On a cool, breezy, sunny afternoon I meet Louise Hadden at 14 Dartmouth Street in the Winter Hill neighborhood. She and her husband, Jim, recently received a Director’s Award for the
major restoration work they undertook on their older, but not historically designated house. It is now a beautifully restored Queen Anne on a quiet street off Medford Street, which is only occasionally disrupted by the neighbor’s wind chimes. I look for the front door, and discover that it is actually on the side of the house facing the driveway, so the house appears to be sited sideways! This is no longer so surprising as I now realize how variable the architecture can be in Somerville, adding to the overall charm and interest of each street. In fact, Louise tells me of another identical house several doors down the street.
Louise and Jim raised 5 children in Cambridge and then decided a few years ago to buy a new house, to allow their daughter and grandchildren to live in their old house. Not wanting to stray too far, they expanded their housing search beyond Cambridge, and looked for a single-family home under $500,000. In 2010 they found a house on Dartmouth Street being sold for only $250,000, by the estate of the former owners, an elderly brother and sister, Joe and Jenny. The price reflected the fact that the house needed considerable work, both inside and outside, but Louise and Jim were not deterred. Louise recalled the house was obscured from the street by tall yew trees and overgrown rhododendrons, and the backyard was a “jungle,” also overrun by trees. Louise and Jim submitted a bid, but were disappointed to lose out to a higher bidder. Fate, however, seemed to be on their side and when the other bidder could not get financing, they were given a second chance — they grabbed it! One feature of particular interest to Louise was the backyard as it offered safe, outdoor space for her elderly dog. Unfortunately, while waiting through the winter to close on the house, a pipe burst, causing water damage to much of the first floor. Nonetheless, they persisted and finally closed in May of 2011.
The extensive water damage made it necessary to totally gut and renovate the kitchen. With no pressure to move in immediately, Louise and Jim decided to fix up and update the interior first. In the process, they were pleased to find some original details had been hidden — a china cabinet behind a wall in the dining room, and two windows behind another wall! The house had only one bathroom upstairs, so new ones were added. Original stained glass windows were intact and enabled natural light to flow into the stairwell through colorful glass panes. An upstairs bedroom still retained the original coal burning stove and a fireplace lined with beautiful glass tiles, apparently manufactured right here in Somerville. With most of the interior renovations complete, Louise and Jim moved in, in December of 2011, though sadly, without their dog, Bonnie, who died shortly before.
In 2012, they began to address the outside of the property. All of the trees were removed from the front and back yards, asbestos cement shingles were removed, and happily this revealed clapboard siding and decorative trim around the windows. For paint colors, Louise and Jim chose Victorian colors from Benjamin Moore –antique gold for the body, cream for the window trim, and dark green for the details. While we are talking I hear a dog barking and learn that they decided to get another one, Jada, adopted from her volunteer work at the MSPCA. Their newly landscaped, and fenced in, large yard was welcoming play space for both the dog and their grandchildren. Louise and Jim believe that their hard work and patience paid off, as they now have a beautiful older home near their family, with both modern features and many precious historical details carefully restored.