Sold in Belmont: An English Cottage With Chinese Accents

A weekly recap of residential properties bought in the past seven days in the “Town of Homes.”

 16 Payson Terrace. English Cottage (1930) Sold: $822,092. Listed at $850,000. Living area: 2,324 sq.-ft. 10 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. On the market: 67 days.

 19 Lawndale St. #9, Newish design townhouse (2011), Sold for: $865,000. Listed at $879,000. Living area: 2,784 sq.-ft. 9 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. On the market: 78 days.

 76 Davis Rd. #1. Ground-floor condominium (1925), Sold for: $362,000. Listed at $389,900. Living area: 1,056 sq.-ft. 5 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1 baths. On the market: 161 days.

When walking around the Cambridge Reservoir, a favorite detour is to take a walk along one-way Payson Terrace to see a remarkable house. The color alone – a burnt orange that radiates the evening sun – pops out amidst the brown sea of the surrounding brick and boxy Colonials.

The house at 16 Payson Terrace – owned by the same family since 1958 – is as much a residential outlier as the two-family mini-McMansions that have arisen in the Waverley neighborhood. Only this doesn’t crowd out and dominates the surrounding homes; it’s a dash of the exotic in a cool New England town.

The house’s striking hue is just the beginning of what makes this a one-of-a-king residency: the owners inserted whimsical Asian-inspired highlights to the property – a fence with the pickets made with Chinese-symbols, small male and female bronze figurines on the entry post tops and bold Chinese characters and flying, fighting dragons over the main entrance (with a bright red door) and along the eaves.

It doesn’t appear that the family had a direct connection to Asia – it ran Harvard Square’s Colonial Drug on Brattle Street for seven decades before closing in 2013 – so it might just be the joy of having your home be a small part of a far-away land. (I don’t know if a person from China would find this to be a nice gesture to the heritage of their country or oddly inappropriate.)

But it is the exterior that holds your interest: exactly what is it? The salesperson and the town say Colonial, but it is anything like the popular design seen all around town. Rather, it’s a contemporary of when the Colonial had its heyday from the 1910s to 1940s. While you can see many examples of its architectural cousin, the English Tudor, which gained favor in the 1930s, the house at 16 Payson Terrace is an English Cottage design, somewhat rare in Belmont. It has the characteristic distinct and beautiful asymmetrical pairing gables with a free-standing arch and flat-to-the-wall windows. But many “cottages” where built with stone or stucco exteriors; this is a wood frame. Quite distinctive.

The final sales price was lower than the town’s assessment by nearly $100,000 which is explained by a look at the interior: it doesn’t appear to have been touched for decades with the wear and tear of generations living inside. And what crazy wallpaper! I suspect an interior work crew will need about two weeks just to sand, remove, repair and paint the place before the owner would want to step into the house.

While the inside needs a great deal of TLC, a vivid part of Belmont would be lost if the new owners decide to replace the existing exterior color and remove the Asian characters to the all-to-typical “Belmont white.” I ask you: do you want to be just another pearl on a string or the ruby you will always admire?

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