Presidential visits to Cape Cod and the Islands
Gray Gables became an inn, but was destroyed by fire in 1975. The train depot was moved to the Aptucxet Trading Post grounds the following year. In 2006, Francis W. Madigan Jr. built a house on the Gray Gables site. While zoning regulations precluded his building an exact replica, the home was designed and constructed to resemble Cleveland’s “summer White House.”
The Pilgrim Monument drew two sitting presidents to Provincetown—Theodore Roosevelt to lay the cornerstone on August 20, 1907, and William Howard Taft three years later to celebrate the monument’s completion.
President Roosevelt sailed into Provincetown Harbor on the morning of the ceremony from his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island, on the presidential yacht, coincidentally named the Mayflower, according to The Pilgrims and Their Monument by Edmund J. Carpenter (D. Appleton & Co. Publishers, 1911). The president rode in a carriage through town accompanied by Massachusetts Governor Curtis Guild and J. Henry Sears, president of the Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association. Mrs. Roosevelt and the President’s son, Quentin, and daughter, Ethel, followed in another carriage.
In his speech, Roosevelt praised the Puritans for their “iron sense of duty” and “will to do the right.” He urged the Puritans’ descendants to shape modern industrial civilization with the same “justice and fair dealing,” noting that different conditions call for different laws and government methods, including greater control over businesses and corporations. Recalling the speech three years later, the Sandwich Observer noted that Roosevelt spoke “before a large assembly across whose heads and the sand dunes of the Cape he shouted a memorable defiance to certain corporate interests.”
Preparing for the arrival of President Taft to dedicate the monument on August 5, 1910, downtown Provincetown had “the appearance of Mardi Gras time,” according to the Sandwich Observer (August 9, 1910). Warships and small boats filled the harbor, crowds filled the streets, buildings were covered with bunting and flags, and peanut and souvenir vendors did a brisk business, the newspaper wrote. The President arrived, like Roosevelt, in a yacht named the Mayflower.
In his address, Taft called the early Pilgrims “humble men whose faith was extreme in its simplicity and stern. The spirit which prompted them to brave the seas to land on this forbidden coast in winter, and to live here, has made the history of this country what it is.” Following the ceremony, the President and some 400 guests enjoyed lunch at the “handsomely decorated” town hall.
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