Here is a conversation with KyAnn Anderson, the homeowner who won a 2013 Director’s Award for work she undertook at her 72 Alpine St. cottage. The interview was written by Marian Berkowitz, and edited by
Brandon Wilson, Executive Director of the Historic Preservation Commission, which has sponsored the Preservation Awards Program each year since 1995. Typically up to six (6) Preservation Awards are given annually to owners of locally designated historic properties, and six (6) Director Awards go to owners of older, but not designated properties in Somerville.
If you’re buying an old house, there’s a good chance you’ll need to do considerable work to make it your home. It took KyAnn Anderson a full 10 years, and last year she put on the finishing touch — painting the exterior! Now she can celebrate not only the end of endless house projects, but also enjoys a well-deserved “Director’s Award” from the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission, for restoring the exterior in a way that respects the house’s original architecture and long history. In 2003, KyAnn bought this two-family Queen Anne vernacular cottage, built in 1890, with a down payment enabled by her father’s death. Her dad enjoyed woodworking as a hobby and taught his daughter from a very early age all that he knew. KyAnn proudly shared a photo of her woodworking as a 7 year old, which may be why, among all of her siblings, she was the one to inherit Dad’s toolbox. Despite all the work that her newly purchased house needed she saw it as an opportunity to pay tribute to him, and she was excited to get going. Equipped with her toolbox, carpentry skills, and trained as an architect, it was hard for her not to want to make things her own. To their surprise, in the process of doing some interior work, she discovered some late 19th century objects, including a toy and postcard addressed to someone in the house, possibly a man courting a young woman that lived there.
KyAnn replaced a sagging front porch and repaired the back porch, using ipe, an exterior wood that is very hard and easy to maintain. The two square windows on the front of the house were in very tough shape, so she installed custom-made sashes, and contacted Daniel Maher, a stained glass artist with a business in nearby Magoun Square. She asked him to replicate a historic stained glass design similar to one on a house down the street, and he was pleased to accommodate, using period glass from 1890 for the two squares. KyAnn glazed the copper, beige, and clear glass squares into the frames and installed the windows once the exterior painting was done. She restored the dentil trim, as well as the eyebrow detail above the top window, and spent hours pouring over catalogues and talking with the staff to the Commission, to find an appropriate light for the porch.
Early on KyAnn decided to paint the exterior with the same color as a farmhouse on Cherry Street near the Kennedy School. She loved its cheery orange-red pigment so much that she stopped by several times, and finally knocked on the door to find out the name of the color, which the owner gladly gave her. It turns out that the owner had also won a Director’s Award from the SHPC for her own exterior restoration work several years ago! Although KyAnn tried other paint samples, she always came back to the Cherry Street color, commercially called historic “Mayflower Red.” Perhaps subconsciously she chose this color due to its similarity to cayenne, a homophone of her first name? She selected ivory as a contrasting color for all of the trim details.
In her restoration efforts, it seems that KyAnn did not overlook a single detail. She was driven by a desire to improve the property and her street (which she certainly did!), but she also used her architect’s eye and the skills and passion passed onto her by her beloved dad.