44-46 Bradford Street

Governor Bradford School (First)

Governor Bradford School in an undated postcard. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Grandfathers Provincetown / 8 October 2015]

From The Boston Globe of 18 October 1893. [© Newspapers.com by Ancestry, Image No. 430705666]

“This is the earliest class photo I have been able to find and contains many of our grandparents,” Lisa King wrote on Facebook. [Lisa King / Facebook / My Grandfathers Provincetown / 6 May 2017]

Inmates of the Barnstable prison laid water mains in front of the school in 1905. [Ben Kettlewell / Facebook / Provincetown Diaspora / 22 July 2021]

A postcard printed for the Provincetown Advocate. [Author’s collection]

Top: The school in February 1902, on Plate 3 of a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. [Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Digital ID hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3764pm.g038261902] Bottom: Plate 4 of the October 1929 Sanborn map showed a modest addition at the rear of the school. [Provincetown Town Document Center, View No. 2883]

“These boys don’t appear to be really serious about those tears. They are viewing the ruins of the $40,000 fire at the Governor Bradford School.” [Ben Kettlewell / Facebook / Provincetown Diaspora / 1 February 2023]

William Bradford (1590-1657), arrived in Provincetown Harbor aboard Mayflower. He served 33 years as governor of Plymouth Colony. Equally important to posterity, Bradford wrote a history of the colony, Of Plymouth Plantation. It’s a compelling narrative but omits a crucial event: the death of his wife, Dorothy (May) Bradford (c1597-1620). She fell from Mayflower on 7 December and drowned while her husband was on a exploratory trip around Cape Cod Bay. “It may be that he suspected (as do we) that Dorothy Bradford took her own life, after gazing for six weeks at the barren sand dunes of Cape Cod,” Samuel Eliot Morison wrote.1

The schoolhouse at 41-46 Bradford Street was under construction in 1892 when the Committee on New School Building conferred Governor Bradford’s name on it. The location of the structure, the committee reported was chosen “as the most convenient, as the most sightly, and as the cheapest available site obtainable.”2

Moses Packard House, Brockton, 2010.
[John Phelan via Wikimedia]
Image has been straightened.
Waldo V. Howard and Fred T. Austin, who practiced architecture as Howard & Austin in Brockton, designed the schoolhouse in the Queen Anne style, with a domed cupola at its summit. Though it was not quite as exuberant as firm’s home for Moses Packard in Brockton, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, The Boston Globe hailed the school as “an ornament to that section of the town in which it stands.” It was a pricey ornament, however, at $17,727 (roughly $6 million today). “Objurgations have been showered upon the committee by those who consider that the committee was guilty of extravagance,” The Globe lamented. Nevertheless, the newspaper concluded that the finished building was “all that may be wished for in construction, architectural beauty, and in ventilation, heating, and sanitation.”3

“The main entrance is on Bradford St. A wide hall leads from the vestibule through the center of the building to a larger hall at the rear, where winding stairs give access to the second floor.

“The floor plans are practically alike. Right and left from the halls are school rooms, fronting on Bradford St., each having a seating capacity for 50 pupils. Retiring rooms for the teachers and large wardrobe for the pupils are situated behind the school rooms. A roomy apartment above the vestibule is used as a teacher’s conference room.

“A fine view of the surrounding country is obtainable from all parts of the building.”3

Originally, the classrooms on the first floor were used by primary grades, while those on the second floor were used by intermediate grades. After a systemwide reorganization in 1931, it was where grades five and six were conducted (first to fourth grades were in the Western and Center Schools; seventh grade onward were in the High School).

Three-year-old Edward Enos Jr. was playing in front of the school, on the Conant Street side, on Wednesday, 17 December 1924, when he was struck by a .22-caliber bullet. The boy was taken to his home at 32 Conant Street and attended by two doctors, who successfully removed the bullet. Despite their efforts, Edward died. According to The Globe, 10-year-old Manuel Mederios (so spelled) was seen by witnesses loading a cartridge into the rifle chamber and discharging it.4

The artist Saul Yalkert (1903-1948) conducted a class in the school building on Friday evening, 5 April 1935. Around 2 o’clock the next morning, Antone Joseph, a neighbor, “rose early to see how the weather was going to be for fishing, but saw the glow of flames from the back end of the school building instead,” the Yarmouth Register reported on 13 April in a dramatic account. It continued:

“Within 10 minutes from the time Joseph gave the alarm, firemen were training a stream of water on the flames which by this time were beyond control.

“The fire swept through the empty rooms, enveloping woodwork, furniture, and tinder-like supplies of paper in a rear room above the oil shed.

“In a few minutes the flames reached the cupola on the roof and as the blaze ate through its supports, the superstructure rolled off the roof to the ground, narrowly missing a group of firemen standing below.”5

Firefighters needed three-and-a-half hours and 400,000 gallons of water to extinguish the blaze. The Engineers of the Fire Department declared unequivocally that it was the work of an arsonist.6 A contemporary article in an unidentified newspaper stated that “most of the pupils appeared to be in a highly cheerful mood” after the fire “until they learned that they will go to classes as usual in the high school.”7

Later that year, Town Meeting voted 105 to 0 to build a new schoolhouse, at the cost of $28,000, being the proceeds of the insurance payment. The second Governor Bradford School was later the Provincetown Community Center and is now the Commons.

¶ Last updated on 10 March 2023.

In memoriam

• Edward Enos Jr. (1921-1924)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 192019668.

1 Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, by William Bradford, Sometime Governor Thereof (New Edition), edited by Samuel Eliot Morison, 1952, Modern Library, Page xxiv.

2 Town Records and Reports of the Town Officers and Committees of Provincetown, Mass., for the Year Ending December 31, 1892, Provincetown History Preservation Project (Page 5211).

3 “Gov. Bradford School at Provincetown,” The Boston Globe, 18 October 1893, Page 8, © Newspapers.com by Ancestry, Image No. 430705666.

4 “Boy, 4, Killed by Playmate; Edward Enos Victim of Provincetown Tragedy; Witnesses Say Fatal Shot Fired by Manuel Mederios, 10; Group of Lads Were in Street Before School,” The Boston Globe, 18 December 1924, Page 22, © Newspapers.com by Ancestry, Image No. 430569864.

5 “Provincetown School Burns,” Yarmouth Register, 13 April 1935, Page 7, Sturgis Library Digital Newspaper Archive, ID No. Ar00712.

6 Town Records and Reports of the Town Officers of Provincetown, Mass., for the Year Ending December 31, 1935, Provincetown History Preservation Project (Page 5505).

7 “Provincetown in Fear of Firebug; Burning of Governor Bradford School Causes Belief That Pyromaniac Is Loose on the Town,” Unidentified newspaper, 7 April 1935. Posted by Ben Kettlewell, Facebook, Provincetown Diaspora, 1 February 2023.

44-46 Bradford Street on the Town Map, showing property lines.

Also at this address

Provincetown Commons | Former Provincetown Community Center | Former Governor Bradford School (Second)

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