It’s become the norm around Wellesley that houses in the $600k – $1.2 million range will be bought up by a developer who will then read the building its last rites and send in the executioner, er, bulldozer who will then plow it into House Kingdom Come, if there even is such a place. It’s an interesting philosophical question, actually. Do all torn-down houses go to heaven? After all the work they do sheltering us, welcoming us, and providing us with a sense of place, they should.
We’ve had our fun tracking the trend in our Wellesley Teardowns, Before and After posts, all the while acknowledging the fact that these things happen in deep-pockets communities such as Wellesley where there’s virtually no buildable land in town, but a great desire to buy in, damn the expense.
You know where this is going. There is a house in town. It is old. There was an ill-advised addition tacked onto it at some point. It has stood empty since 2012. A licensed contractor just bought it from Bank of America for $677,000 in an online bid process. But this isn’t just any old contractor. This is Wellesley resident Jim Mealey, a married father of two kids in the school system. He has already purchased and preserved a few houses in Wellesley (70 Washington St., 12 Abbott St., and 12 Roanoke Rd., to name a few), all of which he rehabbed maintaining the original houses’ character. And by gum, he’s going to rehab that yellow 3-story, 6 bedroom, 4 bath Victorian on 309 Walnut St.
He plans to restore 309 Walnut by allowing its refined Victorian sensibilities to shine again – on the outside this means fixing windows (good-bye casements!), restoring the stonework, repairing the roof, and painting. On the inside it will mean keeping original woodwork, restoring the original floor plan where possible, and updating the baths and kitchen with classic fixtures in mind. Built in 1900, it predates the abutting former Warren School, which is currently used as the Wellesley Recreation Department. The plan is for the restored and revitalized house to be on the market in 2016.
He’s not a purist, though. In the interest of full disclosure, Mealey does plan to tear down a house next year in town to make way for new construction. That house, located at 16 College Rd., is a 1946 Colonial that sustained damage last winter and is unfortunately not worth saving for a host of reasons. However, Mealey is sensitive to building a house of the scale and type that suits the lot and the area and therefore, the new home planned is an Arts & Crafts style, not the typical New Colonial that is sprouting its multiple triangle roof-lines all over town, because that Colonial style house would not fit the neighborhood.
Mealey has had a great time getting right down to it at 309 Walnut St. He’s already ripped out all the overgrown bushes and fielded questions and comments from neighbors and passersby. “Tear it down!” shouted out a passing driver/heckler. Why, he wonders, when he can put in $250K – $300k and sell it for what the market will bear in 2016.
As for us, we still have our recurring nightmare that our cottage is the last one standing in Wellesley. In our dream, it gets torn down as we sleep. A mob of developers, realtors, and neighbors pick it apart by hand, piece by piece, carry us out, and force us to rebuild and install coffered ceilings, whirlpool baths, and a wine cellar. It’s just a dream…it’s just a dream…
Wendy Beck says
What a breath of fresh air! Wonderful to know there’s a contractor who values the character, beauty, and uniqueness of older homes and who will take the time to bring them gracefully into the 21st century while turning a profit.
Joyce Simon says
I agree with Wendy Beck about Jim Mealey. How lucky the town is to have a contractor like him who considers the local setting as he renovates older houses. My nightmare is akin to yours, except I will refuse to rebuild my snug, humble home, leaving it up to the next owner to do so.
I am so sick of seeing all these old homes being torn down. I have lived in Wellesley my whole life, as well as my mother, whose Great Grandparents immigrated here from Italy in the very early 1900s. My mom’s family all lived in the same neighborhood where my parents continue to live, and in the same house my grandfather built for his family. It is really sad to see our “little Italy” of small middle class homes be torn down for McMansions, which have no character, charm or design aesthetic, to go in their place. It’s a sad state this town has come to where it’s original working class residents can’t even afford to stay here, which sadly will soon be the case for my parents as the property taxes skyrocket and cost as much as middle income mortgages.
Lucy Baker says
So glad they are saving it! We lived and grew up in a Wellesley Antique home! My mother insisted she would not sell to a “teardown” buyer! And she kept her word! So glad some are being saved! There we some many when I was a kid, it’s a shame to loose so much history!