Dorchester House Tour offers close-ups of Carruth Hill’s 19th-century showpieces

An elaborate stained glass window from a home featured in this year’s house tour. Lianne Ames photo

Ten stunning homes in the stately Ashmont/Carruth neighborhood will be featured in the 2017 edition of the Dorchester House Tour on Sun., June 11, as their owners welcome visitors into their 19th-century gems for glimpses of modern life in historic homes.

The self-guided tour will wind its way from the recently restored 1892 parish house of All Saints, Ashmont, to homes on Carruth, Ashmont, and Beaumont streets. These grand homes — dramatic, richly colored anchors in a neighborhood that prizes its past – have likely caught many a passerby’s eye over the years.

Many of the houses on the tour were built in the 1880s — “a period of eclectic experimentation and originality in architectural design” — and single buildings may include elements from Stick, Shingle, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival styles, according to the Dorchester Historical Society.

“We’re also lucky to have featured at least two of the most active architects working in Dorchester at the time,” said All Saints’ parishioner Jeffrey Gonyeau, who noted that Dorchester natives Edwin J. Lewis, Jr. and John A. Fox were the creative minds behind a number of houses that will be open a week from Sunday. Many of the homes were spliced into multi-family houses over the years and the current owners “have done really fine work in respecting the character of the houses,” said Vicki Rugo of the historical society.Lianne Ames photoLianne Ames photo

Ask any owner: The work on a historic home is never finished. Living in or renovating one takes maintenance, patience, and a frank assessment of what original elements should be highlighted, refurbished, or entirely updated with some modern flair.

“Homeowners will be on hand to talk about the ways they have preserved, restored, and transformed their 19th century houses for 21st century living,” said Earl Taylor, president of the historical society. “Their homes are very special to them, and this is a wonderful way to hear their stories first-hand.”

The Dorchester House Tour dates back to the 1970s. It was meant to draw attention to the many hidden treasures tucked away just off the beaten path. After a decade-long hiatus, the historical society revived the tour last year in the Ashmont Hill area. The 2017 expedition is just a jaunt across Dorchester Avenue at Peabody Square.

In a way, the tour serves as an introduction to classic Dorchester for people who ordinarily would never wander into the side streets of the city’s largest neighborhood. And for neighbors, it’s a chance to get finally get a peek inside that gorgeous Victorian next door.

Ashmont Hill house tours in the 1970s spun off into Melville Park in the 1980s, Rugo said. Some residents began the Codman Square House Tour in 1996, including houses in Melville Park, Shawmut, and Ashmont Hill, that functioned as a fundraiser for community health organizations based in Codman Square while raising awareness of the local homes.

For the next 10 years, the tour included between 8 and 16 houses, shuttling people via trolley from neighborhood to neighborhood. The last tour ended in 2006, until the historical society resuscitated it last year.

Lianne Ames photoLianne Ames photoProceeds from the tour go to the continued care, maintenance, and restorations of the historical society’s custodial properties, among them the William Clapp house and the neighboring Lemuel Clap house on Boston Street.

“The owners of these houses have undertaken a variety of changes to their properties, from artificial siding removal and window restoration, to top-to-bottom refurbishing of interior spaces, to the installation of new kitchens and baths,” according to the historical society. “At the same time, each house retains outstanding original features, from gracious staircases to stained glass windows to unique spaces, complemented by the distinctive taste and flair of the owners. They will all be a delight to explore.”

The tour begins at the Guild Hall of All Saints Church, with check-in starting at 11:30 a.m. Ticket holders can travel freely through the self-guided tour, which takes place from noon to 5 p.m. To buy tickets in advance for $30, visit dorchesterhistoricalsociety.org, or purchase them at the Guild Hall door for $35.

The Reporter is proud to be a media sponsor for the 2017 Dorchester House Tour. Delve into owner profiles for two very different 19th century homes, brush up on resources for prospective historic homeowners, and admire some of the fine craftsmanship that distinguishes these stately residences in a special house tour section in the Dorchester Day edition of the Dorchester Reporter.

Further 2017 House Tour Coverage: