One of Savin Hill's iconic homes gets a facelift

By 
Paige Pihl Buckley, Special to the Reporter
Dec. 6, 2013

Historic home preserved: Gingerbread details are the among the punch-list of  restoration work done at this gothic Savin Hill Avenue home. Image courtesy Classical DetailsHistoric home preserved: Gingerbread details are the among the punch-list of restoration work done at this gothic Savin Hill Avenue home. Image courtesy Classical DetailsThe former home of Dorchester Day’s founding father, James H. Stark, has received a carefully-executed facelift.

Originally built in the mid-1870s by his father John Stark for James and his brother Frederick, the gothic duplex has been owned by only a handful of families over the years. Though not classified as a historic landmark by the Massachusetts Historical Committee, Savin Hill has been designated as a Boston Landmarks district, and the Stark home is undoubtedly an icon.

For the last three decades 252-254 Savin Hill Avenue has been owned by the Carney family who have spent the time and funds necessary to restore the historic home to its original splendor. Throughout their thirty-year stewardship, they have restored the home’s decorative hardwood floors and its historic fireplace, among other projects.

“While understanding the costs, we’ve still maintained the history,” said Marta Carney, current resident of the iconic, double mansion.

Contractor Steve DeMeo of Classical Details has been responsible for the most recent restoration of the Gothic Revival home, which included painstaking work to replace the roof’s gingerbread details.
“We did everything exactly as before,” DeMeo said.

He and his team replaced the home’s virgin barge boards, restored the bell flowers underneath, connected the gutter to the crown molding, rebuilt the skylight, and restored the home’s gingerbread detailing. In addition, he did a lot of copper roof work, millwork, and dealt with lots of slate and copper – difficult materials for contractors to work with.

“He was an outstanding contractor,” said Carney. She plans to use DeMeo and Classical Details for further restoration work in the spring.

In restoring the home while maintaining its original detailing, Carney and Classical Details are paying homage to Savin Hill’s rich history. The neighborhood was a 19th century vacation spot for city dwellers and morphed into a stable, middle class community.

According to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, long-term ownership of single-family homes is not uncommon in Savin Hill and the neighborhood avoided the subdivision of larger homes that occurred throughout other parts of Dorchester during the Great Depression.

Though examples of restored homes can be found all along Savin Hill Avenue and Grampian Way, the Stark double mansion is an beautiful piece of Savin Hill’s rich history, and thanks to the efforts of the Carney family its history will be maintained for several years to come.