By Marian Berkowitz
It’s a crisp fall morning and I’m heading over to East Somerville to meet Roger Washburn, who has lived on Franklin Street for 15 years. He received a 2014 Director’s Award from the Somerville
Historic Preservation Commission for his efforts in restoring the exterior of his Queen Anne home. This end of the city was one of the first to be developed due to its proximity to Charlestown, of which Somerville was once a part. There is diversity of architectural styles built in the nineteenth century along the one-way streets running between Broadway and Washington Street. Currently one finds a lot of street detours due the reconstruction of Broadway, but soon I hear that the neighborhood will benefit from new lighting, landscaping, pavements, reduced traffic lanes, and many other amenities.
Roger is a landscape architect with many years of experience working on residential projects in the Boston area. Therefore it is not surprising to find him working in his own front garden when I arrived. Roger believes that his house was built around 1891, and not too dissimilar from many other older homes in Somerville, it was constructed as a single-family, but was later converted to a two-family. In 2004, Roger decided the exterior needed painting, but he realized that he first needed to replace much of the wood shingling which had curled over the years. As with any older house, you never know what you will discover once you begin to peel the layers! To his surprise, he found clapboard underneath the shingling, so instead of replacing the bad ones, Roger removed all of the shingles and restored the original clapboard sheathing. The exterior is now a mix of original and new clapboards, which can be distinguished by the seams, since the original boards are shorter.
The next project was to restore the gutters, as the original wood gutters had long lost their integrity. Roger met a helpful roofer who suggested that it would be best to keep them and line them with copper. Another significant project was to address the old wood windows that were badly deteriorated and covered with lead paint. Roger worked with both the Preservation Commission and the City’s Housing Office and ended up participating in their Lead Hazard Abatement Program. To put the finishing touches on his house, he was now able to paint it, choosing to get away from the more typical dark brown, instead using a much cheerier light green with a yellow putty color for the trim.
Roger is very pleased to see all of the improvements on Broadway and the nearby Assembly Square area, where he often enjoys walking along the path in the new Baxter Riverfront Park. He is also very appreciative of the public recognition he received from the City’s Preservation Commission and the Somerville High School student who created an original CAD (computer assisted design) drawing of his house as part of his Director’s Award.