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My Boston Home: Roxbury Mini Mansard

Interview with Angela Ward Hyatt
Photos courtesy of Angela Ward Hyatt
Before and after photos below!

This is the first story of a new series called “My Boston Home.” Special thanks to Angela for sharing her home and stories with us!
 
1. Tell us about yourself!
 
I’m an architect, a weekend graveyard photographer, a tireless DIYer, and mom to two creative sons. I specialize in library design, although my first project out of grad school was the New England Aquarium’s west wing.
 
2. Your home is just down the hill from the famed Abbotsford Mansion. What do you know about the history of the area and how did you choose to live here?
 
I moved from Brookline Village three years ago and had made offers on three other properties before I found this one. I’m so glad I was outbid on those other houses, because this is truly my dream house. Cobden Street was developed right around the time that Roxbury became part of Boston in 1868. Based on historic maps, my house was probably built between 1884-1889. Roxbury is chock full of these mini-mansards, in fact, there are two more on my street!
 
3. Do you know much about the story of the home and its previous owners?
 
A property information sheet from Boston Landmarks Commission says that Solomon A. Bolster, a lawyer and judge in the Roxbury Municipal Court, owned the house between c. 1885-1905, most likely for one of his children. He lived in a larger house on the same street, but sadly it doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t know much about the previous owners, other than that they had been in the house since the mid-70s. Based on the snail mail I receive from time-to-time, I think they occasionally rented out several of the home’s four bedrooms.
 
4. How much work was needed on the home? How did you begin?
 
Miraculously, this house has its original wood clapboards, wood brackets and moldings, slate roof, double-hung windows, and even all the original matching hardware and crystal knobs on all the interior doors. The garage still has its original horizontal-parting carriage doors, although they aren’t currently operational.
 
At first, it didn’t seem like the house needed much work, but after only a short time it was clear there were many deferred maintenance items that needed to be addressed sooner rather than later. The first tasks included replacing the ancient oil-fired boiler, refinishing the maple floors, trimming the trees to reduce the chance of a branch falling on my 130-year old slate roof, and replacing all the cheap ceiling lights. Last year I hired a landscaper to rip out my old cracked paving and install a new, historically-accurate ribbon driveway. And, after realizing my dormer roofs were gradually disintegrating with each storm, I hired a roofing company to completely rebuild them. I also replaced the 6’ tall windows in my sun porch with new, historically accurate double-hungs from Pella. These were the only windows that were not original to the house. I had a window restorer replace the broken planes and sash cords in all the original windows, so they work like a charm now.
 
I absolutely love DIY projects. I do all my own interior painting, dabbled in plumbing and electrical work, installed a patio in my backyard all by myself, and added a 12’ industrial ladder so that I could get to the roof of my garage and use it as bonus outdoor space. This year’s projects will finally be about curb appeal: replacing my 1970’s front door and sidelights with new, historically accurate double doors and rebuilding my rotted front porch. I also added flower boxes at the front bay windows for a pop of color.
 
5. You live in an adorable Victorian-era mini-mansard, yet have a collection of mid-century furniture. How would you describe your architectural aesthetic?
 
I’m drawn to the ironic and unexpected, and prefer juxtaposition to consistency. I’ve always appreciated historic things more when they’re set against modern counterparts, and vice versa. Most of my furnishings are from thrift stores, Facebook marketplace, estate sales, and even curbside finds.
 
6. Is there a favorite detail about the home you’ve uncovered or created? 
 
I love the amount of light in the house. Although the house looks rather modest from the outside, it’s deceptively large inside. The ceilings are 10’ high! And because of the sloped mansard roof, every window upstairs has a window seat.
 
7. You’ve started to document the architectural treasures of Roxbury. How do we follow along and see your discoveries? 
 
I’m fascinated by the variety and scale of the houses in Roxbury. Every day I see a detail or feature that I’ve never seen anywhere else. I created the “roxburyroamer” Instagram account to elevate these beautiful homes and encourage people to explore parts of the city that they may have previously considered off-limits.

 

“Before” photos on left (top if on mobile)

“After” photos on right (bottom if on mobile)

IMG 1091  IMG 1466

IMG 1627  IMG 2544

IMG 0903  IMG 2139

IMG 1572  IMG 2551

IMG 1608  IMG 7212

IMG 1612  IMG 7831

Further Reading:
Learn more about Angela’s work here
Check out Angela’s Instagram related to Roxbury homes here
 

Wish to share your home’s story? Contact Matthew Dickey at mdickey@bostonpreservation.org
 

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for similar stories and updates on our advocacy projects in Boston.

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