The Town began promoting itself as a tourist destination to boost the economy after the Great Portland Gale of 1898 wiped out the Town’s fishing fleet and wharfs. Artists and bohemians were among Provincetown’s earliest visitors. They were attracted to the incredible natural beauty, eclectic population, and sense of acceptance found in the town at the outer most tip of Cape Cod.
1920s - 1930s
The 1920s and 1930s saw the gay and lesbian presence flourish as contingents of artists, writers, playwrights, poets, novelists, journalists, socialists, radicals, and dilettantes began to summer in Provincetown. These newcomers found inspiration in this avant-garde town’s beauty and freedom of exploration. They were instrumental in developing Provincetown’s famous art colony and participated in the beginnings of modern American theater.
The ability to experiment with varied art forms without fear of judgment eventually led to an artistic environment that spawned the first American school of art and birth of modern American theater. Many of the artists and their friends who enjoyed the intellectual freedom of Provincetown were gay. It was this sense of acceptance and the burgeoning art colony that drew more people to visit the avant-garde town at the outermost tip of Cape Cod.
It was not long before Provincetown became the place to spend the summer months for gay men and women. Soon thereafter, many summer regulars became permanent residents as they purchased guesthouses and other local businesses, further enmeshing themselves in the local fabric.
The 1970s marked Provincetown’s rise as the gay and lesbian mecca and destination that it is widely considered today. Perhaps gay author Reed Woodhouse summed up Provincetown’s allure best when he wrote in 1991, “To such an extent that Provincetown is, for anything, known for us, known for being one of the two or three places on the continent where gay people can be seen in something like their native habitat. It is one of our hometowns.”
Woodhouse's comment truly sums up the attraction Provincetown holds for gays and lesbians. It is a place where you can be yourself without fear of condemnation. It is the only tourist location in the United States where gays and lesbians can hold hands and show affection openly. It simply feels like coming home. Provincetown truly is like nowhere else.
Since gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, Provincetown has become the place to get married with over 1,400 marriage licenses issued to date. Couples chose Provincetown for its gay symbolism and the breath-taking backdrop of the town’s beaches. For more information on marriage, please visit Getting Married