Welcome to Centers and Squares

As a Cambridge real estate agent, the city squares of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford and the town centers of Arlington, Watertown and Belmont, Massachusetts are my home turf. And as a lifelong New Englander who’s lived within twenty miles of Boston most of my life, I can introduce you to other nearby towns as we search for your new home. If you’re planning to sell your home in Cambridge, MA or nearby you’ll find plenty of info about the home selling process here too. Questions? Send me an email or call me at 617-504-1737.

The Minuteman Library Network

The Minuteman Library Network - your ticket to read.

The Minuteman Library Network - your ticket to read.

I’ve always thought that one of the very best perks for living in Cambridge is membership in the Minuteman Library Network. Over the years when I moved around a lot as a renter whether or not the town or city belonged to the MLN was a factor when I considered towns to live in.

When you live in a Minuteman Library Network community your library card is your pass to libraries in 35 towns plus 6 college libraries. You’ll have full borrowing privileges – walk into any of the libraries and it’s as if you lived there – your library card works just like it does at your home library.

It’s a great excuse to visit some of the excellent town libraries around Massachusetts. There’s wonderful original library architecture in local libraries plus lots of modern upgrades since Massachusetts has renovated and expanded many of its libraries over the years.

And if you don’t want to get out and about you can access the holdings of all 41 libraries in the combined online catalog.

The Minuteman Library Network has continued to grow over the years since it was established in 1982. All of the towns around Cambridge belong to the network including Arlington, Belmont, Medford, Somerville and Watertown.

So – if you’ve just moved to Cambridge – be sure to get your library card– it’s your ticket to read – the Minuteman Library Network member libraries own over 6 million items.

Categories: Living Here

Comments: Please leave a comment. Your opinions welcomed.

Architect Royal Barry Wills in Cambridge


Houses for Good Living by Royal Barry Wills

Houses for Good Living by Royal Barry Wills

Royal Barry Wills has been one of my favorite architects since I was a child.  His historically accurate reproduction Capes, Saltboxes and Colonials warm my heart.

Growing up, my parents had a couple of his books – Houses for Good Living and More Houses for Good Living.  I would pore over these books – the classic New England houses pictured inside were my favorite house styles.

One day when I was about 10 or 11 we went for a family drive.  I’m not sure where we were – maybe Weston, or Wellesley or some nearby town – when I yelled “Stop the car!”  Down a long driveway I had spotted a Royal Barry Wills house I recognized from one of the books. Sure enough – when we arrived back home I leafed through the book and there it was.

Royal Barry Wills Architecture

Royal Barry Wills understood that it was the details that made the difference – that made a newly built Cape look like it was built in 1760, not 1960.  Some of those details he got right included:

  • Large central chimney
  • Correct pitch of the roof
  • Graduated clapboards
  • Windows with 24 to 36 individual lights (panes)
  • Clapboards set close to the ground

We are fortunate in Massachusetts that Royal Barry Wills is a native son.  Wills grew up in Melrose, attended MIT in Cambridge, and established his practice in Boston where he worked until his death in 1962.  There are houses designed by Royal Barry Wills in many Massachusetts towns.

Royal Barry Wills in Cambridge

There are two Royal Barry Wills houses in Cambridge that I know of but I was disappointed when I set out in search of them.

20 Coolidge Avenue is undoubtedly a beautiful house but it’s almost impossible to see from the street with a high fence and a garage blocking the view.  There are lovely interior photographs and a floor plan of the house in More Houses for Good Living.

Royal Barry Wills House in Cambridge MA

Royal Barry Wills House in Cambridge MA

I was really sad when I walked by 19 Old Dee Road, a handsome Garrison Colonial that Wills designed in 1940. It’s a classic house with its massive corbeled chimney and large decorative pendants at the overhang ends.  The house is undergoing renovation however- the windows have been replaced (ugh!) and French doors installed to the right of the front door (double ugh!).  While I’m sure the refurbished interior will make somebody very happy for a traditionalist the house’s current state was a disappointment.

In Search of Royal Barry Wills

It’s not easy to locate Royal Barry Wills houses from his books (despite my luck as a ten year old!) since houses are often identified only by owners’ names.  Houses by Wills are regularly noted in real estate listings though sometimes I think agents use his name almost as a generic term when describing a classic New England style house.

I’m always interested in seeing more of these picture perfect houses.  Do you have any Royal Barry Wills favorites in your town?  Let me know!



Categories: Everything Else
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Union Square Somerville – Ethnic Food Markets Tour

Shop in Union Square - Ethnic Markets Tour

Shop in Union Square - Ethnic Markets Tour

Union Square in Somerville MA  is a hotbed of ethnic markets that feature food and ingredients from around the world.

The ArtsUnion Project of the Somerville Arts Council is sponsoring two more of their popular tours of ethnic markets in Union Square.  So if you’re bewildered by the offerings or want more ideas to spice up your cooking – take advantage of this inside look at Union Square stores including:

  • Capone’s Foods, 14 Bow Street
  • Casa de Carnes, 38 Bow Street
  • Halal Market, 380 Somerville Avenue
  • La Internacional Market, 318 Somerville Avenue
  • Little India, 77A Bow Street
  • New Bombay Market, 359 Somerville Avenue
  • Pao de Acucar & Brazilian Buffet, 57 Union Square
  • Reliable Market, 45 Union Square

Each tour will visit three markets.  Tour participants will get to explore the markets, have a chance to meet the store owners if they’re available, and be briefed on the other markets in Union Square that you pass by.

The tours are popular and attendance is limited.  Reserve your spot before the tour sells out fills up.  Call 617-625-6600 ext. 2985 or email [email protected] to reserve your space in a tour.  If you leave info in your message about how many people will attend on which day you’ll be notified about where to meet.

Tours  are scheduled for:

Thursday, July 9, 2009 from 6:00 to 7:30 pm

Thursday, July 23, 2009 from 6:00 to 7:30 pm

There’s no charge for the tour but bring your wallet – there’s lots of tasty food to buy!

 Take the Union Square Somerville ethnic food market tour in July – take a look at Union Square Somerville real estate right now!


Categories: Area Events
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House Parts We Love – Granite Steps, Granite Posts and More

The latest installment of House Parts We Love is all about granite – and I’m not talking about shiny granite counters – which I know many people, but not me, love. No, I’m talking about old granite – granite steps, granite hitching posts, granite foundations, even granite houses and buildings.

Vintage granite steps in Cambridge

Vintage granite steps in Cambridge

In the 1800s granite was quarried in many New England towns.  In Massachusetts, Rockport, Braintree, Quincy, Chelmsford, Tyngsborough, and Westford were among the towns with granite quarries. 

I wish I could remember the Massachusetts town I visited several years ago while showing real estate that had a wealth of granite house parts.  There was an inordinate amount of granite steps, walls, foundations, posts, curbs – everywhere I looked I saw granite.  It turned out that the town had a quarry many years ago and I think some of what I was seeing were houses and yards that had been embellished by quarry workers.

Many public or commercial buildings in Boston were built of granite including the Custom House, buildings at the Charlestown Navy Yard, and parts of Mass General Hospital.  For years, several granite houses along the main street in Marlborough, New Hampshire have been among my favorites.

Around Cambridge, Arlington and Somerville you can often spot old granite.  Older buildings, usually from the early 1800s, may have granite foundations.  In mid-Cambridge many of the houses have very beautiful granite steps like those pictured above. The slide show below includes an old granite post I spotted in Cambridgeport, and a wonderful granite and iron fence in Arlington Center. 

There’s something very appealing about old, weather worn granite.  Nowadays it’s possible to purchase reclaimed old granite to use for fence posts or entry steps or what have you. 

Here are photographs of my granite favorites from Cambridge and Arlington. Click on the triangle to view the photos:

Categories: Everything Else
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Westwood Road Somerville – Real Estate, Architecture, History


Home on Westwood Road

Home on Westwood Road

Westwood Road is one of Somerville’s jewels and a favorite with real estate buyers who appreciate the architecture of its beautiful turn of the century houses.  Just one block long, Westwood Road runs from Benton Road to Central Street.  The Somerville Museum sits at the Central Street end of the block.

History of Westwood Road in Somerville MA

The lots on Westwood Road were divided in 1874 when the estate of James M. Shute and the adjoining Benton farm were subdivided.  Houses were not built on the street until 1894 when real estate developer and hardware dealer Charles Bradshaw built the first eight houses on Westwood Road. 

Bradshaw built the finest of homes and then proceeded in 1895 to move a number of large trees, elms and maples some 50 to 60 years old, onto the front of the lots lining the street.  It was said to be the first time such an undertaking was attempted in Massachusetts.  Just one year after the road was built, Westwood Road was lined with fine homes and mature trees.

The granite posts at the Central Street end of Westwood Road were part of the original gates of the Shute estate.

Westwood Road Architecture

The houses that make up this densely built street are some of Somerville’s best examples of Shingle Style, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival architectural styles.  The houses sit close to the street and are separated by just feet, making a rich and handsome streetscape.

Several of the houses on Westwood Road have been listed for sale in the last few years and I’ve had a chance to go inside.  The interior details – stained glass, woodwork, built-ins – even such typically mundane things as thermostats and heating grates – are some of the finest you’re likely to encounter.

Westwood Road is a National Register of Historic Places Historic District.  The district, consisting roughly of the area bounded by Summer Street, Benton Road, Westwood Road and Central Street was added to the Register in 1989.

Westwood Road Somerville Real Estate

In recent years several Westwood Road houses have sold to lucky buyers:

  • An 11 room, 7 bedrooom shingle style house sold in 2002 for $700,000
  • A 15 room, 7 bedroom Colonial Revival house sold in 2003 for $830,000
  • A 12 room, 7 bedroom Shingle Style house sold in 2007 for $688,500
  • A 7 room, 4 bedroom Victorian house sold in 2007 for $792,500

Here are photographs of some of the homes on Westwood Road in Somerville Massachusetts:


Use the following link to check for homes for  sale on Westwood Road in Somerville.  You can then continue to search for homes for sale in Somerville or in other Massachusetts towns.



Categories: Area Info
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Dancing In the Streets – City Dance Party in Cambridge

dancing-girlThere’ll be dancing in the streets this Friday night as the City of Cambridge celebrates with its annual Dance Party.

Each year since 1996, when the first Dance Party was held during Cambridge’s 150th anniversary celebration, hundreds of people have gathered to dance the night away to tunes spun by DJ Joey Demers. 

The annual City Dance Party is scheduled for 7 to 10 pm on Friday, June 26, 2009.  The event is held in front of Cambridge City Hall on Mass Ave between Inman and Bigelow Streets.  Mass Ave will be shut to traffic by City Hall and a light show will play across the crowd.

Free admission and open to the public.

Participants who use public transportation are encouraged to take the subway since the #1 bus will not run down Mass Ave during the party.  Starting at 6 pm the #1 bus will terminate at Central Square until 11:30 pm when full service resumes.

There’s sun in the forecast for the end of the week – if that’s not an excuse to celebrate I don’t know what is!  Put on your dancing shoes and boogie on down to the Cambridge City Dance Party.



Categories: Area Events
Comments: Please leave a comment. Your opinions welcomed.

Assessment – Appraisal – Asking Price – How to Value Cambridge Real Estate

It’s often easy to get confused about how Cambridge real estate is valued – assessment, appraisal, and asking price – what’s the difference and what do these terms and numbers mean?   Assessment vs appraisal – asking price or market value – what’s it all about?

The Assessment

Valuing a Cambridge Home

Valuing a Cambridge Home

The assessment is the value placed on the home by the City’s assessors.  Your property tax bill is based on your assessment.  This leads to an odd dynamic – as a Cambridge homeowner you want your assessment to be as low as possible in order to pay less in taxes.  But as a homeseller or a buyer of Cambridge real estate you usually feel better if the assessment is higher.  For buyers, that’s often because they’re confusing the assessment with the appraised value or market value – which are often very different.

The City of Cambridge uses a very convoluted method to determine appraisals which I won’t attempt to describe here.  I once watched a televised City Council meeting during which the City Assessor tried to explain to the City Councilors how Cambridge assessments are calculated.  It was a looooong presentation that made me feel a lot better about not being able to summarize the methodology in a sentence or two. 

The assessment often varies widely from the market value of a Cambridge property and usually that should not be a matter of concern.  For some time a Cambridge house that was priced closed to its assessment was the rare exception.  Then the City reassessed properties and in many cases the new assessments were far higher than the property’s value on the real estate market.  There doesn’t appear to be a discernible relationship between current assessments and current real estate values. 

While assessments can sometimes be of interest when comparing a number of  properties in on area, in general the assessment shouldn’t be the number you focus on when you’re looking at Cambridge real estate. 

The Asking Price

The asking price or market price for Cambridge real estate should be based on recent sales activity for comparable properties.  When a real estate agent works with a seller to put a property on the market for sale, the agent prepares a comparative market analysis to determine the market value of the home.  Sometimes there haven’t been comparable homes listed for sale recently.  The realtor will use his or her knowledge of the marketplace to determine a suggested value for the property.  Ultimately, the seller, with advice from the agent, decides on an asking price.  The response from buyers will determine whether that is the “right price” or if the home’s value in the marketplace is lower or higher.

The Appraisal

The Bank Orders an Appraisal for Your Cambridge Home Purchase

The Bank Orders an Appraisal for Your Cambridge Home Purchase

There’s one more number or value that needs to be determined before the sale is closed.  After a buyer has an accepted offer on a property and has applied for a mortgage, the lender will have an appraisal done on the home.  The appraiser will compare the property to similar properties that have sold recently – usually within the last six months.  The appraisal will be submitted to the lender and as the buyer you’ll usually be able to get a copy of the appraisal by your closing date. 

In short:

 Assessment = City’s value for property tax purposes

Appraisal = Value for bank for lending purposes

Asking price = Seller’s price that buyers will decide is either too high, too low, or just right



Elizabeth Bolton is a Cambridge real estate agent at Coldwell Banker on Huron Avenue.  Contact Liz if you have more questions about buying or selling real estate in Cambridge Massachusetts or nearby.

Categories: Buyer Info

Comments: Please leave a comment. Your opinions welcomed.

Pemberton Street In North Cambridge – Cambridge Real Estate and Architecture

Pemberton Street in North Cambridge – Cambridge Real Estate and Architecture   Pemberton Street is one of my favorite streets in Cambridge.  For a not-so-long street there’s a lot going on.

Spring on Pemberton Street Cambridge MA 02140

Spring on Pemberton Street Cambridge MA 02140

Pemberton Street is an L-shaped street that begins at the intersection of  Rindge Avenue and Mass Ave and runs to Sherman Street.  Pemberton Street is in the Cambridge MA 02140 zipcode.  It’s a very pleasant, walkable street with a wonderful variety of house styles and an assortment of public amenities. 

At the Mass Ave end of the street Pemberton Market anchored the street from the 1930s but moved across Mass Ave to the former White Hen Panty at the corner of Day Street last year.  The corner storefronts were remodeled and new tenants are starting to move in.

Architectural Styles on Pemberton Street

Pemberton Street has a mix of house styles – single family homes, two-families, triple-deckers, a vintage brick multi-unit condo building, and a townhouse development of more recent vintage. 

Most of the houses were built from about 1870 to 1910 with a  few earlier examples at the Sherman Street end that date from the 1850s.

Architectural styles found on Pemberton Street include Queen Anne Victorians, mansard Victorians, and Colonial Revival houses.

Public Amenities on Pemberton Street

  • Bergin Park has a playground with a water feature
  • Public tennis courts
  • Rindge Field behind the Peabody School has a baseball diamond
  • Basketball courts
  • Yerxa Street underpass to Richdale Avenue with artwork by Randal Thurston
  • Cambridge mural along the edge of Rindge Field
  • McMath Park  and Community Garden

Pemberton Street, Cambridge Real Estate

The MLS shows only three single family home sales on Pemberton Street in the last ten years.  Single family houses sold for prices from $645,000 to $1,080,000.

Many more condominiums have sold recently on Pemberton Street.  A dozen condos have sold over the last five years. 

  • Condos at the vintage brick building at 35 Pemberton Street have sold since 2005 for prices between $427,000 and $440,000. 
  •  Townhouses in the development at 177 Pemberton Street that was built in 1999 have sold most recently for $640,000 to $650,000.
  • Two to three-bedroom condos in triple-deckers on Pemberton Street have sold recently for prices between $485,000 and $531,000

Four two-families have sold on Pemberton Street in North Cambridge in the last five years for prices ranging from $550,000 to $1,025,000.

Categories: Area Info
Comments: Please leave a comment. Your opinions welcomed.

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