Provincetown, Massachusetts – Provincetown is a New England town located at the extreme tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. A small coastal resort town with a year-round population of just under 3,000, Provincetown has a summer population of as high as 60,000. The town is known for its beaches, harbor, artists, tourist industry, and its status as a vacation destination for the LGBTQ community.
In the 1890s, Provincetown was booming, and began to develop a resident population of writers and artists, as well as a summer tourist industry. After the 1898 Portland Gale storm severely damaged the town’s fishing industry, members of the town’s art community took over many of the abandoned buildings.
By the early decades of the 20th century, the town had acquired an international reputation for its artistic and literary productions. The Provincetown Players was an important experimental theater company formed during this period. Many of its members lived during other parts of the year in Greenwich Village in New York, and intellectual and artistic connections were woven between the places. In 1898 Charles Webster Hawthorne opened the Cape Cod School of Art, said to be the first outdoor school for figure painting, in Provincetown.
In the mid-1960s, Provincetown saw population growth. The town’s rural character appealed to the hippies of the era; property was relatively cheap and rents were correspondingly low, especially during the winter.
By the 1970s Provincetown had a significant gay population, especially during the summer tourist season, when restaurants, bars and small shops serving the tourist trade were open. There had been a gay presence in Provincetown as early as the start of the 20th century as the artists’ colony developed, along with experimental theater. Drag queens could be seen in performance as early as the 1940s in Provincetown. In 1978 the Provincetown Business Guild (PBG) was formed to promote gay tourism.
Today more than 200 businesses belong to the PBG, and Provincetown is perhaps the best-known gay summer resort on the East Coast. The 2010 US Census revealed Provincetown to have the highest rate of same-sex couples in the country, at 163.1 per 1000 couples.