This resort town at the tip of Cape Cod is such a popular destination, its promoters like to say, that even the Pilgrims landed here before they settled in Plymouth.
In the summer, Provincetown is still one of the most crowded vacation spots in New England. A historic art colony and a gay destination, it draws up to 65,000 people to the galleries on frenzied Commercial Street and the windswept dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore. But come late fall, the beaches and bars mostly empty out. And it is not just tourists who decamp. Most second-home owners pack up, too. And, increasingly, so do people who once made Provincetown their home year-round. These days, just 2,800 hardy souls endure here through the winter.
“It’s like a Potemkin village,” Stephen Borkowski, 61, a freelance art historian and year-round resident, said the other day as he strolled down the middle of a deserted Commercial Street, where many shops were closed for the season. “There are the store facades and about five people.”