25 Bangs Street

25 Bangs Street when it was the Red Sails Condominium. [2012, Dunlap]

Former Red Sails Condominium. Provincetown counts among its citizens many heroes of the sea. One of the most conspicuous — but not because he bragged about it — was John Chagas Corea (1911-2007), who lived in this house with his wife, Rosella Jane (Santos) Corea (1910-2000), for 61 years.

Corea’s parents, Frank and Maria (Conceição) Corea, had immigrated from Fuseta, on Portugal’s south coast, about five miles east of Olhão. He spent his boyhood fishing with his father aboard Leona & Gabriel. He joined the Coast Guard after he was graduated from high school in 1927, and commanded Stations Wood End and Race Point. Corea was credited with helping restore some degree of amity between fishermen and the Coast Guard after Prohibition, when relations had been badly strained by homegrown criminality on one hand and overzealous enforcement on the other.

Rosella, the daughter of John and Nora Nancy (Viera) Santos, married Corea in 1936. Three years later, they bought 25 Bangs Street. John Corea’s sister, Leona Lucia (Corea) Mendes (1918-2009), was the proprietor of the Long Point View guest house at 6 Johnson Street, a namesake of Leona & Gabriel, and the mother of Paul C. and John Mendes.

In 1954, Corea, a chief boatswain, was in charge of the famed lightship Nantucket (LV-112) — long the mariner’s reassuring first glimpse of the American coast, or the poignant point of farewell as the ocean opened wide. When Hurricane Edna advanced furiously on New England in the late afternoon of 11 September, Nantucket was anchored 49 miles southwest of its namesake island, with a crew of 12. Seas had been rough since mid-morning, but the pitching and rolling were nothing the 148-foot-long vessel hadn’t experienced at its perilous permanent station.

Both: John Corea in his Coast Guard days. [Courtesy of Paul C. Mendes]

Nantucket in Boston Harbor, 2018. It’s a National Historic Landmark. [Arnold Reinhold / Wikimedia Commons / Published under Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) / Photo has been cropped top and bottom]

Then Boatswain’s Mate Richard E. Arnold of Gloucester, who was at the wheel, saw something he had never before witnessed: a 70-foot wave.

“It was a sheer mountain of water heading right at us,” he recalled three days later to the reporter Frank Mahoney, whose riveting account appeared on the front page of The Boston Globe.

Imagine for a moment a wave the height of a five- or six-story building. Nantucket was swallowed broadside by a crushing volume of water.

“Water went in every direction,” Arnold said. “The big wheel was ripped out as foam crashed all over the place. I fell down — must have swallowed half the ocean before I could get up. The radar and radio panels and the light boards were flaming and sparking. All I could hear was a crashing and tearing and water every place. I said my prayers because it looked like we were all through.”

Nantucket was listing 65 degrees to port and had already been driven 15 miles from its anchorage. Captain Corea had by now managed to crawl on to the flooded bridge. Chief Machinist Eugene Darcy of Gloucester was preparing to run the engines full speed when the skipper signaled “Stand By” on the mechanical telegraph. “The skipper reported the steering was out and ordered all hands forward to plug a hole in the port bow,” Darcy said. “The big anchor was gone and ripped a whole series of plates out.”

At 4:30, Captain Corea issued his fateful order to the crew:

“This ship is badly damaged. We have lost radio contact. An S.O.S. was dispatched at 4 p.m. We will hold our station or go down with the ship. All hands turn to for damage control. Report to your stations.”

“We will hold our station or go down with the ship. All hands turn to for damage control. Report to your stations.”

Neck deep in water, five crew members struggled for two hours to plug the port hole with mattresses and whatever waste they could lay hands on, Mahoney wrote. Three other men lashed themselves to the forward deck and managed to drop an emergency anchor. Amazingly, the only serious injury was suffered by Electronics Technician James E. Sheahan of Framingham, whose left hand was burned as he tried to operate a radio that was on fire.

Nantucket was towed into Boston Harbor on Monday night.

“All of the sorrow, heartbreak, and anguish caused by Hurricane Edna,” Mahoney wrote, “was overshadowed by the heroism of the crew of the Nantucket, who were told, ‘We will go down with the ship rather than desert this station.'”

Not quite finished with public service, Corea became the town assessor shortly after retiring from the Coast Guard. He served in that position until 1972, then devoted himself to gardening, reading, and artwork. Rosella died in 2000. Corea sold 25 Bangs Street in 2001 to John K. Fowler and moved in with his relatives at 45-55 Captain Bertie’s Way.

John and Rosella Corea in what appears to be Grozier Park, where the Boatslip now stands. [Courtesy of Paul C. Mendes]

John Corea in his garden at 25 Bangs Street in 1981. [Courtesy of Paul C. Mendes]

Fowler and James Donovan turned 25 Bangs Street into a two-unit condominium in 2005, with a two-unit garage. I don’t know what inspired the name “Red Sails,” but I do know that the once-popular song “Red Sails in the Sunset” has a distinct — if somewhat distant — connection with Provincetown. It was first performed in a tepidly reviewed revue called The Provincetown Follies. The show opened in 1935 at the Provincetown Theater in Greenwich Village and closed soon thereafter. But the song endured.

Red sails are linked to Provincetown through “Red Sails in the Sunset,” from an off-Broadway revue. Left: The start of a scathing review in The New York Times, 4 November 1935. Right: Detail of the sheet music for “Red Sails.” [Amazon]

In a highly unusual turn of events, 25 Bangs Street was de-condominiumized in 2021 by Paul Wood and his husband, Matthew A. Leeson, of Tampa, Fla. They purchased Unit 2 in 2016 for $525,000 from Corey J. Clifford and Jonathan E. Book, and Unit 1 in 2018 for $610,000. They then sold the combined units under a single deed for $2.04 million to a couple from Poulsbo, Wash.

Sunset had come to Red Sails.

Another quirk of this property is that the dividing line between the public road formally known as Bangs Street and the private way known formally as Bangs Street Extension occurs directly in front of this house.

Paul C. Mendes wrote on 24 September 2010: I am Paul Mendes, son of Leona Mendes and nephew of John Corea. What a great achievement you are creating. I am a third-generation Ptowner. Also served on the Provincetown Police, 1970 to 2000. I will be glad to assist you in any way I can. My father-in-law, Joe Andrews, age 90, has a great memory. Example: at 8 years old, he would sit at Sal’s Restaurant — then a boatyard — and listen to the old whaler captains talk. He began as a boatbuilder there at age 12.

Corey J. Clifford wrote on 6 August 2014: I currently live in this house. It’s now two units but is a beautiful house.

Rear of the main house. [2012, Dunlap]

[2012, Dunlap]

25 Bangs Street on the Town Map, showing property lines.

In memoriam

• John Chagas Corea (1911-2007)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 52419651.

• Rosella Jane (Santos) Corea (1910-2000)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 162464576.

¶ Last updated on 25 January 2022.

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