Sold in Belmont: Historic Walter Pierce Modern Abode Tops $1.2 Million

Photo: Walter Pierce-designed house on upper Concord Avenue.

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

39 Payson Rd. #2, Condominium (1923). Sold: $525,000. Listed at $ 459,900. Living area: 1,288 sq.-ft. 6 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1.5 bath. On the market: 50 day.

18 Brookside Ave. Colonial (1935). Sold: $865,000. Listed at $749,000. Living area: 2,000 sq.-ft. 7 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths. On the market: 77 days.

661 Concord Ave., Walter Pierce-designed modern (1961). Sold: $1,250,000. Listed at $1,195,000. Living area: 2,660 sq.-ft. 9 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bath. On the market: 78 day.

117 Beech St., Multi-family (1915). Sold: $640,000. Listed at $619,900. Living area: 3,825 sq.-ft. 11 rooms, 5 bedrooms, 2 baths. On the market: 28 days.

25 Elm St., Colonial (1923). Sold: $820,000. Listed at $ 799,000. Living area: 1,930 sq.-ft. 7 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bath. On the market: 77 day.

6 Prentiss Ln. Colonial (1932). Sold: $1,170,000. Listed at $1,295,000. Living area: 3,093 sq.-ft. 11 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. On the market: 120 days.

37 South Cottage Rd, #93, Townhouse condominium (2011). Sold: $1,325,000. Listed at $1,395,000. Living area: 2,994 sq.-ft. 7 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bath. On the market: 154 day.

12 Franklin St., Colonial (1924). Sold: $815,000. Listed at $849,000. Living area: 1,648 sq.-ft. 8 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths. On the market: 73 days.

10-12 Upland Rd. #10, Condominium (1925). Sold: $444,000. Listed at $439,900. Living area: 944 sq.-ft. 6 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath. On the market: 71 day.

14 Dundonald Rd. Ranch (1951). Sold: $1,180,000. Listed at $1,095,000. Living area: 2,374 sq.-ft. 7 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths. On the market: 70 days.

32 Foster Rd. #2, Condominium (1927). Sold: $457,500. Listed at $ 469,900. Living area: 1,268 sq.-ft. 6 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath. On the market: 70 day.

54-56 Sycamore St., Two-family (1925). Sold: $752,000. Listed at $729,000. Living area: 2,600 sq.-ft. 12 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 2 baths. On the market: 135 days.

Changes to the original design have taken place – the kitchen was enlarged in 1998 and the windows replaced in 2000 – and the house is not the “spare but stylish split-level” he is famous for (located in Peacock Farms in Lexington), but the sublime modernist residence at 661 Concord Ave. designed by Walter Pierce is a house of historic architectural merit.

While some may lump Pierce with another young post-war architect Carl Koch – the architect/builder of Belmont’s Snake Hill Road development (do yourself a favor and take a walk up Snake Hill Road off Pleasant Street to view this impressive experiment in suburban housing) – they were from two distinct school’s; Pierce is from MIT’s “American” version of modern architecture with its Scandinavian influences of emphasizing the space in and outside the building.

You can see (actually it’s hard to see from the road with non-native evergreens and an ugly fence out front) Pierce’s deft touch – a great profile of the Lexington resident is in his obituary – in the upper Concord Avenue house near Day School Lane.

The house is, in fact, a triple, split level (which in less-trained builder’s hands became a tired stereotype by the late 60s, the home of Mike and Carol Brady’s bunch) with a towering facade that slopes towards the back yard. Designing with the land in mind, the building has a narrow front (going from 17 feet at the entry to 28 feet in the back) with a substantial length, about 50 feet. Open the front door and up you go to the bedrooms; down to the family room, kitchen and dining room, the “basement” level is the open family space that leads to the patio and impressive backyard that is next to Habitat land.

While the interior space might be a distraction to modern homebuyers who want space over function – the dining room is a tight spot, and the kitchen is functional, not grandiose – the house works due to Pierce’s use space; it’s just so open and airy (can you say Sweden?) without interior walls. It’s impressive to have all that weight carried by the walls yet have nice sized windows to add natural light and a view of the landscaped yard. Modern touches include lack of detail – I love the mid-level fireplace – and stuff. What? No center island in the kitchen with indoor grill and install wok? It’s not a masterpiece or a trendsetter, but a solid design that any architect would love to have in their portfolio.

Surprisingly, the Pierce house – so thoughtfully created by a master architect – sits next to one of the worst-designed homes in town, both built within a year of each other. Go figure.

Besides having one of the best names in Belmont – a wee bit of the Highlands in dear ol‘ New England – and being a rare dead-end in town, Dundonald Road is one street on “the Hill” that has kept its modest homes intact. But that might be coming to an end; do you really spend $1 million plus for a 60 year old ranch without envisioning a demolition permit in your hand? 

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