Some guests at the luxury Provincetown resort Crowne Pointe get a rare bonus to their stay: A visit from a ghost. Not that one needs to be scared of this apparition. Far from it. Those who have seen him – a man in a long trench coat – speak of how happy the ghost is. Said to be the sea captain and entrepreneur who built the mansion in the mid-19th century that became Crowne Pointe in the late 20th, he may just be satisfied that his house lives on as one of Provincetown’s premier resorts.
Crowne Pointe came about as something of a dream for Thomas Walter, who bought the mansion in 1998 along with his life and business partners David Sanford and Ken Masi. They hoped to bring to Provincetown the kind of luxury accommodations Walter had seen in his travels.
“We happened to notice in 1998 that the building that is the main mansion of Crowne Pointe came on the market. We had said to our friends if that building came available, that would be the trigger to make us, motivate us to move to Provincetown. We saw a need – there really wasn’t a high-end, full-service facility – in the town. We always dreamed of having a little mini-Four Seasons, sort of without the attitude though and that was kind of the pipe dream.”
To realize their dream, the trio bought additional properties adjacent to the mansion and set out to restore it to its 19th-century glory. “When we were renovating, we really wanted to hold on to that character, and we did our best to bring as much of the original look and feel of the house back. And we did so also with the other buildings we were renovating. I am also proud to say that Crowne Pointe is now a member of the Historic Hotels of America. There are actually only two on Cape Cod. It is a distinguished group of hotels to be a part of, and I am proud to say that we are.”
Yet, while they looked back for historical authenticity, they made sure that their resort was state of the art regarding technology and amenities.
“Our intention has been to be a year-round, full-service property. Why it’s been so successful is because it does have all the amenities on site. People love the fact that we put in all the creature comforts in the rooms we renovated. We’re historic, but I like to say we are historic and hip at the same time. People love the respect for architecture and history, but they don’t necessarily want to sleep in grandma’s bedroom. So we made sure that the rooms have the utmost in amenities. Most of the rooms have whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, the best wireless available and all the other creature comforts. And right on property, they have a phenomenal restaurant in the Pointe Restaurant, which is open not just to guests but also to the public. And then we have Shui Spa, which is available to the guests. When they are staying with us, they can actually use the facilities of the spa complimentary, the steam room, sauna and soaking tub.”
Much to Do
Right now Crowne Pointe is transitioning into what is called the shoulder season – the off-season when Provincetown slowly reverts to being the sleepy fishing village it once was. That doesn’t happen right away, as the time between Labor Day and New Year’s remains filled with activity. Most of the businesses and restaurants are open, and there are numerous events, such as the 33rd annual Women’s Week (October 9 -15), Halloween Week (October 27 – 31), and Holly Folly Weekend (December 1 – 3), scheduled throughout the fall, as the weather changes from glorious September summer days to brisk November nights.
“My favorite season is the fall,” Walter says. “I love the summer. I love the Film Festival. I love Carnival. It is incredible and fun, fun, fun. But there is something magical about autumn in Provincetown. We still have incredible weather; the crowds are still here but are a little less intense. The beaches are still gorgeous. All the shows are still going on, and there is a little sense of relief in town.”
“But,” he adds, “New Year’s is so much fun. The shoulder season holidays, like Halloween and New Year’s and President’s Weekend, are bursts of energy. New Year’s is Provincetown in the summer, but with a winter’s staff. People come to Provincetown to kick back, to have a good time. We are the clean New Orleans. We’re the place you can go and have a great time and tear it up, or you can come and do nothing. But New Year’s has really become a huge event in town, and it is tons of fun.”
One reason why the fall is so appealing for those who want to stay at Crowne Pointe is what a bargain it is. “What’s great about the fall and the winter and the spring is that we also offer these fantastic packages that we call our Cape Escape packages, which combine accommodations, dinner and spa treatments, and they’re at a really great value. So if someone wants to save some money and isn’t that concerned about being here during the high season crowds, that’s definitely worth looking into.”
Where Crowne Pointe excels is in the amenities it offers, such as, Walter points out, its full-service breakfast and its afternoon wine and cheese socials. “We have the restaurant on site (The Pointe) where we are able to offer a really amazing cooked-to-order complimentary breakfast with your room stay. We have the restaurant there so guests are treated to a full menu of items that they can order, which include anything from cooked-to-order eggs to omelets to French toast, pancakes. We bake all of our items fresh daily. We are also very mindful of people with gluten intolerances or nut allergies, so one thing I will say is that the breakfasts are just amazing.
“The other thing, and this is a very special time of day, every day from 5 to 6 we offer a complimentary wine and cheese social where we provide a complimentary wine, cheese, beer or non-alcoholic beverages and a full spread of cheese, crackers, fruits, crudité. It is an opportunity for all the guests to just relax and plan their evening, to interact with the staff and to interact with each other. It is fun to watch the guests come together. People meet from all different parts of the country and the world sometimes. That is really fun, fun, fun to watch.”
The Shui Spa
One of Crowne Pointe’s most unique features is the Shui Spa, a unisex environment featuring full-service treatment rooms, staffed with highly skilled, licensed therapists. “There’s five treatment rooms plus a manicure/pedicure area. We have an expansive relaxation area with a steam room, sauna, and soaking tub. When we were building the spa we wanted to make sure it was a true European spa experience. We wanted to make sure that enough space was given to the common area as was to the treatment room. Some places just throw a massage table in a closet and call themselves a spa. To me, that’s not what a spa experience is all about. We have all of those services so we encourage our guests to come… say you book a massage or a facial or both, we will encourage you, come an hour early, come two hours early. Take a steam, take a sauna. Enjoy it. Then stay after your treatment and make it a full day. And for people that do make it a full day, we can even provide spa lunches, spa-tinis, and other little creature comforts.
“It is worth mentioning that last year in 2016 we formed a strategic partnership with Khiel’s [body care products and cosmetics]. Khiel’s is based in New York, but they do have a Provincetown store. We aligned with them. Right now prior to our spa, the only spa in the world that utilizes Khiel’s products in all their treatments is their own spa based in New York. In working with them we were able to create the second and only hotel spa to be exclusively Khiel’s. And what that means is that every treatment that we offer – every manicure, pedicure, every facial and every massage in some way or fashion utilizes Khiel’s products or offers a Khiel’s experience. For example, with your massage the therapist would start with an aromatherapy treatment utilizing the Khiel’s products. So it really makes our spa stand out as truly unique, and that’s not truly unique to Provincetown, that’s truly unique anywhere.”
A Destination for Weddings
Since same-sex marriage was made legal in Massachusetts in 2004, Provincetown (and notably Crowne Pointe) has become a destination for couples looking to tie the knot. “Obviously since then we have probably hosted hundreds of weddings of all different sizes,” Walter recalls. “The restaurant is a little on the smaller side so we can’t do the hundred-person or two hundred person weddings, but for weddings of 40 or less we can do that and do that quite well. I can’t even begin to tell you how many. And we have also had a number of male-female couples get married. We’ve had weddings of all make-ups, which is typical of Provincetown because the only intolerance that Provincetown doesn’t tolerate is intolerance.”
But Walter recalls when the moment that gay marriage became a reality happened for him. It occurred on the first weekend same-sex marriages became legal. His resort was not only accommodating prospective couples but also the news media, including the Boston Globe and the New York Times, whose presence proved to be an issue for a couple from Texas.
“They had traveled all the way from a small town in South Texas in a place where they had been together for a long time. And it was very important to them that on the very first day that gay marriage was legal anywhere that they take advantage of that. But they couldn’t tell anyone in their hometown that they were coming to Provincetown or that they were going to get married. When they checked in, I was at the front desk with my manager Michelle, and they told us the situation. They said that they wanted to get married, and they wanted to get married on the front lawn of Crowne Pointe. And they wanted to have a very small, intimate ceremony and they saw all the press, and they wanted to make sure that there weren’t going to be any photos or any videos taken.
“They asked us a favor that if Michelle and I could help them the next morning when it was going to be legal to help them with the service at 5 am. Michelle and I said gladly, and at 5 am we went out on the front porch, and it was just the two women, myself and my manager and then the reverend, who was officiating the ceremony. My job was the music and Michelle’s job was to take care of the one woman’s dress. When we decided to start the ceremony and I pressed play and of course they were from Texas and the music was from Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and she started walking down the stairs of the porch and we all just lost it because that’s when I realized that it is all real. So if there is one wedding that stands out the most at Crowne Pointe, it is that one because it was one of the smallest and one of the most important.”
Now having overseen some 18 summers at Crowne Pointe (and nine at the nearby Brass Key, which they also own), Walter has seen his adopted town transform into an international LGBTQ resort. “People ask me that all the time. You know, is Provincetown changing? Is Provincetown evolving? It is changing. It is evolving. It changes, and it doesn’t change. Everything changes and nothing changes at all. It is holding on to its beautiful character. It is holding onto a wonderful community. But at the same time as the world has become a more accepting place; Provincetown has always welcomed everyone. It was one of the first and few communities to open their arms to the LGBT community, and that is why it has become the mecca that it is.
“But now the world is a better place, and as we have fought for the rights to be equal with others, Provincetown is now open to all people, and it is kind-of hip to hang out with the LGBT community. Provincetown has so much to offer I think you have also seen a more broad group of people come to Provincetown because of the culture and because of the diversity. They like to experience that. At certain times of the year more than others, you do see Provincetown being more diverse. And also you definitely see a trend to upscaling. A lot of that is just due to supply and demand. There isn’t a lot of property available in town and because of growth management; there won’t be any more property available. So with so many people wanting a piece of Provincetown, it has certainly gotten a little bit more expensive to live here, to conduct business here and work here.”
What hasn’t changed for Walter is what first attracted him to want to be in the town in the first place. “For me, I came as a young kid with my partner. We were newly out. We had never experienced anything, and I felt like it was a place where I could be free and accepted and not judged. That’s going back a long way. And I have to say that I still feel the same way about this town every day.”