The 1871 Second Empire style home in Brookline had been vacant for several years, and some people in town felt it should be condemned. But Charlie & Peggy, who’d called this neighborhood home for over 30 years, wouldn’t hear of it.
“Few houses require such extensive work,” says Mark Landry, “But it felt good to help the owners save and update this great home for the 21st century.” This project required a systematic approach:
Landmark found that the rubble stone foundation had settled some 6 inches toward the back. Not only that, but the building had literally spread in all four directions to such an extent that the house was unstable.
The homeowners and Landmark agreed that the best course of action was to raise the house temporarily, remove the old foundation, and replace it with new concrete footings and walls. To maintain the historic look, the beautiful and highly prized puddingstones were reused to face the new walls so that — from the outside — it’s impossible to tell that the foundation is new.
During exterior restoration, the crew salvaged the large decorative brackets and restored the fascia and soffits in accordance with the home’s original details and dimensions. Window sash were removed and restored on site, then weather-stripped and re-installed. The siding — mostly original — was thoroughly prepped and repainted.
The owners were especially keen to see the home’s original porches (which had mostly been removed) faithfully rebuilt.
“This is where you go into detective mode,” says Dennis Landry of Landmark. “Luckily, previous owners had stashed away some of the original posts, balusters, and railings, which we used to replicate new ones. Paint lines on the corner boards indicated where railings had once been attached. And an old fire insurance map delineated the footprint of the original porches.”
Armed with this information, the Landmark team was able to rebuild the front porches to look almost exactly as they did in 1871.
The Landmark Team believes old houses should be as efficient as possible for their owners to operate.
“Since most of the plaster had to be removed to make the house structurally sound,” Mark Landry says, “We naturally took advantage of the opportunity to add spray foam insulation to make it as energy efficient as a home of this age can be.”
The plumbing and wiring systems were replaced in their entirety, even so far as bringing in new underground electrical and new water and sewer lines from the street. The owners also elected to go with a geothermal system, so wells were drilled and a four-season geothermal heat pump installed to serve both the main house and the newly renovated carriage house.
The inside of the main house features some beautiful examples of early Victorian architecture and craftsmanship. The curved main stair is a work of art. Mahogany doors, casings, and fireplace mantels survived intact, although all had been painted.
The general approach was to restore all of the original rooms to their original appearance — or at least as close as was practical. Missing or damaged millwork was replaced or repaired. Plaster cornice moldings were repaired throughout and ceiling medallions re-installed. Much of the mahogany woodwork was stripped and refinished.
Bathrooms and closets were created and fitted out with millwork and plasterwork to match the original. The third floor — formerly servants’ quarters — was renovated with a future au pair suite in mind.