100 Years Strong
Festive crowds lined streets draped in patriotic regalia at Provincetown’s impressive Pilgrim Monument dedication ceremony 100 years ago.
Provincetown is hosting a celebration this summer, and the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum plans to party like it’s 1910. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of 252-foot granite monument atop High Pole Hill, organizers are planning a “Rededication Ceremony”, that echoes the original celebration that took place on August 5, 1910, and the season leading up to the occasion is full of events that reflect the cultural richness of today’s Provincetown.
Founded in 1892, the Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Asso- ciation was the Cape’s first nonprofit cultural organization. The association—now known as the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum (PMPM)—raised money for and over- saw construction of the monument between 1907 and 1910. The monument was intended to commemorate the Mayflower Pilgrims’ first landing in America on November 21, 1620, as well as the signing of the Mayflower Compact while the ship was anchored in Provincetown Harbor. The compact famously created a government for the Commonwealth by “a civill body politick.”
James Bakker, PMPM’s executive director, says that the monument and the 100th anniversary celebration highlight Provincetown’s role as the starting point for the Pilgrims’ settlement, a fact that has been overshadowed by the colony’s later establishment in Plymouth. “The American Bus Association named us one of the top 100 destinations for August 5, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Provincetown one of this year’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations, so I think it’s going to be a very big year,” Bakker says.
The Committee 100, co-chaired by Lori Meads and David Roberts, has been preparing to make this a grand event— and the committee has the benefit of historical documents from the 1910 dedication to guide it. Handwritten minutes from the General Committee meeting of July 14, 1910 note that the Music Committee was authorized to “procure such music as they think fit for the occasion” and instructed to negotiate with an orchestra to furnish a ball at Town Hall on the evening of August 5. The minutes then state, “A telegram was read from J. Henry Lewis, Esq. announcing that President Taft would be present at the celebration on August 5. A letter from Rear Admiral Seaton Schroeder was read stating that a fleet of warships would arrive at this port August 4 to join in the celebration.” It should be noted that President Taft wasn’t the first U.S. president to visit the site. President Theodore Roosevelt pre- sided at the cornerstone-laying ceremony that launched construction of the tower in 1907.
While President Taft arrived at the dedication ceremony on the presidential yacht Mayflower with an escort from the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic fleet, this year’s centennial organizers have orchestrated a campaign to invite President Obama and his family, who would most likely arrive by helicopter or airplane. “We’re hoping with the presidential precedent, it would seem like a good occasion for President Obama to come,” Bakker says. PMPM sent an official invitation to the president, followed by letters of support from the Board of Selectmen, chambers of commerce, and others.
Even schoolchildren have gotten into the act. Kim Pike, district principal for Provincetown’s schools says, “I thought about the kids at our schools and how neat it would be if they letters not only to President Obama, but to the Obamas’ daughters—from a kids’ perspective, letting them know how great a place Provincetown is and offering to be tour guides in this beautiful part of the world.” Anyone else—young or old—interested in forwarding an invitation to the president can use the e-mail template on PMPM’s Web site.