Alternately 33 Bradford Street or 12 Montello Street | Former S’Il Vous Plait Restaurant | Now Building D, Ships Way Road Condominium
39 Ships Way Road. [2011, Dunlap]
The footprint of the house is seen on Plate 3 of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Provincetown, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, by the Sanborn Map Company, of September 1919. [Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Digital ID hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3764pm.g038261919]
Yellow highlighting shows the house at its former location in 1942 in a photo by John Collier. [Ben Kettlewell / Facebook / Provincetown Diaspora / 17 August 2021]
Advertisement in the Advocate of 16 August 1956. [Provincetown Public Library / Community History Archive]
House on a Dune, by John Dowd (1997). Oil on linen, 24 by 36 inches. [Courtesy of the William Scott Gallery]
Provincetown’s building stock is peripatetic, to say the least. But few of the many houses that have moved around town managed to arrive at such a prominent site as 39 Ships Way Road (a/k/a 33 Bradford Street or 12 Montello Street). It now has a commanding view over Shank Painter Road from the summit of the Silva family’s sprawling properties along Ships Way Road. Long abandoned and decrepit, its ghostly presence has inspired the artists John Dowd, who painted House on a Dune in 1997, and Dakota X, who was known as Deborah Martin in 2011 when they painted Pillows, an interior view. They stayed in the house during their days at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.
When it stood at Bradford and Montello, it was the home of Capt. Ulysses Grant Simmons (1892-1955), a trapboat skipper, and his wife, Mary Emma (Silva) Simmons (1895-1965). The couple bought this property in 1927 from Joseph and Mary B. Silva. The captain’s parents had come from São Miguel in the Azores. Simmons served as a cook in the Coast Guard during World War I. He once claimed to have found a fully feathered hen inside the stomach of a 40-pound codfish. Mary Simmons worked as a bookkeeper for the Suburban Gas Company and at the First National Bank of Cape Cod. Not long after Mrs. Simmons died, her grief-stricken 37-year-old daughter, Louise Marian Simmons (1928-1965), took her own life in this house.
While still on Bradford Street in the mid-’50s, the building housed S’Il Vous Plaît Restaurant, which was opened in 1956 by Robert L. “Bobby” Werner. “Patrons were delighted with the authentic French food,” the Advocate said. By 1960, Werner had moved the establishment to the Colonial Inn at 601 Commercial Street.
In 1966, a year after Mary Simmons died and Louise Simmons killed herself, the house — designated as 12 Montello Street — was sold to Mary P. Cabral by Kenneth E. Simmons, Mary’s son and Louise’s brother. She sold it in turn to Barbara and Richard A. Oppen in 1974.
What I do not yet know is when the house was moved to the Shank Painter Pond area, and by whom, and to what end.
Where the structure landed was on an irregularly shaped parcel on Ships Way Road owned by the lawyer Charles W. “Chuck” Silva (1938-2018) who — more than anyone else — was responsible for the development of the commercial strip along Shank Painter Road and the residential heights to the west. Silva and his wife, Helen T. “Penny” Silva, created the Ships Way Road Condominium in 2015. The condo encompassed nine buildings and was shown as having 22 units, of which six were to be in this structure, now designated Building D, at 39 Ships Way Road. As of 2022, however, there had been no sales, and all six units were still held in Penny Silva’s name.
Meanwhile, the vacant parcel on which the house once stood now serves as the Montello-Bradford Parking Lot.
¶ Last updated on 15 January 2023.
• Charles W. “Chuck” Silva (1938-2018)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 195423036.
• Louise Marian Simmons (1928-1965)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 126980359.
• Mary Emma (Silva) Simmons (1895-1965)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 126980727.
• Ulysses Grant Simmons (1892-1955)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 186630937.
39 Ships Way Road on the Town Map, showing property lines.