Out in Provincetown, Mass., on the tip of Cape Cod near the end of the earth where all the writers and the artists and the bohemian outcast characters of this world go to live and work and fool around – out there in P-Town, as they call it, are the house and garage that Norman Mailer once owned.
“He had quite the presence,” said architect Tom Huth, who recently transformed the garage into a very livable condominium. “He was a brawler, but a genius. That’s what P-Town is all about – it’s a little like Key West.”
Mailer actually lived in the main house next door to the garage on the ocean. When he originally decided to “condo-ize” his garage some years back, he sold it to attorney Roy Cohn. That’s right – the Roy Cohn – the anticommunist aide to Senator Joe McCarthy. “Cohn and Mailer were living side-by-side,” Tom said. “Mailer’s wife painted a portrait of Roy Cohn.”
The architect’s assignment was to turn a rustic condo where all paths led through the living room into a livable, workable space that takes advantage of its site. “It’s right on the water, and the views and light are spectacular,” he said. “The challenge was how to add something new and still preserve its original identity.”
Provincetown, once a bastion of modernism during the ‘60s and ‘70s, still retains some of that aura, and Huth wanted references to that. He worked to make the renovation a modern, seaside artist’s studio. He moved the entry around to the side and middle of the house, making the interior plan of the home easier to negotiate.
He had to work around wetland protection restrictions, as well as public beach access easements. “We’d have to go up to see Norman in his attic, and show him drawings, proving that we wouldn’t be blocking anyone’s views,” Tom said.
Plans were announced in 2008 for the Norman Mailer Writers Colony to be located in his home next door. Mailer’s third-floor studio, just as he left it, is to be preserved as a museum, the Cape Cod Times reported. The home’s four bedrooms will be used to house visiting distinguished writers and scholars.
But the garage he once owned will remain a quiet little oceanfront condo.
“It just wants to blend in with the beach,” Tom said.