdrops from set of the O’Neill cycle. The ground is covered with shavings. … Dogs bark outside. Cars stop. Little Jean Shay shrieks, “Mammie, Mammie!” at the closed barn doors. … Gene O’Neill tells Frank Shay he should cut down the locust trees which interfere with the view of roofs of the town … The door is crowded with dark Portuguese faces. Some of the children are extraordinary, with smoke-black eyes and sharp, birdlike faces. … The children make too much noise. This, together with Gene and Agnes [Boulton, O’Neill’s wife] being there, disturbs Frances. … Frank drives the swarming children away. Frances goes on bravely to the end.7
There soon arose — doesn’t it always in Provincetown? — a schism. This time it was between the O’Neill modernists, led by the Barnstormers, and theatrical conservatives led by Mary Bicknell and Mary Aldis). Each group wanted to dominate the Barn Theatre, Vorse wrote. “Each side was maneuvering to get the other side out.”
Mrs. Aldis took the initiative. She arose early in the morning, during a temporary absence of Frank Shay, and got a truck which she had backed up to the theater. From it she removed all the benches, all the props, even the light bulbs, and carried them off to her studio. It showed energy and a ruthless determination to win. The theater was split in two. The goats and the sheep were separated.8
The Bicknell-Aldis rump group, organized as the Wharf Players of Provincetown, was to make its home at 83 Commercial Street. Shay continued the Barnstormers productions into the 1925 season, at which time he constructed the fly loft in Building 3 that has ever since made an intriguing, mysterious landmark on the West End skyline.
But nothing that season — or in any season at the Barn Theatre — could have surpassed a program in May when Paul Robeson came to town to perform a concert of spirituals and folk songs with which he had just astonished standing-room-only audiences in New York. If he followed the outline of his Manhattan concerts, the program would have included Hammer Song; Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho; My Lord, What a Morning; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; and Water Boy. It’s often said that Robeson appeared at the Barn Theatre in O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones, one of the performances that brought him stardom in 1924 at the Provincetown Playhouse. Indeed, Egan told me, Shay did campaign to bring the production to the Barn Theatre. But it was as a singer, not an actor, that audiences in town were privileged to see Robeson. “Concertgoers were enthusiastic as they had been in New York,” Egan said.9
Next summer, 1926, the Winston-Moore Players took over the Barn Theater. The group was named for Harold Winston and Raymond Moore (±1898-1940). Moore studied botany at Stanford University, intending to be a florist or landscape gardener. Providentially, he seemed to have been bitten simultaneously by the theater and painting bugs. After some luck selling his paintings of flowers, Moore headed cross-country to the Provincetown art colony, where he met Winston.11
Moore and Winston put together a “company of serious young actors and actresses,” Vorse wrote, including Zita Johann, who would later earn modest fame on Broadway and in Hollywood. “There could be no greater contrast with the atmosphere of the year before, with its rollicking gusto and its disorganization.”10
After looking for a more congenial setting than Frank Shay’s barn for their sophisticated productions, Moore and Winston opened the Cape Playhouse in Dennis on 4 July 1927. Financing for the enterprise came from Moore’s wealthy wife, Edna Bradley Tweedy Moore (1870-1936), daughter of Edward Bradley and niece of William H. Bradley, lumber barons whose empire centered on the town of Tomahawk, in the North Woods of Wisconsin.
During the 1928 season at the Cape Playhouse, young Bette Davis was featured as Dinah in a production of A. A. Milne’s comedy, Mr. Pim Passes By.12 She had worked the previous season as an usher in the Dennis playhouse. Perhaps Davis’s association with Moore led to the persistent claim that she worked as an usher and trod the boards in Provincetown.
I’m not saying she didn’t. Contradicting Provincetown legend is a fool’s errand.
Back on Bradford Street, the situation was disheartening. In 1930, the theater was transformed into the Barn Night Club. Toward the end of the following winter, a fire badly damaged the club’s furniture, as well as the walls and wooden framework of the interior.13 But then came what may have been the Barn Theatre’s last hurrah.
Strike! was a novel by Mary Heaton Vorse depicting the intolerably harsh conditions endured by workers at the Loray Mill in Gastonia, N.C., who went on strike for five-and-a-half months in 1929 and were met by powerful resistance. William Dorsey Blake, a director and playwright who had most recently headed the Gold Coast Theater Guild in Chicago, set out to produce an adaptation of the novel, with Vorse’s blessing. After attending a rehearsal of the large cast in July 1931, Vorse told the Advocate that it was “good to feel again the spirit that existed at the Barnstormers Theatre when first productions of Eugene O’Neill’s plays were staged here.”14 Word of the impending production spread happily through town, as the Advocate described it:
One by one, painters, writers and others joined the group as actors, scenic designers, electricians, and advisors until a staff of some 40 people had caught the stimulating and refreshing spirit of their leader [Blake] … The cast is amateur in the best sense, acting with sincere feeling and spirit that only amateurs can sometimes attain. The sets are simple and inexpensive. But this combination is perhaps the most adequate to portray the grim realism of Mrs. Vorse’s story.15
More than 200 people crowded the debut performances in August. There was — maybe for the last time — standing room only at the Barn Theatre.
John A. Francis, who held a mortgage from Shay, foreclosed on the property in 1936. Under the terms of Francis’s will, the property passed in 1941 to Frank Raymond Sr. (1888-1956) and Georgie S. Raymond (1886-1961), then in later years to their son, Francis Bradley “Frank” Raymond Jr. (1907-1969) and his wife, Frances Elizabeth “Fran” (Perry) Raymond (1905-2009).
Frances Raymond is surely the best-known member of this family, because her portrait appears in the installation They Also Faced the Sea on the pier shed at the end of Fishermen’s Wharf.
The Raymonds ran this property as the Skipper Raymond Cottages. (Frank Sr. had earned the “skipper” title as a trap fisherman.) They added Building 2, Building 4, Building 6, and Building 7. Building 3 is now carried by the Town as a four-unit dwelling.
In 1971, the Raymonds sold the property to Warren H. Falkenburg and Wilma R. Falkenburg (a two-thirds interest), and to Warren H. Falkenburg II and Rudelle T. Falkenburg (one-third). At the time, Rudelle Falkenburg ran a preschool in Provincetown. She and her husband sold their share of the Bradford Street property in 1977 to the older Falkenburgs and moved to Truro. There, Rudelle opened the Storybook School — “Miss Rudi’s School” — for younger children.
The Falkenburgs sold the property the next year to a group including Todd J. Henning and Miriam K. Henning. The Hennings held on to it for eight years before selling it to the Van Derecks for $410,000.
Napi Van Dereck took me on a tour of the structure in 2014, when I realized its compound nature for the first time. Building 3 is really four buildings in one. The northernmost wing (for want of a better word) is a one-story building with a pyramid hip roof. It was once the box office, Napi told me. It adjoins a one-story building with a shed roof that may have served as a lobby. Then comes a much larger two-story structure with a gable roof that Napi said was the auditorium. Abutting that was the fly loft tower, which Napi would not allow me to visit. All the spaces I saw were given over to residential use.
The Provincetown Independent counted this “Napiville” and another one — clustered around his Freeman Street restaurant — among Napi’s most important contributions to Provincetown. “The buildings house his employees and others and are mostly occupied year-round,” K. C. Myers wrote in Van Dereck’s obituary.1
“’They are more affordable than affordable housing in this town,’ said Frances Cutter, a Bradford Street tenant. Van Dereck was known as a landlord who provided safe harbors for Provincetown workers and dreamers who are not millionaires, Cutter said.”
Less than two years after Napi’s death, and in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, seven Jamaican workers at Napi’s restaurant told The Independent that they had been fired and were being evicted from 25-27A Bradford, an assertion denied by the executor of Van Dereck’s estate.2
¶ Last updated on 21 December 2022.
1 “Anton ‘Napi’ Van Dereck Haunstrup Is Dead at 87,” by K. C. Myers, The Provincetown Independent, 2 January 2020.
2 “They Worked for Napi for Years; Now They’re Being Evicted,” by Ben Glickman and Cam Blair, The Provincetown Independent, 18 August 2021.
3 O’Neill, by Arthur and Barbara Gelb, New York: Harper & Row, 1962, pp. 319-320.
4 O’Neill, by Arthur and Barbara Gelb, New York: Harper & Row, 1962, pp. 158-159.
5 Provincetown Theater: A Walking Tour of Historic Theater Sites, by Leona Rust Egan, Provincetown: Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association, 1996, p. 17.
6 Provincetown Theater: A Walking Tour of Historic Theater Sites, by Leona Rust Egan, Provincetown: Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association, 1996, p. 18.
7 Time and the Town: A Provincetown Chronicle, by Mary Heaton Vorse, New York: Dial Press, 1942, pp. 198-200.
8 Time and the Town: A Provincetown Chronicle, by Mary Heaton Vorse, New York: Dial Press, 1942, pp. 200.
9 Leona Rust Egan, email to the author, 22 June 2014.
10 Time and the Town: A Provincetown Chronicle, by Mary Heaton Vorse, New York: Dial Press, 1942, pp. 201.
11 “Broadway,” by Danton Walker, Daily News (New York), 20 July 1957.
12 “The Cape Playhouse,” Hyannis Patriot, 2 August 1928, p. 6.
13 “Fire in Barn,” Provincetown Advocate, 26 March 1931.
14 “Cast for ‘Strike’ Chosen,” Provincetown Advocate, 30 July 1931, p. 6.
15 “Standing Room Only at Opening Night of ‘Strike,'” Provincetown Advocate, 13 August 1931, p. 4.
• Frances Elizabeth “Fran” (Perry) Raymond (1905-2009)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 38691232.
• Francis Bradley “Frank” Raymond Jr. (1907-1969)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 193105952.
• Frank Raymond Sr. (1888-1956)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 129564671.
• Georgie S. Raymond (1886-1961)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 193105953.
• Frank Shay (1888-1954)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 6699666.
• Anton “Napi” Van Dereck Haunstrup (1932-2019)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 205738550.
25-27A Bradford Street on the Town Map, showing property lines.
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