House Crush: Queen Anne Victorian of Swampscott, MA
by Leona Jaeger
Have you ever wanted to “have your cake and eat it, too”? Sure you have—and this time it’s do-able! Read about this gorgeous Queen Anne home and indulge yourself! The fact that it’s beachside is icing on the cake — and it’s for sale on CIRCA!
Built in 1883 in the sweet beachfront town of Swampscott, Massachusettes, this gorgeous home is perched along the waterfront and provides beautiful panoramic ocean views. I can just imagine sitting on the massive wraparound porch, a nice ocean breeze dancing around my head, and being mesmerized by the lull or quiet “shushing” of the waves. Ahhhh, Mother Nature’s lullaby…yoga for your brain.
Settled in 1629, Swampscott was originally a part of the larger Saugus land grant and in 1852 became incorporated. For well over a hundred years the town was known primarily as a fishing community, but by the mid-1800s, it also received recognition for its lovely beach and began to attract numerous summer travelers, some of whom built residences. Several sizable hotels were built (unfortunately those are no longer standing today), and Swampscott became a resort area as well.
In 1883 John Chapman, a master builder and contractor built a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian, complete with bay windows, wraparound porch, and a 3-level turret. Many of the details throughout the home reveal Eastlake influences. Charles Eastlake was an English architect and designer who was well-known for detailed designs and is credited for setting high standards for quality craftsmanship and “proper” aesthetic. The tiled floor in the vestibule of the home is nearly an exact design that Eastlake is known to prescribe. (To learn more about the Queen Anne style have a look at this article by Hänsel Hernández-Navarro, here on CIRCA.)
The real trick is getting to the vestibule—you may find yourself anchored to the front porch just gawking at the gorgeously carved front doors. But, the allure of seeing what beauty lies beyond the vestibule will eventually pry your feet and eyes from the entry and you will be transported and treated to glorious details and a beauty and warmth that is sure to delight. Then you may be delayed again when you notice the amazing parquet and inlaid wood flooring.
One of the delightful details I love about Queen Anne homes is the carving of the woodwork in the staircase—clearly this beauty does not disappoint! A generous coat rack, built-in storage bench, and lovely raised paneling with floral medallion carvings welcome you as you set down your belongings. The stairs invite you to alight and meander through this beautiful and historic gem.
The master bedroom upstairs has its own fireplace (cherry mantle inlaid with with English Minton Shakespearen tiles), a sitting room area, and a bay window with views to the horizon.
Off the central hall, high ceilings with grand archways beckon you from room to room and through pocket doors—but make sure you pause long enough to admire the detailed moldings and the spectacular German crystal chandeliers. Originally gas but converted to electric, they are exquisite. The living room and front parlor have woodwork that has been ebonized. (Ebo-what? Ebonized.) Quite the fashion in those days, ebonized wood is wood that has been treated with iron oxide that reacts with the natural tannins in the wood. It is infused into the fibers of the wood in a way that creates a durable, usually fade-resistant black stain. The result is distinctive and dramatic flair!
Each fireplace is a work of art. Lovingly maintained throughout the years the woodwork is carved with accents and topped with delicate finials featured like cherries on top of a decadent dessert. And speaking of cherries and desserts, you’ll definitely feast your eyes on the dining room and all its beauty.
This exquisite room contains several features I love: cherry woodwork throughout–from chair rails to door moldings, to the floor-to-ceiling mantle inlaid with lovely blue tiles. One of the numerous stunning features of this room is the wide-radial molding that encircles the room. No longer able to be produced (apparently the machine that fashions that wide cut is no longer manufactured) makes this feature irreplaceable. The room is tastefully done and makes a wonderful setting for entertaining of all kinds. The nearby butler’s pantry is cherry wood with open shelves, glass cupboards, and drawers for all your entertaining accoutrements.
The kitchen has been modernized, but I was delighted to hear that it still houses a coal-burning stove. This type of stove would have been for baking and cooking (of course), but also for heating water and the kitchen itself.
In recent years the third floor turret has been altered to make a larger contemporary space, still including the phenomenal view. Sometime between WWI and WWII part of the third floor was converted into a 4-room apartment, complete with a separate entrance. The apartment’s utilities are separate from the main house, so the home has many possibilities, including extra income as a B&B or an apartment.
This home is quite a jewel! Only the third time on the market in 131 years makes this quite an opportunity. (Hear it knocking on those carved doors?) A luscious historical and architectural gem and a breathtaking view (and steps from the ocean)—see you can have your cake and eat it too!
AUTHOR LEONA JAEGER
From the sturdy practicality of a colonial saltbox, to the lavish details of a High Victorian, Leona believes that each old home holds a beauty, solid craftsmanship, and history that is a mystery and wonder to be explored and appreciated. Leona’s dream is to find a huge farmhouse with high ceilings, wide-planked floors (complete with hidden artifacts under a loose plank), a wraparound porch, and enough acreage to house a horse or two, some dogs, cats, goats, and a ring-tailed lemur. In her spare time she can be found with her face pressed and distorted against the car window, ogling the fantastic old homes in the surrounding areas of Pasadena, California where she lives with her loving husband (who patiently peels her face off the windows and tells her to breathe) and her vivacious 9-year-old daughter.