TOURIST DESTINATIONS: DAYS' FLOWER COTTAGES
by Brenner Thomas
Provincetown Magazine - 8/02
Some 90 years ago Provincetown native Joseph A. Days got the idea to move his home to the narrow strip of sand between Pilgrim Lake and the Cape Cod Bay. He bought land on either side of what it is now Rt. 6A and people said he was crazy.
In those days the expanse between Provincetown and Truro's center was desolate. Nothing stretched along those sandy miles, and throughout the twenties the transaction was patronizingly referred to as "Days' Folly."
The disbelievers were at least half right. The man they called "Joe" never moved his house to the site, but during the Depression came up with the idea to build a set of cottages along the shore to attract the budding tourism industry. By the summer of 1931, he had nine cottages and a market finished and ready for business. The season was successful enough to convince Joe to expand the resort, so he bought land to the north and south of his cottages, and a year later began building. By the late 30's, Days had completed all of the 23 cottages, and his private, seaside residences were a hit with Cape Cod's new vacationers.
The Days' Flower Cottages run along Shore Road in a neat row. Like a flowerbed, they are orderly and identical. Each of the 23 units is a simple clapboard cottage painted white and trimmed in sea foam green. Each cottage is 18 feet from the next and has ten windows, two bedrooms, a living room, a bathroom, and an open-air porch overlooking the water. They all measure 28'x17', and are only distinguishable from one another by the signs above the doorways, each bearing the name of a different flower: Aster, Rose, Lilac, Tulip, Peony, Violet, Crocus and so on all the way down the row.
The twenty-three original structures have suffered through 7 decades, 2 major wars, 3 hurricanes, 11 presidents, and 68 winters, but are still intact. Refurbishments not withstanding, little has changed about the resort. Joe Days still owns the place, but it's a different Joe, the founder's grandson. This Joe and his wife, Cindy, started running the cottages in 1990 when Joe's father, Bernard, he passed away. Both originally from Provincetown, Joe and Cindy find themselves living and working in the places where they grew up. And it's busy. All of the cottages were booked for the season by the first of June, and there are some 130 people on the waiting list.
If you haven't stayed at Days' Cottages before, it might be difficult to reserve a cottage because renters have priority for the cottage the following year. This is especially worth noting considering that 80% of their business comes from repeat renters. At Day's Cottages the force of tradition is not to be taken lightly. Some families have been coming to the cottages for generations. There are even families whose grandparents honeymooned at the cottages when they first opened. "Some [families] have seen each other for the same week every year for the last twenty years," Joe explains, "you always have the same cottage so you're right next to the same person, and it's like just one big family. Sometimes we'll have a week where practically everybody in the complex knows everybody else. They all intermingle and it's like a reunion for them almost."
Tradition more than anything else defines Days' Cottages. The resort is not fancy. There are no bellhops or cabana boys, no tennis courts or room service. If anything the cottages represent a kind of vacation that is much more simple and pure: just the cottage, the beach, and you. Unlike big corporate resorts, Days Cottages does not provide the thrill and diversion of a thousand and one activities, but rather facilitates the simple things that in the long run might be more enduring. "Most of the people that come here are people I've known since I was in school," says Joe, "they've really become much closer to me than most. We socialize with a lot of the people that come here. You look forward to seeing them. I'll miss that. When I do decide to hang it up, I will miss that."
And if Days' Cottages does ever succumb to the pressures of development, it will be a loss to more than it's loyal clientele. There's a heritage here that extends beyond its place in the history of local tourism. If anything, the Days' Cottages represent a spirit of friendship that in many ways reflects the essential place community in the Outer Cape's larger history.