The Yerxa-Field House at 37 Lancaster Street in Cambridge, MA has 10 fireplaces. The house was built in 1888 and the fireplaces are beautiful examples of Victorian style tile, masonry, and woodwork.
Every fireplace is different – the tiles or stone vary, a variety of woods are used and some of the detail is handcarved, there are handsome decorative firebacks like the one you see here, and amazing andirons that in many cases match the light fixtures in the room. It’s very hard to pick a favorite!
The Yerxa-Field House at 37 Lancaster Street, Cambridge, MA 02140 is listed with John Petrowski and Christian Jones of Hammond Real Estate for $4,495,000.
37 Lancaster Street Cambridge MA – An Avon Hill Masterpiece. Old and untouched houses are my weakness. The less done to a house over the years the happier I am with it.
For years, whenever I walked or drove past 37 Lancaster Street on Avon Hill I would think to myself that one of the many reasons I loved being a real estate agent in Cambridge was that someday I would get to see inside that amazing house.
Well, a few weeks ago, someday finally came. John Petrowsky and Christian Jones of Hammond Real Estate listed the Yerxa-Field House for sale and held an open house for brokers. Cambridge real estate agents turned out en masse to see the house, a number bringing spouses who, like me, had long dreamed of seeing the inside of this landmark house.
The house was every bit as extraordinary as people had imagined, leaving at least one agent in tears, overcome by its beauty (no – it wasn’t me - I’m not the crying type!).
37 Lancaster Street was built in 1888 for Henry Yerxa and is an example of Shingle Style architecture. When it was sold to the Field family in 1919 many original furnishings remained with the house, giving us a rare glimpse of how people lived 12o years ago. Walking through the house it seemed that the children’s books of the 1880s and 1890s that I loved as a girl had come to life.
The two families that have owned the house kept extraordinary care of this masterpiece. Shades were pulled to prevent sun damage and the lavish finishes on walls and ceilings in room after room are in superb condition. There are nine different types of wood used for the woodwork throughout the house and it is all in impeccable condition.
Everywhere you look there is incredibly rich detail – far too much too describe here. Window seats, built-ins galore, fine paneling, hand carved details - the house is a feast for the eyes. Here are a few of my favorite things:
37 Lancaster Street, Cambridge – A Few of Many Fine Features
- There are ten fireplaces in the house, each with a different fire back, each with a different set of andirons that match the light fixtures in the room.
- The reading nook off the living room is one of my favorite spaces with a large stained glass window and a window seat to curl up on with a book
- The laundry room has eight soapstone sinks in a row, each with two brass faucets, and at the end of the row of sinks, a brick reservoir that held the hot water is still intact.
- There are two wonderful pantries. A third is now a bathroom though the original icebox with its marble shelves remains, now used as storage for towels.
- Even normally mundane features like door hooks and hinges are over the top – “like fine jewelry” one agent exclaimed when she spotted a particularly fine hook that held the pantry door ajar.
- My heart almost stopped when I first saw the second reading nook off an upstairs bedroom. This sweet space has a built-in bench opposite a lovely bookcase-flanked fireplace. This is happiness.
- Best yet – the small square stained glass window in the reading nook that opens up and looks out over the fireplace in the landing downstairs. What fun it must have been for a child to poke her head out the small window to wave at the adults below!
- A second floor bath has a painted mural of a river above the vintage fixtures.
- The carriage house has a row of horse stalls, complete with original raffia fringe trim above the stalls. The tack room has racks for saddles and tack, bearing 1880s patents from a Boston company.
At once grand and charming, the house has beautifully proportioned rooms and an elegant flow. To walk or drive up to this house and call it home – to wake up and walk out to the beautiful golden oak hall – to sit on a bench and gaze out at the neighboring houses on Avon Hill – the new owners of 37 Lancaster Street will be very fortunate. It’s truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Click on the small photo below for more information and additional photographs.
Here’s a peek at the fireplaces at 37 Lancaster Street. I have lots more photographs to share in another post or two.
37 Lancaster Street, on Avon Hill in Cambridge, MA 02140 is listed for $4,495,000.
Octagon houses have always intrigued me. Over the years I often drove past a brick octagon house in Townsend and another up the road in West Townsend with clapboard siding (more about these later) and another in Gardner. Here in Somerville we have a round house that’s a local favorite.
Orson S. Fowler and the Octagon House
While Orson Squire Fowler did not create the octagon house style he is most closely associated with it. Octagon houses were built before Fowler’s time – Thomas Jefferson’s summer home, Poplar Forest, was an octagon completed in 1819 for example.
But it was Fowler’s 1848 book, A Home For All, or a New, Cheap, Convenient and Superior Mode of Building in which he promoted the octagon as an economical and healthful house style, that set off the craze for octagon houses in the United States. Fowler pushed for the octagon style as a way to get more interior square footage with the same amount of exterior linear feet as a traditionally styled house.
Octagon house floor plans typically show a layout with four square rooms and four small triangular spaces on each floor.
It is estimated that as many as several thousand octagon houses were built in the United States, most from 1848 to 1860. Fowler was from New York and attended Amherst College in Massachusetts. Octagons were particularly popular in New York, Massachusetts, and in the Midwest in areas where Easterners settled – Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.
Another edition of Fowler’s book was published in 1854 and retitled A Home For All or The Gravel Wall and Octagon Mode of Building. Fowler believed that the best way to build the octagon was with “gravel wall construction – i.e. poured concrete – but most were built with wood or brick siding.
Fowler also advised that a cupola should be built on an octagon house to provide light and ventilation and many octagon houses were in fact built with a cupola atop.
O.S. Fowler was a man of many interests – he was a publisher, writer, lecturer and reformer.
Even more than architecture, his passion was phrenology – the belief that the shape of a person’s head reveals one’s talents, personality and character. Fowler’s phrenological practice, with his brother as partner, attracted many well known patients including Clara Barton, Horace Greeley, President Garfield, Brigham Young, Walt Whitman, Richard Henry Dana and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Stoneham Octagon Houses
Want to see some octagon houses? The best place to get your fix near Cambridge is Stoneham, Mass which has three octagon houses, all privately owned.
Stoneham’s eight-sided houses are pictured in the photographs here.
The red octagon house with cupola at 2 Spring Street was built for William and Lucinda Bryant in 1850 and is on the National Register.
The octagon house with the two-story enclosed porch at 77 Summer Street was built by Captain James Hill Gould between 1848 and 1850. It originally sat on 16 acres.
Enoch Fuller’s house at 72 Pine Street is beautifully sited atop a rise. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
Given Stoneham’s selection of octagon houses I guess the six-sided Dairy Dome on Main Street is just what you’d expect to find here. The distinctive building that houses the ice cream stand was once a Colonial Beacon gas station and is also on the National Register.
So come summer – make a day of it – go for a cone and a drive to see some very cool houses.
More Massachusetts Octagon Houses
The best source for info about octagon houses – and round houses and other many-sided houses – is Robert Kline and Ellen Puerzer’s Inventory of Octagon Houses.
Their site has pictures and details of these unusual houses – those that are still standing as well as those long gone.
Turns out there’s an octagon house on Route 16 in Newton that I’ve never noticed. And those “octagons” in Townsend and West Townsend? Lo and behold they’re both hexadecagon houses. I had to look that up - it’s a sixteen-sided house.
The inventory shows 82 houses in Massachusetts – though that number may include houses that are no longer with us. Either way there are a lot of amazing houses to go see.
Some people have lists of mountains to climb. Me? I’m going hunting for octagon houses.
Other Local Architectural Styles
When you skim through the American architectural guides looking for info on the Dutch Colonial style you’ll see pages about the houses built by Dutch settlers in the earliest years of our country. From 1625 to the 1830s Dutch immigrants built houses in the mid-Atlantic states with steeply pitched gambrel or gable roof lines.
In Massachusetts, what we think of as a Dutch Colonial is better described as Dutch Colonial Revival. These charming houses are common in the towns and cities around Cambridge and were built in the early decades of the 1900s. A Dutch Colonial in Arlington is pictured above.
The defining feature of the Dutch Colonial Revival is the gambrel roof with a continuous dormer. Federal or Georgian style entryways were common.
While the Dutch Colonial in the photograph is a center entrance, the side entrance became quite popular in the 1920s and ’30s. Typically you’ll find in the side entrance version that the living room runs across the front of the house to the side of the entry.
More Posts About Local Building Styles:
And for even more click on the Architecture tag link below.
Robert Campbell, the Boston Globe‘s architecture critic, had an excellent article in last Sunday’s paper about concrete buildings in Cambridge and Boston. Even if it’s not your favorite architectural style the article will give you a new appreciation for these 1950s – 1970s buildings.
“No other American city boasts as much noteworthy concrete architecture in as small an area as Boston and Cambridge”
At right is Harvard’s William James Hall, Minoru Yamasaki’s 1963 building which Robert Bell Rettig describes in Guide to Cambridge Architecture as “fourteen stories of pure white concrete”. Yamasaki also designed the 1962 Engineering Sciences Laboratory included in the slide show below.
Here’s a sampling of concrete buildings in Cambridge. I’ll try to add more the next time the sky is blue!
Click on the “Architecture” link below for more posts about Cambridge architecture.
Tudor Style Homes in Belmont and Nearby. Real estate buyers who move from other parts of the country may expect to see more Tudor style homes when they move to Cambridge.
The Tudor architectural style in America was popular in the early 1900s and was very popular in American suburbs in the 1920s and early 1930s after most of Cambridge and Somerville’s houses were built.
Characteristics of Tudor Revival Architecture
- Usually brick or stucco, less frequently stone or wood
- Many have decorative half-timbering
- Steeply pitched roof
- Massive chimneys, often with decorative chimney pots
- Tall, narrow multi-paned windows, often in groups of three
- Rounded arched doorways are common
- Patterned brickwork or stonework detail is common
Tudor Houses in Belmont and Nearby
Belmont has the largest concentration of Tudors in the area by far. There are some in Cambridge near Brattle Street or in the Divinity neighborhood. Tudors in Medford can be found in West Medford and the Lawrence Estates. In Arlington you’re most likely to see a Tudor Revival house in the Morningside neighborhood.
Here’s a slideshow of tudor style houses in Belmont Massachusetts.
To see posts about other architectural styles in Cambridge and nearby towns click on the Architecture tag below.
The Gothic Revival, was one of the early Victorian Romantic architectural styles.
Most Gothic Revival houses were built between 1840 and 1870.
The development of the jigsaw led to the popularity of elaborate gingerbread trim.
The Gothic Revival style was particulary popular in the Northeast. There are a number of great examples in our area. Three of my local favorites are pictured here:
- The house in Cambridge is on Dana Street
- The brick Somerville Gothic Revival is on Morrison Ave. in Davis Square and was built for Nathaniel Morrison for whom the street was named
- The Angier House in Medford, built in 1842, is next to the library on High Street and is on the National Register of Historic Places
Gothic Revival Features
- Steeply pitched roof
- Typically has cross gables
- Gables often have decorative pendant trim
- Trefoil and quatrefoil ornamention is common
- Windows often have a Gothic-style pointed arch.
- If only one window has the Gothic arch it typically at the top of the most prominent gable – see the Somerville house
- Often has a one-story porch – either an entry porch or a larger porch that spans the width of the house
Other Architectural Styles Around Cambridge:
I know that there are “copycat houses” out there – replicas of well known houses – Mount Vernon has been recreated more than once and I’ve come across copies of Cambridge’s Longfellow House in magazines.
During a tour that was part of this summer’s Cambridge Discovery Days I learned that there’s a copy of a Cambridge house in Cambridge.
22 Fayerweather Street is a copy of Elmwood, once home to several historic figures including writer James Russell Lowell and now the Harvard President’s residence.
Elmwood was built in 1767.
22 Fayerweather was built in 1898 when the Colonial Revival architectural style was popular. The house was designed by Boston architect Herbert D. Hale. H.D. Hale was the grandson of Edward Everett Hale, the writer, reformer and Unitarian minister.
Have you come across any “copycat houses”?