Archive for the 'Everything Else' Category

Architectural Styles in Cambridge: The Greek Revival

Greek Revival in Winter Hill Somerville

Greek Revival in Winter Hill Somerville

The Greek Revival is one of my favorite house styles.  My first house and my current house have Greek Revival elements and there’s something very appealing about houses from this period, inside and out.  The Greek Revival was the most popular architectural style in the United States from about 1825 to 1860.  Asher Benjamin, a New England architect and carpenter, and author of popular pattern books, helped popularize the style when he included the Greek orders in his 1826 edition of The American Builder’s Companion.

Features of the Greek Revival Style

The most easily recognized Greek Revivals are those modeled on a Greek temple, with a front gable with one or two-story columns supporting an overhanging pedimented gable. Other examples have a less dramatic facade with a columned front entry.

The entry door style of early American houses is often indicative of the period in which the house was built.  The Greek Revival doors typically were flanked by side lights often with a transom window above.

Greek Revival in Central Square Cambridge

Greek Revival in Central Square Cambridge

Greek Revivals often have large windows, typically with six panes over six panes (six over six) .    It is not uncommon for windows to run from floor to ceiling or close to, as can be seen in the photograph at right of a Greek Revival in the Central Square neighborhood of Cambridge Massachusetts.  Some have a row of small windows  running across the wide trim below the cornice. 

Inside, one of my favorite features that you see in local Greek Revivals is the triangular trim that is sometimes found over the door and window openings, echoing the pediment outside. 

Greek Revival Houses In and Near Cambridge

Since many houses were built in Cambridge and nearby towns during the early 1800s, a number of Greek Revivals can be found in these communities.  Many handsome houses of the period still stand in East Cambridge, in Cambridgeport, and in Central Square.   Distinctive examples can be found in Somerville, Arlington, Belmont. Medford and Watertown as well.

Here’s a slideshow of Greek Revivals in Cambridge, Arlington and Somerville.  Click on the arrow to start the slide show and then on the box with four corner arrows in the bottom right corner of the border to get a larger image.



Read more about architectural styles found in Cambridge MA and nearby:


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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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Architectural Styles: The Bungalow

Sometimes I think that the bungalow is the most misunderstood  architectural style.  Sellers seem miffed if you suggest that their house is a bungalow.  To them, “bungalow” connotes small,  or perhaps modest – something less than in terms of size or value.  Home buyers often ask “What’s a bungalow?” and I sometimes struggle as I try to explain. I love bungalows but too often it seems that it’s a case of “I know a bungalow when I see one.” I’ve taken to pulling out a cheat sheet  from my glove compartment- a clipping from a magazine with photos of several bungalows.

Bungalows are actually one of the most popular vintage house styles today.  There are groups dedicated to the preservation of bungalows, books about bungalows fill shelves in the architecture and decorating sections of the bookstore, and more than one magazine about bungalows can be found on the newsstand.

 What Is A Bungalow?

I guess it’s not a surprise that defining what a bungalow is might be difficult for people.  Here’s what I found in a couple of architectural guides I pulled from my shelves:  Architecture and Ornament: A Visual Guide defines bungalow as “Hindustani word for a single storey domestic house first popularised by the British Raj”.  That’s enlightening!  A Field Guide to American Houses refers to the “bungaloid style”. Huh?

Bungalows were part of the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 1900s.  Gustav Stickley, whose furniture today is highly valued, popularized the style and published bungalow house plans that were available to subscribers. Stickley’s journal was called The Craftsman and bungalows and other Arts and Crafts-inspired houses of the period are often referred to as “Craftsman-style”.  Sears Roebuck offered several bungalows models through its mail order catalogs as did other houses-by-mail companies.

A true bungalow is a one story or one-and-a-half story building.  Larger  bungalows were built however and while many bungalows were simple in style there were many very stylized bungalows built as well, especially in the West, with those designed by by renowned architects Greene and Greene some of the most elaborate examples.

In different parts of the country different styles of bungalows became popular. Variations include Prairie Style, Arts and Crafts, Tudor, Spanish, and Colonial Revival.   

Defining Features of a Bungalow

  • The classic bungalow has a low sweeping roof, often extending over a front porch.
  • The roof is usually a gable style, sometimes a hip roof, and has wide eave overhangs and, often, exposed rafter ends
  • Many are front gabled with the entry on the gable end facing the street, others are cross- or side-gabled.
  • Many bungalows have prominent, deep front porches often with tapered rectangular supports
  • Window styles are often multi-pane top sash over a single pane lower sash

When Were Bungalows Built?

 Bungalows date from the early 1900s to about 1930.

Where Were Bungalows Built?

Bungalows can be found across the United States. Bungalows’ popularity took off initially in Southern California but soon spread across the country.  Hotbeds of bungalows exist to this day in many towns and cities and bungalows pepper the streetscape in plenty of  neighborhoods.

The prevalence of bungalows is dictated by the years in which the town or city was developed.  Locally, towns like Cambridge and Somerville that were thickly developed prior to the 20th century will have fewer bungalows while towns that experienced building booms in the first decades of the century will have more examples.  Medfordand Arlington had large tracts of land that were developed in the twentieth century so bungalows can be in many parts of town.  Belmont and Watertown also had open land in the early 1900s for development and bungalows can be found in many neighborhoods throughout these towns.

Bungalows in Cambidge, MA

Avon Hill Bungalow

Avon Hill Bungalow

Few bungalows if any will be found in Cambridge’s older neighborhoods – East Cambridge, Mid-Cambridge and West Cambridge east of Fresh Pond Parkway are devoid of bungalows I believe (let me know if you spot one!).  North Cambridge has a number of modest bungalows and Chetwynd Road, a short street parallel to Upland that ends at Corcoran Park , is an all-bungalow street with several others on nearby streets. Cambridge Highlands near the Belmont line has a number of bungalows.  My favorite Cambridge bungalow, the only example on Avon Hill, and I think the nicest and most handsome bungalow in Cambridge, is pictured here.

Bungalows in Medford, MA

Bungalows can be found in North Medford, in the Park Street area, and scattered in other parts of town including several good examples on High Street in West Medford, on Winthrop Street near the rotary, and on Symmes Street off Century.  Bungalow sightings are welcomed so let me know of your favorites!

Bungalows in Somerville

The majority of Somerville’s single families were built prior to 1900 so Somerville does not have a wealth of bungalows.  Some can be found in the Ten Hill neighborhood and others in West Somerville.  A wonderful Somerville bungalow on Central Street, set amidst its handsome Greek Revival and Victorian neighbors, was on the market a few years ago and was featured in a recent article about bungalows in the Boston Globe.

Bungalows in Arlington, MA

Many of Arlington’s neighborhoods outside the center of town continued to grow in the twentieth century, often as farm land was converted to residential use.  There are wonderful examples of bungalows in East Arlington, several of which are pictured here, in Arlington Heights, and in the Morningside neighborhood which has some handsome examples.

Bungalow Resources


 American Bungalow

Style 1900


Loads of books about bungalows have been published in the last 15 years. Here are a few favorites I pulled from my shelves:

Bungalow Nation by Diane Maddex and Alexander Vertikoff – a beautiful book

Bungalow Kitchens by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen – vintage kitchen lovers will drool

Bungalow Bathrooms by the same authors – a great resource when deciding what bath style is appropriate for your bungalow

American Bungalow Style by Robert Winter and Alexander Vertikoff – bungalows as they’re lived in today

Inside the Bungalow: America’s Arts & Crafts Interior by Paul Duchscherer and Douglas Keister – a room by room look inside the bungalow


Please feel free to share your bungalow stories, sightings, or questions here. And watch for next week’s Architectural Style article on the Mansard in Cambridge and nearby towns.

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What Do I Do With All These Boxes?

Moving boxesCongratulations!  The hardest part of your move into your new home is over. You’ve just unpacked all of the moving boxes.  The rooms are starting to take shape, you can put you hand on most important items, and there’s finally a clear path from room to room.

… Except – what on earth to do with the big stack of flattened moving boxes?  They weren’t inexpensive but the idea of letting them molder in the basement isn’t appealing.  If you want to leave them out for curbside recycling that’s another project since the boxes will need to be cut down into smaller pieces and you can’t put them out until pickup time.

If your new home is in Cambridge – and if you’ve picked up your resident sticker – you can bring the boxes to the Recycling Drop-Off Center on Hampshire Street.  You don’t have to dismantle or cut down the boxes and you can get them out of the house rather than wait for the next pickup.

Another very convenient option is to post in the Free section of craigslist. It’s easiest if you put the packing materials out on the porch or in your driveway or yard and include your address in the post.  Moving supplies such as packing boxes, bubble wrap and peanuts will often be picked up within an hour or two of your post.  Delete the post and bingo – you’re done and you’ve helped out a grateful stranger.  You gotta love craigslist!

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Seeking Cambridge Historic Preservation Nominations

Each year the Cambridge Historical Commission recognizes preservation projects completed in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts during the previous year. If your historic preservation work was completed between January and December 2008 you can find a nomination form and more information at the Historical Commission’s website

2008 Award Winner

2008 Award Winner

Cambridge Preservation Recognition Program

Eligible Project Categories:

  • Restoration
  • Rehabilitation
  • Adaptive use
  • Neighborhood conservation
  • Landscape preservation
  • Archaeology
  • Education/outreach

Criteria for Awards:

  • Historical and architectural significance of the property preserved by the project
  • Exceptional quality of the project
  • Extent to which the project contributed to the preservation of the property
  • Impact of the project on the preservation of the city’s historic resources

Nomination forms must be submitted by noon on February 27, 2009.  The 2009 Preservation Awards will be announced at a ceremony on May 21, 2009 as part of National Preservation Month.

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Bumper Stickers – Election Day 2009

It’s an historic day and there are a lot of very happy people in Cambridge.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden won 62% of the vote in Massachusetts in November. 
In Cambridge, the percentage was quite a bit higher as 88% of voters cast their ballot for the Obama-Biden ticket, second only to Aquinnah, a small town on Martha’s Vineyard, where 90% of the 311 voters cast votes for Obama.
Cantabridgians often broadcast their thoughts, obsessions, affiliations and more on their bumpers.  Here’s a sampling of the amazing variety of Obama bumper stickers found on cars in Cambridge this week. There was nary a McCain sticker to be found though I do remember seeing at least one or two over the last year.
And if you’d like one of the “Yes We Did” Shepard Faery bumper stickers like the one at the center of the collage – you can get one (for free!) at this site.
Obama Bumper Stickers In Cambridge

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Centers and Squares Debuts

I’m one of those people who likes to go back to the beginning of a blog to look for an introductory post to get a handle on what the writer’s intentions are, what’s likely to be found on the site, what’s the plan, etc.  So if you’re “one of those people” too this one’s for you!

What You’ll Find on Centers & Squares

I’m a real estate agent in Cambridge, Massachusetts at Coldwell Banker on Huron Avenue and I love what I do. My intention is to share my enthusiasm and expertise by writing a lot about real estate – what’s happening in the real estate market, exciting new listings that have come on the market, how to meet your goals as a buyer or seller, real estate news, and more. My territory is broad but since my job is to help sellers sell their homes and buyers to buy properties, I can’t possibly find the time to write about every town in which I work.  Initially, my goal is to write about the Massachusetts towns that form the inner core of my market – Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, Belmont, Arlington and Watertown.  If you have questions about other nearby towns please let me know – it’s your questions that I aim to answer on this site.

I’ve been selling real real estate since 2000 but have lived in New England my entire life, primarily in Massachusetts where I grew up.  I love where I live and look forward to sharing the rich resources of this area with you – whether you already call the area home or are considering a move to Cambridge or nearby.  So look for posts on local history, culture, natural resources, architecture, and more – all that gives this area its unique charm.  Cambridge and Boston have a wealth of colleges and universities and that guarantees there’s always lots to do often at no or nominal cost.  Check back often for information about local events – lectures, movies, fairs, festivals, exhibits, sporting events, etc.  And since I’m a huge fan of house tours, garden tours, and open studios you’ll find the most complete lists of upcoming tours here as well. 

What’s Up With the Centers & Squares Name?

It’s not unusual for a newcomer to the area to ask, while we’re driving around the city on tour, “What’s up with all the squares?” It can sometime seem that you hit another city square every few blocks. Almost all of the Red Line T stops on this side of the river (that’s the Charles River of course) are squares – Kendall Square, Central Square, Harvard Square, Porter Square, and Davis Square.  And the squares don’t end there – there are at least a half dozen others in Cambridge and Somerville alone.  Venture outside the city and you’ll hit the town centers of nearby communities – and more town squares too.  So “Centers and Squares” it was – my best stab at describing the diverse communities that make up the greater Cambridge area.

Search For Real Estate

Since this is primarily a real estate site, after all, I want to be sure to point out that there’s an excellent real estate search tool on the site.  The button is at the top of every page, on the side bar, and often in individual articles. Search by map or search by your criteria – whatever works best for you.  And if you want to schedule a showing or ask a question about a property that you find, I’m only a phone call, text message, or email away.

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