Relaxshax's Blog

The Cape Cod Tiny House/Dune Shack Artist’s Community
December 26, 2010, 4:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

MORE Tiny House of Massachusetts– and for those who missed it, we recently posted on the tiny house/construction workshop/class in Scituate, MA-2011 that Dustin and I will be hosting/organizing for this summer…

As for the shacks: Living so close to the area, I was surprised that I really hadn’t heard of the Cape Cod Dune Shacks Community in Truro, MA/Massachusetts- the town right next to Provincetown (although I was aware of “The Outermost House” and Henry Beston- having read his work (same general area)). Beston is the Henry David Thoreau of the seashore- kind of the male version of Rachel Carson (minus the groundbreaking pesticide-warning fame). That said, first off, if you’ve never checked either town out- they’re both beyond gorgeous- especially in architecture.

Secondly, upon searching for photos on these dune shacks/tiny houses, I couldn’t find any ONE single photo gallery source for these cabins, so I took it upon myself to line up a few photos I came across, for your viewing pleasure. Photo-credit-wise, I can’t find ’em, but I’d be glad to post each artist if anyone recognizes a shot. I DO believe a few of these are from Suzanne Lewis- a VERY talented, Austin-TX-area photographer- who also released the book “Dune Shack Summer“- which I will now HAVE to check out! Support her- she’s ultra independent, and seems (from her video on kickstarter) like a really nice, down to earth, person…

A little back story from … (and the photos will continue)…

THE DUNE SHACKS- AN OVERVIEW: Provincetown’s rich artistic legacy continues to manifest itself in the dozens of galleries along Commercial Street and through countless resident writers and painters. But out along the seashore, along a 3 mile stretch of sand extending from about Race Point to High Head (in Truro), you can see a more unusual remnant of the town’s artistic past — the dune shacks.

These small, austere structures were built by the Life Saving Service in the 19th century to house seamen. Sometime around the 1920s, long after the dune shacks ceased housing life-saving personnel, many of the community’s creative or eccentric spirits began using them as retreats and hideaways. Probably the most famous of these was playwright Eugene O’Neill, who purchased one and spent many summers there with his wife, Agnes Boulton. O’Neill penned Anna Christie (1920) and The Hairy Ape (1921) while living in his shack, and in doing so gave the whole collection of dune shacks something of an arty cachet.

Other Provincetown artists soon followed O’Neill, including the self-proclaimed “poet of the dunes,” Harry Kemp, who wrote many a verse about the seashore’s stark, desolate splendor. Author Hazel Hawthorne-Werner wrote The Salt House, a memoir tracing her time amid the dunes, in 1929. It’s said that this book helped get the shacks, along with the entire dunes district, onto the National Register of Historic Places, helping to preserve them for years to come. In later years, Jack Kerouac, e. e. cummings, Norman Mailer, and Jackson Pollack also lived in these primitive structures.

The dune shacks haven’t been modernized much — none has electricity, running water, or toilets. You stay in them for a chance to be with nature and perhaps commune with the spirits of artists who have gone before you. The dune shacks are now all set along the part of the Cape Cod National Seashore that is known as the Province Lands. The park owns most of the Provincetown dune shacks, though a few are managed by nonprofit groups aimed at preserving them and their legacy. Some of these organizations, such as the Peaked Hills Bars Trust and the Provincetown Community Compact, allow visitors to stay in the dune shacks through a variety of arrangements. Both groups run an artist-in-residence program — artists can apply for short stays in some of the shacks during the summer season. Only a handful of applicants are admitted each year.

If you’re not an artist, you can enter a lottery for the opportunity to lease one of the shacks for a week in spring or fall. If you’re interested in applying to spend time in a dune shack or you’d like to join one of the nonprofit organizations that sponsors them, contact Dune Shacks.

If you’re simply interested in exploring the terrain and seeing the shacks, you can either book a tour with Art’s Dune Tours, or park behind the Cape Inn, on Snail Road just off U.S. 6, where a 3 mile trail winds through the dunes and past many of the dune shacks.

Sp there ya’ go- 15 photos of the Cape Cod dune shacks…which I WILL have to check out in person once the weather gets nicer (but before the HUGE tourist-rush on the Cape).

-Derek “Deek” Diedricksen


12 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Very cool….thanks.

Comment by ginnee

Gawd, I love these. A couple look like the ones in Lester’s book…

Comment by Anne

Yeah- hints of the Thomas Jefferson Tiny Honeymoon Cottage/House, The Thoreau Shack, etc

Comment by relaxshax

I meant the actual dune shacks from it, but yep, them too 😉

Comment by Anne


Comment by relaxshax

Suzanne (the photographer) of many of these pics emailed- and she said the book can be purchased (v. limited print/run) through-

Check it out-
I’m grabbin’ a copy and will review it soon

Comment by relaxshax

Awesome post… I could live happily in a little shack like that by the ocean.

Comment by Alex

i luv these. are these the same as in “tiny, tiny houses”? do you have any pics of old fisherman’s shacks? i saw a pic once of some really skinny and really tall (3 stories) fishermens’ shacks up against some cliffs, on the beach and thought they were awesome. they were not hippie driftwood houses. are you familiar with what i’m talking about….?

Comment by kellicox

No- doesn’t ring a bell- if you see a pic, send it this way- thanks Kelli- just got your letter in the mail too- sending the book out soon!

Comment by relaxshax


Comment by kellicox

I worked a summer as a shorebird monitor at Nauset Beach in Orleans, which is about 20 miles south down the seashore and there are also a bunch of old grandfathered in shacks out there that are really cool and worth checking out. Thanks Deek!

Comment by Nate

Wow, I was just visiting the dunes and saw all those dune shacks. Shame just from outside. It is an amazing place!

Comment by crazy sexy fun traveler

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