During the early 20th century, an enterprising young man named Joseph A Days wanted to move his home in Provincetown to the beach in North Truro, so he purchased some land along both sides of the state road. The people of Provincetown thought he was crazy. “It’s just a bunch of sand!” they would tell him, “Why do you want to do that?” At the time, the state road that would later become Route 6 (and still later Route 6A) was itself just miles of desolate packed dirt and beach sand. Joe moved ahead while everyone else kept going on about the purchase that would come to be known in the 1920s as “Days’ Folly.”
In October 1929, the stock market crashed, work was drying up and Joe’s dream seemed unlikely. The house he intended to move had already been cut into sections but he decided it just wasn’t worth it and burned the house in a massive bonfire on the beach. Joe eventually had another idea, the one that would forever change North Truro’s Beach Point.
By this time, he was in charge of F.A. Days and Sons Construction, which was also hit hard by the Depression, so his crews were idle. One day, he surprised his workers with his new plan. He wanted to build some small cottages on the piece of land he owned, noticing that others were starting to do the same on the scenic 2-mile strip off Route 6. His crew jumped at the chance to work again!
A Dream Becomes Reality
In the fall of 1930, the crew of F.A. Days and Sons went to work on the first five cottages. Each natural cedar clad cottage was to be built with a bathroom, kitchen, two bedrooms, a small living room with fireplace, and an open-air porch overlooking the water. It was to be the perfect little summer getaway, and everything seemed right on schedule, but there was one problem. Joe realized that not one of the cottages he was building was actually on his land! Fortunately, he was able to purchase more lots along each side of Route 6 to cover the 5 cottages being built, and he found out he still had room for more! By the time the cottages were ready to be opened, a total of 9 had been built.
Across the street, he built the rental office; a small summer residence for himself and his wife; cellar space, and a small seasonal grocery store called Days’ Self Service Market. So, not only did Joe have his summer house on the beach, he now had a new business to attract the new breed of Cape Cod vacationers as well as people looking for work. Days’ Cottages & Self Service Market opened up for its first season in July 1931. Some people who stayed that season continued to come back every year for decades.
The Business Booms
1931 proved to be a profitable first year for Joe’s new business, so, in 1932, Joe started planning for more cottages on the beach to complement the nine already standing. In all, he built 4 more to the south, and another 9 to the north, keeping to the same cottage design. He also built a small diving platform in the water just south-to-center of the new row of 22 cottages.
The opening of the 1933 season marked the first season for the newer cottages.
Across the street from the cottages and north of the store was a small gas station that Joe also bought. In the late 30s he had the pumps and tanks removed, and noticing that the size of the building that housed the service station was about the same size as a cottage, Joe ended up with a 23rd!
Soon after, Joe’s wife, Amelia, thought it would be nice to give the cottages their own individual identities, so she picked the names of 23 different flowers, one for each cottage. Joe had yellows signs made up with black lettering for the flower names and another tradition was born.
In the infamous Hurricane of 1938, the cottages weathered the storm with no major damage. Given the severity of the storm, it was a testament to the sturdy construction by Joe and his crew.
Another powerful hurricane blasted through the Cape Cod area in 1944, and again the cottages suffered no major damage. There was one nagging issue: erosion from the storms would always reduce the sand level to almost dangerous proportions underneath the cottages. By now, the business was already locally famous, and season after season proved full occupancy in the hot summer months week after week, and protection for the cottages was needed.
Thinking again of the future, a sea wall was built in the mid 40s between the cottages and the shore to protect them from any further beach erosion. Small ramps were built at a few spots to allow easy access to the water. This also had the added benefit of providing a few yards of seaweed-free beach directly in front of each cottage for the tenants to relax on. He also had the space between cottages 12 and 14 (there is no 13) paved over from the highway to the seawall, leading to a large ramp for tenants to launch boats from.
Also, the small grocery store was quickly outgrowing its space, so Joe decided to expand the store in the late 1940s, doubling its size, and building a small storeroom in the back. Days’ Market was now a full-fledged grocery store. A few years later, the whole building would have a sprinkler system, one of the first buildings in the area to have such a fire prevention. A small playground was also installed on the premises, including a swing set, a slide, and a merry-go-round.
In the early 1950s, it was announced that a bypass would take Route 6 away from the business centers of North Truro and Provincetown. The old highway would be designated Route 6A. Days’ Market did experience some business loss, but survived. Having a resort full of customers right across the street from the store really helped.
The 1950s also saw what was to be the most drastic changes to the cottages since 1931. Joe decided to have the porches glassed in to increase living room space, he had furnaces installed in all the cottages and blocked the fireplaces, and had the shingling on all the cottages painted white.
The Torch Is Passed
By 1976, Days’ Cottages had slowly becoming known all over New England, bringing more visitors and artists, who had taken an interest in the small green-and-white houses on the beach.
By this time, Joe had retired, and his sons were managing the business. After 45 years of watching his creation blossom, Joe passed away leaving the business in the hands of his sons Howard and Bernard. After some discussion it was decided that Bernard would be the one to control the business.
Bernard’s first actions as the owner were minor cottage remodelings, replacing the existing brick chimneys with smaller metallic chimney tops. He also had the rear apartment behind the store expanded and winterized to be a year round residence for the family of his son, Joe. The younger Joe was also named as the on-site manager of the business. A new era for the cottages had started.
In February 1978, a strong Nor’easter blasted the coast, covering the land with a blanket of snow from Pennsylvania to Maine, except for Cape Cod which got rain, and not just a little rain! The combination of rain and wind caused the tides to rise many many feet above normal levels. The younger Joe could only watch from his window as the waves constantly splashed against the sea wall, and the water level eventually rose over it. By the time the water level peaked, the wind had stopped, and the water was dead calm, lightly lapping in small waves against the edge of Route 6A! When the water receded, the sea wall was gone.
The cottages did open for the 1978 season but without a sea wall, the first season without one since the 1940s. As soon as the season was over, construction started on a new sea wall. This new sea wall would be built deeper into the ground, and would be reinforced by posts leaning against the bay side of the wall and dug deep into the beach. Since that new wall was built, many more storms have passed by, and while one storm damaged a section the new wall in November 1983, there still has yet to be a storm to bring the entire wall down again.
Strengthening The Cottages
In 1981, Bernard authorized the addition of vinyl siding and aluminum trim to the cottages. This had the benefit that the cottages no longer had to be painted on the outside every few years. Bernard ordered white vinyl siding in 1981 and green aluminum trim with green plastic shutters a couple years later. The classic look of the cottages would now be preserved from the elements for years to come!
Another two major projects for the cottages would be the replacement of the old bathtubs with modern shower stalls, and the replacement of the living room windows overlooking the bay with more energy efficient models.
The appeal of the cottages as a tourist destination grew during the 1980s so much, that In ‘86 Chevrolet filmed part of a nationally-telecast Camaro commercial on the premises, wherein a cottage tenant rushes out the door and into his Camaro eagerly awaiting a date with his girl. In 1989, The game show “The Price Is Right” used a still-shot of the cottages along with shots of Hyannis and Provincetown while describing a prize of a vacation to Cape Cod. “Vogue” magazine shot one of their models with the cottages as a backdrop in 1988.
The torch is passed again
After 14 years of modernizing the business, Bernard passed away in December 1990, leaving control of the business to his son Joe. One of the younger Joe’s first actions was somewhat minor: He had the flower sign backgrounds changed from yellow to white in order to blend in better with the cottages themselves.
In the early 1990s, the green-and-white scheme had now been passed to the store, which had boasted dark blue trim, and even earlier, black trim.
In June of 1996, On the 65th Anniversary of the cottages, a first website went online. The domain of dayscottages.com went live in 2001 to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the business.
The cottages are more popular than ever, both as a resort and as a tourist attraction. They are known worldwide in artwork, photography, and remembered by generations of guests. The business has gone far and above any expectations the elder Joe could ever have dreamed.
Days’ Cottages are now a condominium colony. In recent years, Joe and and his wife sold off the cottages to private owners who will love and care for them like those who came before. While some no longer rent to the public, most continue the tradition. As of spring 2019 the market, now called Days Market and Deli, changed hands and continues to serve the public on the Outer Cape.
(Content largely from the original website)