Mansard Houses In Cambridge – The Second Empire Architectural Style

Mansard in the Agassiz Neighborhood of Cambridge MA

Mansard in the Agassiz Neighborhood of Cambridge

Mansard Victorians are a very popular house style with today’s real estate buyers in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Single family mansards, large and small can be found in many Cambridge neighborhoods, and it is not uncommon to find condos in mansard rowhouses.

The Mansard Victorian House Style

The distinctive sweep of the mansard roof is the definitive feature of the Second Empire architectural style dating from 1855 to 1885.

The mansard is actually the facade of the top floor of the house and will have dormer windows.  The mansard roof was covered with slate shingles, often in attractive patterns, and in many cases the original slate shingles are still intact. 

Some Second Empire Victorians have cupolas, others have square or rectangular towers.  A prominent center gable interrupts the mansard roof line on some houses. Sometimes the mansard house will have a matching carriage house with mansard roof. Many Second Empire townhouses, rowhouses with mansard roofs, were built in cities between 1860 and 1880, and many can be seen around Cambridge.

Mansard in West Cambridge

Mansard in West Cambridge

Virginia and Lee McAlester, in their A Field Guide to American Houses, describe five styles of mansard roofs: straight, straight with a flare at the bottom, concave, convex, and s-curves.  Each style is represented in Cambridge’s large selection of mansards.

Mansards in Cambridge

Much of Cambridge’s development took place during the mansard’s heyday.  Some Cambridge neighborhoods, particularly Avon Hill, West Cambridge, and Mid-Cambridge are awash with mansard Victorians. There are plenty to be found in Cambridgeport and the Agassiz neighborhood too, and, in fact, most Cambridge neighborhoods have their share.  Mid-Cambridge has many mansard roofed townhouses lining the blocks.

Mansard Roof Detail in Cambridge MA

Mansard Roof Detail in Cambridge MA

The single family mansard has either two or three floors.  In each case the top floor is behind the mansard roof. Inside on the top  floor there will be a slight pitch to the walls, high ceilings, and deep windowsills.

Many of Cambridge’s Second Empire Victorians are in “unmuddled” condition, many with slate shingles still in place.  If the slate shingles cannot be salvaged there are good imitations available if the budget prevents replacement of the slate. Sometimes you’ll come across an  unfortunate example where the mansard has been covered with vinyl or other siding. One hopes that eventually a more preservation-minded owner will uncover the house and return it to its former glory.  Those aside, mansard gems line the streets of Cambridge.

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Cambridge Foreclosures – Bank Owned Real Estate in Cambridge MA

Last night I came across something in a book that suggested blog posts should be short. Mine usually aren’t but it seems this one probably will be.

Are There Foreclosures in Cambridge?

Cambridge Foreclosures For SaleNot  so many as it turns out.  Here and there we notice one or two foreclosures listed for sale by the banks but they typically sell fairly quickly.  There were also a couple in the big auctions that were held in Boston.

With a quick scan of all the Cambridge real estate listed for sale in the MLS I found only one bank owned condominium currently on the market. It’s a six room three-bedroom condo on Windsor Street, midway between Inman Square and East Cambridge. It sold in 2006 for $390,000 and is currently listed, post-foreclosure, for $238,900.

There haven’t been many foreclosures in Cambridge or in Arlington, Watertown or Belmont. There are more foreclosures and short sales in Somerville and Medford, however, so stay tuned for a longer post!

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Cambridge Comes Out On Top

Today’s Sunday Boston Globe was chock-a-block full of real estate related articles.  If you didn’t get your copy there’s still time to hit the corner store.  There’s loads to read for the real estate obsessed.

The Boston Globe Magazine was all about real estate with the cover article titled “Top Spots To Live: The Best Communities in 15 Categories”.  The Globe polled realtors for their votes.  I’m a realtor but I don’t remember voting.  But even without my admittedly biased vote, I’m happy to report that Cambridge placed more times than any other Massachusetts city or town

And the winners are….

Cambridge MA Takes Top PrizeCambridge was anointed “Top for Singles-Friendly Activities and Night Life

Cambridge also won Honorable Mentions for:

  • Fitness Minded Folks
  • Foodies
  • Arts Lovers
  • Hipsters
  • Public Transit Fans

Somerville was the winner in the “Top for Hipsters” category and won Honorable Mention in the Singles-Friendly Activities and Night Life category. I remember years ago when Utne Reader magazine called Somerville one of the hippest places in the US.  At the time I thought it was a stretch but Somerville has been trending in that direction ever since.  With a vibrant arts community, rejuvenated Davis Square (not to mention Ball Square and Union Square), and a forward-thinking local government, Somerville deserves the kudos.

Arlington received Honorable Mention in the Foodies category. Arlington has become a hot bed of restaurants since the blue laws regulating the serving of alcohol were relaxed.

Melrose received Honorable Mentions in both the Car Commuters and Public-Transit Fans categories due to its easy access to commuter routes and to the three train stations in town.

Brookline won in the category “Top for Great Schools and Kid-Friendly Activities” and received Honorable Mentions in the Retirement Lifestyle and Public-Transit Fans categories

I’d say we did alright – no wonder we love living here! 

And if you’d like to live here too and want some help with your search – I’m just a phone call or email away!

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Get Your Keys In Cambridge

Keys Made In CambridgeIf you recently bought a new house or condo chances are you’re going to be getting some new keys made.  It’s always a good idea to change the locks when you buy a house.  You just don’t know who has keys to your new home – many copies may have been passed about over the years.

If you bought your new home in Cambridge or Somerville the place to go is Commonwealth Lock Co. on Mass Ave. in Porter Square, Cambridge.  As a Cambridge real estate agent, I get a *lot* of keys made and can attest to the quality of Commonwealth Lock’s keys. Nothing’s more frustrating than repeated trips to the key counter but Commonwealth almost always gets it right the first time.  These guys are experienced and they are good.

Commonwealth Lock Co., or “CoLoCo”, has been making keys in Porter Square since 1936.  Originally a hardware store, the lock and key operation eventually became a bigger part of the business and has been the sole focus since the 1980s.  The store caters to locksmiths who stream in and out of the store all day.

In addition to making plenty of keys at a constantly busy counter, Commonwealth Lock sells all sorts of locks, keys, and related merchandise including:

  • Bike locks
  • Window locks
  • Lockboxes – great for storing a spare set of house keys
  • Padlocks
  • Safes
  • House numbers
  • Key rings
  • Dog and cat tags
  • and assorted nifty plastic doohickies to add to your keys to make your house key stand out in the bunch

Commonwealth Lock Company is located at 1853 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusettts and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

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Community Gardens In Cambridge

Community Gardening in CambridgeWinter’s coming to an end and soon it will be time to think about gardening. Perhaps you’ve been dreaming about the vegetables you could grow. Or maybe you hope to fill your home with flowers that don’t come from the store. 

Where Can I Find a Community Garden?

If you live in Cambridge, MA and don’t have a garden plot to call your own – don’ t despair.  Cambridge has thirteen community gardens spread across the city and preference is given to those who don’t have access to land for gardening.  There does seem to be more demand than available plots, however, and a  lottery system is used to assign plots to prospective gardeners.

Community Gardens in Cambridge, Massachusetts

North Cambridge Community Gardens

Whittemore Avenue Garden – Whittemore Ave. & Magoun Street
McMath Park Community Garden – Pemberton Street
Corcoran Park Community Garden – Walden Street

West Cambridge Community Gardens

William G. Maher Park Community Garden – 650 Concord Ave. at Neville Manor
Fresh Pond Reservation / Parkway Garden – Fresh Pond Parkway

Community Garden in the Agassiz Neighborhood

Sacramento Street Community Garden – Sacramento Street

Riverside Community Gardens

Field of Dreams Garden – Elmer and Banks Streets
Green Street Neighborhood Garden – Green and Bay Streets

Cambridgeport Community Gardens

Peggy Hayes Memorial Garden – Watson Street
Emily Garden – Brookline and Emily Streets

Area 4 Community Gardens

Squirrel Brand Community Garden – Broadway and Boardman Street
Moore Street Community Garden – Moore Street

Community Garden in East Cambridge

Costa Lopez Taylor Park Community Garden – Lopez Ave. and Charles Street

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New To The Market – Condos in Cambridge and Somerville

It’s that time of year – lots of new inventory and a loooong tour on Wednesday when we see the new listings that the Cambridge Coldwell Banker offices are bringing on the market.

I try to post this on Wednesday but since two of the 15 properties we saw on tour were my own listings I’ve been busy writing ads, designing feature sheets, taking photographs, and, happily – booking appointments.  There’s a lot of activity in the market right now – spring is here!

Harvard Square Two-Bedroom Condo

15 Trowbridge Street Cambridge

15 Trowbridge Street Cambridge

This condo is a charmer!  It’s in a handsome turn-of-the-century building just a hop, skip and a jump from Mass Ave and Harvard Square, and Central Square just down the street.  The condo is on the back side of the building and there’s a good sized backyard. Walk out the front door and you’re in the middle of everything that makes Cambridge such a fun place to live – cafes, pubs, restaurants, libraries, bookstores, and more.  While you’ve got all your public transportation needs covered – take your pick  and walk to the T stop in Harvard Square or Central Square or hop on the bus that runs down Mass Ave – you’ve also got a parking space – a coveted amenity in mid-Cambridge. 

The condo is a wonderful combination of original details like hardwood floors and high ceilings and modern updates.  The bath has undergone a stylish renovation and the stainless steel fridge and gas range in the kitchen are new. The master bedroom is generously sized and holds a king-sized bed – a real bonus in a city condo – and has a walk-in closet.  The second bedroom has two closets, there’s a coat closet in the hall, and additional storage in the basement.

I’m delighted that the weather forecast sounds promising for Sunday.  There’s an open house scheduled for 11:30 to 1 pm on the 15th and I plan to open the kitchen door to the deck and let the breezes in.  Hope to see you there.

15 Trowbridge Street Unit 7, Cambridge, MA 02138 is priced at $419,000. 

Somerville Two-Bedroom Two-Bath Condo

14 Arlington Street Somerville

14 Arlington Street Somerville

This spacious Somerville two-bedroom condo has all the amenities on your wish list – central air conditioning, two baths, two car parking, in-unit laundry and an updated kitchen.  On the top floor of a six-unit mansard on a street lined with historic homes, the building has been thoroughly upgraded and has a contemporary feel inside.  And with the T station just a five minute walk  away and easy access to major highways and to Boston, the location is ideal for commuting.

You can spread out in this condo – the entertaining spaces are open and the master bedroom is large with its own bath  and sliders to a small deck. There’s a second bedroom and a separate office.   The kitchen has new counters, updated cabinets, and stainless steel appliances, and a pantry closet.  Your guests can sit at the counter bar while you’re preparing dinner.  There’s also extra storage in the basement.

Set on a side street just one block from the bustle of Broadway, you can stroll to neighborhood restaurants and stores.  The new Stop and Shop and a variety of award winning restaurants are nearby.  The new development at Assembly Square, set to include an Ikea, is  also close by.

14 Arlington Street Unit 3, Somerville, MA is priced at $299,000 and will be open on Sunday, March 15 from 2 to 3:30.  I look forward to seeing you there!

If you would like more information please email me or call me at 617-504-1737.

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Cambridge Neighborhoods – Strawberry Hill

History of  Strawberry Hill in Cambridge

The Strawberry Hill neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts is in the western corner of Cambridge where Cambridge, Belmont and Watertown meet.  Town boundary lines were more fluid in the past than many realize – Strawberry Hill was first part of Watertown, then made a part of the newly incorporated town of Belmont in 1859 and eventually annexed to Cambridge in 1880.

Strawberry Hill Cambridge Public Library Branch on Aberdeen AvenueStrawberry Hill is situated between two of Cambridge’s loveliest spots – Fresh Pond Reservoir to the north and the historic Mount Auburn cemetery on the southern border.  The wide tree-lined boulevard, Aberdeen Avenue, at the edge of the neighborhood, connects these two landmarks.  Aberdeen, lined with two families, is unusually wide because trolley tracks originally ran down its now grassy center.

While much of Strawberry Hill was divided into lots in the mid-1800s, economic downswings slowed development and many of the neighborhood’s houses were not built until the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Many of the houses have generously sized lots and grape arbors, expansive gardens and even chickens can be found in the neighborhood.  Between the main roads that flank the neighborhood – Huron Avenue, Mount Auburn and Belmont Streets – a number of the side streets are one-way which cuts down on traffic.

Strawberry Hill Resources

Haggerty School in Strawberry Hill Cambridge MassachusettsNeighborhood conveniences include the large grocery store, Star Market, and the Cambridge Public Library Collins Library branch. Fresh Pond Reservation has a public golf course, playground, and a 2.25 mile path around the pond.  The Haggerty School for grades K to 6 is on Cushing Street.  Trolleys and buses run on the main routes making the neighborhood very accessible by public transportation even though it is about 1.75 miles to the T at Alewife or two miles to the Harvard Square T stop. Two trolleys serve the neighborhood – the 71 and the 72, and two buses – the the 73 and the 75.

Real Estate In Strawberry Hill

Like other neighborhoods in Cambridge, MA, real estate options for buyers in Strawberry Hill include condos, single family homes and multi-unit properties, primarily two-families with a few three-families in the mix.

Condominiums in Strawberry Hill include inexpensive one- and two-bedrooms in converted brick apartment buildings on Homer Avenue, loft style units in a converted industrial building on Aberdeen Way, and renovated units in multi-families.  Newer townhouse style condominiums are scattered throughout the neighborhood in small associations and the larger development at Fresh Pond Place on Huron Avenue. Sales prices for Strawberry Hill condos in the last few years have ranged from $190,000 for a one-bedroom on Homer Ave in 2008 to $705,000 paid in 2005 for a three-bedroom condo on Huron Avenue with views of Fresh Pond.

Only a handful of single families have sold in Strawberry Hill in the last few years and those that did sold for prices ranging from the mid-$400,000s to $600,000.

Multi-family sales in Strawberry Hill since 2005 have ranged from a three-family in need of major renovation that sold for $360,000 in 2007 to an unrenovated triple-decker with a single family house on one parcel that also sold in 2007 for $1,175,000.

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Weekly Cambridge Real Estate Tour – New Listings in Cambridge and Somerville

The piles of snow made our weekly tour of new listings a bit of a challenge today.  Boots on, boots off, repeat.  But it was worth the hassle because we saw a lot of great properties – a dozen in all.  Here are some of the best new properties for sale :

Cambridge Concierge Buildings

View from the Esplanade Condo

View from the Esplanade Condo

Today we toured units in two of Cambridge’s premiere luxury buildings.  By coincidence both properties were actually two units combined to make one large condo or co-op.  At 1010 Memorial Drive we saw a three bedroom, three bath co-op with the amazing Charles River views that the building is known for.  At the Esplanade we saw a three bedroom three bath condo with a huge master suite on the 11th floor. The owners of the unit had bought pre-construction so the layout and features were unique in the building. This was our second property of the day with amazing river views.

Condo Buildings With Pools

If you’d like to take a dip after work, two of the condos we saw today fit the bill. The Esplanade has an indoor three-lane pool adjacent to the exercise room. We also saw a condo at 19 Chauncy Street in Harvard Square. That condo building has an outdoor pool.

Elevator Buildings

Many of the condos in Cambridge don’t have elevators but several of the properties we saw today were in elevator buildings. Since each is a modern building it’s not surprising that 19 Chauncy Street, 1010 Memorial Drive and the Esplanade all have elevators.  The Porter Square condo building that we toured was a surprise however.  This turn-of-the-century nine-unit building is not the type of property where you expect to find an elevator.  But the building was completely renovated several years ago and now you have the best of both worlds. This light-filled third floor two-bedroom has a deck, parking, central air, in-unit laundry and the convenience of an elevator.  If you like the architectural character of an older building, albeit one that has been thoroughly renovated, you won’t have to live without all the modern conveniences in this condo.

Large Cambridge Condos

It was a day for house-sized condominiums.  We saw two very attractive condos in older two-unit buildings. A Kirkland Village 3-4 bedroom condo near Harvard Square was beautiful.  Built-in bookcases everywhere, a fireplace, mudroom, back deck, and a super sunny third floor master bedroom suite. Another charming condo in mid-Cambridge was a townhouse-style six bedroom.  It was a lovely space – not mucked up but very liveable.  The kitchen was great – exposed brick, warm wood counters and cabinets, and large windows on two sides overlooking the backyard. At over 3500 sq. ft. the condo was larger than many houses.

Somerville Single Family in Ball Square

We saw a super single family house smack dab in the middle of Ball Square.  The house has nice original detail, four bedrooms, 1.5 baths, and a fenced yard. Walk out your door for breakfast at Kelly’s Diner or Soundbites.  At $595,000 the house is in the same price range as many condos.

If you want more information about any new listing remember – I’m only a phone call or email away!

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