The Somerville Historic Preservation Commission held its Historic Preservation Awards cermony in May, and this summer Somerville Patch will feature the homes and properties that won awards.
Somerville writer Marian Berkowitz interviewed the winners to create profiles of the historic Somerville properties and the people who care for them.
Today, Berkowitz takes a look at the Colanninos, who bought their Davis Square house in 1969 when it was in rough shape and have turned it into a beautiful home without—and this is key—a chain-link fence.
Here it is:
Just outside Davis Square at the corner of Chester and Orchard Streets is a house you cannot possibly miss as it’s a beautifully maintained and restored Queen Anne house. Its historic name is the Clifton Bacon House, as it was built in 1885 by Mr. Bacon, a Boston coal merchant. The house has only hosted a few owners over the past 127 years and the current owners, Francis and Susan Colannino, have owned and resided in it for the past 43 years. I was recently privileged to tour both its interior and exterior grounds as the couple received a 2012 Preservation Award from the City’s Historic Preservation Commission for their impressive work restoring its exterior over many years, including most recently, the iron gates on the Chester Street side of the house. Mrs. Colannino calls them the "anniversary" gates, as they were completed in July, the month of their wedding anniversary, as well as their shared birthdays and date of purchase for this distinctive house.
Mrs. Colannino explained that the purchase happened quickly, even though they had not even been looking for a new home. Both natives of Cambridge, the couple was driving one day in 1969 down Orchard Street, which is somewhat unusual with one end in Cambridge and the other in Somerville, due to the communities’ shared history. They saw a large "for sale" sign on a house at the corner of Orchard and Chester Streets in Somerville, and Mrs. Colannino said it was "love at first sight." She decided on the spot that they must have this house, in part because of its tall chimney facing Orchard Street. Previously used as a rooming house, it was unoccupied by that time. They brought over Mrs. Colannino's dad, an architect and chairman of the Cambridge Historical Commission for 30 years, and despite its dilapidated condition, he totally supported their interest.
In the 1990’s the Colanninos undertook major improvement work on the property, including removal of the exterior fire escape, enclosing a stairwell as a wing of the house, and altering the concrete block garage to resemble a little house. For many years, a chain link fence also bordered the property’s perimeter. The Colanninos disliked the look and removed all but the small chain link gate in 1989 and replaced it with a Hicks yew hedge. It took them years to agree upon what kind of gate to place at the front walkway entrance. With very helpful guidance from the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission, they finally settled on a design that would be reflective of the house's Queen Anne architectural style. The Colanninos incorporated old salvaged fence posts and pickets, long stored in their basement, into the design of refurbished iron gates which perfectly complement the house today.