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.
In this article, Berkowitz visits the Spring Hill home of Neal Minahan and Robert Vigneau, whose 1898 house has a musical past and a large stained glass window.
Here it is:
In mid-June I visited 8 Westwood Road, situated on one of my favorite streets in the City. The street is part of a much larger local historic district known as the Westwood Road District which is tucked in between Summer Street and Highland Avenue in the Spring Hill neighborhood. Westwood Road slopes gently downward from Benton Road to Central Street and is lined with a variety of historic homes representing many different architectural styles and most set back from the street with lovely front gardens and plenty of trees. I met with both owners, Neal Minahan and his husband, Robert Vigneau, who purchased the Queen Anne house named after its original owner, Elbridge Newton, in 2009. Although built in 1898, Neal and Robert believe they are only the fourth owners which may attest to the attachment that prior owners had felt for this house. Neal wanted to know more about Elbridge Newton and his research found that he was a graduate of Tufts University, produced music textbooks, and lived in the house for over 60 years, until sometime in the 1960's. To recognize this long history, Neal found some of his music books online and carefully stacked them on a side table in the living room.
Neal and Robert earned a 2012 Preservation Award from the City’s Historic Preservation Commission for the impressive and considerable amount of work they undertook, both repairing and restoring the exterior’s original character. To resolve the front porch’s buckling and slipping off of its footings they completely removed it and "jacked" up the front of the house a few inches. A new porch was built with beautifully stained fir wood on both the floor and the ceiling. Unfortunately in the process of removing the porch, the capitals of two columns were cut, but Boston Ornamental in Brighton was able to return them to their original look. An enclosed side porch and door leading from the living room were removed as they were not original to the house, but likely added in the 1960's to allow Mr. Newton's sickly wife to sit outside. The door was replaced by a window to match the one on the other side of the large stained glass window. Together they formed a bay window which allowed spectacular light to flood the interior of the house. The stained glass window is one of the largest I've seen in the many Somerville homes I've visited.
Removal of the side porch revealed a foundation built of attractive, irregularly-shaped pieces of slate. Next Neal and Robert hope to create a side garden there to complement the house. Once the exterior work was done, just before receiving their award, they chose a soft grayish purple paint color with ivory trim. They are very pleased with how the whole restoration project turned out and gave much of the credit to their Somerville contractor, John Rose. They are planning to do additional work once finances allow.