While Provincetown is a treasure trove of quintissential new england style homes, it is also home to a modernist gem called “the Murchison house”.

The glass-walled house designed by Walter Gropius’s firm, The Architects Collaborative (TAC), sits high on a hill overlooking Ptown’s breakwater, dunes, and the sea beyond. According to a Boston Globe press account of the listing of this house back in 2007, the extent of Gropius’s involvement in this house’s planning is unclear. A TAC book said Robert McMillan was partner-in-charge of the Murchison project. “I wouldn’t call it a Gropius house,” said former TAC partner John Harkness. But Gropius – who designed his own house in Lincoln – rarely drew plans on paper, said Jill Pearlman, author of Investing American Modernism: Joseph Hudnut, Walter Gropius, and the Bauhaus Legacy at Harvard. “He was a great man but less so for his architecture than his philosophical impact,” she said.

“The Murchison house is a mint-condition artifact of 1950s Modernism. The entrance, made of teak, was designed to evoke a Japanese temple. Walls of 8-foot windows flood the interior with natural light and provide 270-degree water views. Interior furnishings that were specially made include a Calder-like fixture with six dangling globe lights. A tube television is hidden, like a prop from an early James Bond movie, behind a door built into the living room’s black-walnut paneled cabinetry. The large outdoor pool, with a view of Provincetown Harbor, was once the scene of large, swinging parties. Guests included pioneering abstract painter Hans Hoffman, and among the Murchisons’ papers is a photograph of Frank Sinatra dancing pool-side at one party. The cypress-paneled cabana has two bathhouses.”

The extravagant Murchison home contrasts with early-modern houses built on Cape Cod during the late 1940s and early 1950s many of which can be documented through the Cape Cod Modern House Trust. These were spare edifices, often tucked in the woods or along the seashore, by leftist intellectuals and artists who either had little money or subscribed to a utopian modernism centered on egalitarianism. The Murchisons shelled out $300,000 to build their house, an enormous sum in the late 1950s.

The house sold a couple years ago for several million dollars and has been undergoing a thorough restoration ever since. It’s impossible to get too close to the house because of it being situated behind gates and surrounded by a thicket of vegetation. But I took a few photos while we were out on a walk today enjoying this unseasonably warm and sunny winter day.

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