Archive for the 'Everything Else' Category

Gardening In Cambridge – Work With What You’ve Got

Gardening in Cambridge is sometimes a challenge.  We often have only limited outdoor space. Sometimes window boxes on the deck will have to do.  Some will be lucky enough to score a plot at a community garden. Or perhaps a windowsill herb garden might fill the greenthumb’s urge.

Gardening In The City

Gardening In The City

I spotted this creative solution outside a townhouse off Chauncy Street near Harvard Square. It looks like most of the flower pots didn’t get filled this year – gardening requires a commitment of time and effort we can’t always make.  Even empty the pots are an eye catching sight – almost an airborne sculpture.

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Moving Houses

From my collection of vintage house moving photographs

From my collection of vintage house moving photographs

Moving Houses  

 Both the lecturers whose Cambridge Discovery Days tours I attended last Saturday happened to mention how common house moves were before electric wires were strung through Cambridge neighborhoods.

As much as I dislike overhead wires (you would think it’s still the Wild West! – why on earth do we put up with these ugly wires strung down our streets?) it hadn’t occurred to me that it was the advent of overhead wiring that put an end to the moving of houses.

Moving houses was once a fairly common undertaking. Street widening, changing neighborhoods, economizing – all were reasons to move a house.  Sometimes a portion of a house was removed and moved for a family member.

Once you start digging into the history of Cambridge’s buildings you’ll discover many that were moved around town.  Nowadays with those dratted wires – not to mention street lights, signs, and overpasses – moving a house or building is a much bigger undertaking.   But with deep pockets almost anything is possible.

In 2007 Harvard spent something on the order of $1,000,000 to move three mansard structures down Mass Avenue close to Harvard Square.  Two three story-mansard houses and a matching mansard carriage house were moved to facilitate a building project.  Here’s a video of the moving houses:

 

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Greek Revival Door Styles

Doorway on a Brattle Street House in Cambridge

Doorway on a Brattle Street House in Cambridge

While on the What Style Is It? architecture tour during Cambridge Discovery Days we came across this excellent example of a Greek Revival door style on Brattle Street in Cambridge Massachusetts. 

The Greek Revival period in American architecture dates from about 1825 to 1860.  This house was built in 1852.

What appears to be the original door provides an example of some of the most common features of Greek Revival door styles:

  • There is a full transom window across the top
  • Sidelights flank the door
  • Plain columns support the classic entablature – the overhang above the door
  • The door itself has four panels
    Shutters for Greek Revival Sidelights

    Shutters for Greek Revival Sidelights

    – two longs panels above, two short panels below

  • Greek Revival doors also included single panel or two panel styles
  • Sometimes doors were paired

I couldn’t help but snap the photo at right of the door on this red painted Greek Revival house in Arlington. Built in 1848, with what looks like a more recent door, the door frame has the typical sidelights. I had never seen these with shutters before and I’m not certain to when these date. Nifty idea!

 

For a full illustration of Greek Revival door styles see Virginia and Lee McAlester’s book A Field Guide to American Houses.

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Fences – More House Parts We Love

Diamond Patterned Fence Near Harvard Square in Cambridge

Diamond Patterned Fence Near Harvard Square in Cambridge

I think of fences as house parts since it’s the whole package  we fall in love with when a house catches our eye.  And a fence is often the first thing someone sees when they walk up to your house. 

If you’re trying to decide on a style, Cambridge is great for getting ideas – you’ll find all styles of handsome or charming fences here – from the modest to the elaborate or fanciful.  Most are made of wood – believe me you won’t be seeing any plastic on these pages – from picket fences to grander versions, some vintage cast iron can be found as well as ones that use granite for posts or bases.

There are a couple of popular companies in our area if you’re thinking of adding a border at the street or want to enclose your yard:

Walpole Woodworkers‘ exquisite work can be spotted along Brattle Street and elsewhere in Cambridge.

W.J. McDonough Fence has done a couple of fences for me and does very nice work 

 Here’s a gallery of local fences and walls:

And here are more House Parts We Love:

Turrets on Houses

 Granite Steps, Posts and More

Porch Railings with Curved Spindles

Front Entry Benches

House Numbers

Shutters with Cutouts

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A Garden Bed On Wheels – Cambridge Real Estate Agents on Tour

Pickup Truck with a Vegetable Garden Bed

Pickup Truck with a Vegetable Garden Bed

Cambridge real estate agents – or at least the big bunch that work at Coldwell Banker – every Wednesday tour the properties that are coming on the market for the weekend.  It’s a great way to get a first look at a lot of real estate and is one of my favorite days of the week.

I’ve taken to carrying my camera with me looking for fodder for this blog.  We’re often out and about through three to six towns, touring up to 20+ properties, so there’s a good chance I’ll stumble across something that’s picture-worthy.

This pickup truck was cause for a double-take.  I don’t know the story behind it – if you do let me know.  There’s a mini-farm – a garden bed – a raised bed for sure – in this truck bed.  Corn, tomatoes, and a bunch of other plants that I assume are also vegetables (can you guess I’m not a gardener?).  We spotted it on a Somerville side street and every real estate agent with a camera was snapping away.  Wherever this truck goes it’s sure to be a head-turner.

 

 

 

Check back for more oddities and interesting sights spotted while we’re out and about in Cambridge, Somerville and nearby towns. And if you’d like a heads up about properties we see on our weekly real estate tour or want to talk about how our property tour can get your home sold fast give me a call at 617-504-1737.

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The Turret – House Parts We Love

Victorian House with a Turret in Arlington Center

Victorian House with a Turret in Arlington Center

A turret, or a tower as it’s also called, is an enormously appealing house part. There’s something romantic about a tower and the rooms inside it. The pull is strong enough that some people search for a house with a turret to call home – and around Cambridge they just may find one.

Turrets or towers were features in houses in several architectural styles including the Second Empire, Shingle Style, Romanesque Revival, and Gothic Revival. It is the Queen Anne style however that is most commonly identified with the turret. Many of these turreted Queen Anne Victorians can be found around Cambridge, Arlington and Somerville.

Turrets were typically topped with conical roofs, often covered in slate. Multi-sided turrets were capped with multi-sided roofs. The roof on a Second Empire Mansard tower often mimics the mansard roof of the main portion of the house.

Here are some other house parts we love:

 Granite Steps and Posts

Front Entry Benches

Curved Porch Balusters

Decorative Metal Doorknobs

Here are some pictures of houses with turrets.

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Calling all Cambridge Photographers – Your Photo Could be Next Year’s Parking Sticker

Submit your Cambridge photos now

Submit your Cambridge photos now

Would you like your photograph to appear on cars all over Cambridge?  Here’s your chance!

There are just a few more weeks to submit photographs of Cambridge to the City for next year’s Cambridge Resident Parking Permit photo.

Each year the City of Cambridge invites people to submit photos of Cambridge scenery.  The winning photograph will be the image on the next year’s resident parking sticker.

To enter the photo contest, JPEGs of Cambridge scenery can be submitted via email to [email protected]

Deadline for entries is July 31, 2009.  Check the City of Cambridge website for contest rules.

More than 100 photos were entered in the contest in 2008.  You can see the beautiful photographs of Cambridge that were submitted to last year’s Cambridge Resident Parking Permit photo contest here.

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Were Cars Smaller Then?

The question – Were cars smaller then?  – reminds me, of course, of the question Were people shorter then? that people ask when they’re in houses with low ceilings or looking at antique bedsteads that seems diminutive when compared to today’s super sized beds.

We passed this nifty, early Somerville garage on the tour of Powderhouse Park and Ball Square a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a truly wonderful garage – brightly painted, with what look to be stained glass windows on the side.  I just love the old moss covered roof.

But what caught our eye is the addition to the front of the garage (which unfortunately is missing its original doors).  Clearly somebody retrofitted this garage to fit a bigger – or more specifically – a longer car into the garage.  Someone on the tour suggested that was because early cars were shorter than the cars that followed.

Unusual old garage in Somerville MA

Unusual old garage in Somerville MA

So how about it?  Were cars much shorter 75 to 100 years ago?  I’m not thinking of comparing them to some of our modern day behemoths like SUVs, but were they really much smaller than our Hondas, VWs or Toyotas? 

I poked around a bit online and couldn’t find the measurements for the earliest Model-Ts etc.  It does seem to me that the cars that followed the Model T got pretty big fairly early on.  Some of those vintage autos seemed like they were fairly spacious.

If you know anything about how cars grew over the years or how long the earliest models and the ones that followed were I would love to hear from you.

And as to whether or not our ancestors were much shorter than we are?  Not so much as it turns out. The Plimoth Plantation website addresses this myth. It seems that there’s about an inch and a half difference between average heights of modern Americans and the early colonists.  Evidence suggests that Americans reached current height averages by the time of the Revolution.  Short beds and low ceilings must have been the style of the times.

There’s an antique auto show in Lincoln in a couple of weeks – watch for details here – and I think I’ll bring my tape measure.

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