First-Time Homeowner Undertakes Extensive Renovation of Historic Irving Street Townhouse

A first-time homeowner, Nate Walton knew he had signed on for an arduous undertaking when he purchased the historic single-family townhouse at 42 Irving St. nearly seven years ago with plans to renovate it, but he was forced to fast-track the project after the house withstood a double-flooding in August of 2019.

Nate and his now wife, Kendra, purchased the 2,004 square-foot, four-bedroom townhouse, built in 1860, in October of 2015 for $1.715 million.

The couple lived in there from then until March 4 of 2021,, and in that time, they shared some of their most cherished memories together: Nate had proposed to Kendra in the first-floor doorway, and Kendra dressed in the house before she and Nate were wed on Sept. 24, 2016, at Arlington Street Church.

But only days after Kendra gave birth to their first child and returned home from the hospital in August of 2019, their home was inundated by “flooding at both ends,” said Nate, caused by a major flood in the basement, in addition to a leaking roof.

The basement had to be fully gutted to the ground level, and the foundation was underpinned on three sides, allowing for an additional 12 inches of ceiling height. A new concrete floor was installed along with a high-grade sump pump and extensive drainage system to help prevent any future flooding.

They have also opened up and excavated a sealed fireplace in the basement, along with opening up the sealed fireplaces on the second and third floors. The chimney flue was thoroughly  overhauled, and gas-fired fireplaces were installed on all three levels.

The reimagined basement has a street-level entryway, a living room, a kitchenette, a laundry room, and a full bathroom. (The home’s three full bathrooms and two half-baths all now have heated floor tile, as well as new marble countertops and custom cabinetry.)

Just off the basement, the previously unusable rear yard was excavated 5 feet lower, and a brick wall was built on three sides to create a walk-out garden nook.

Renovating the basement after the leak turned out to be such an extensive undertaking that Nate and Kendra decided to overhaul the entire house, using the basement as a staging ground.

For the project, Nate personally assembled a team, which included Timothy Burke Architecture; contractor BA Cleary & Sons; interior decorator Edesia Studios; and CC Masonry.

This team-building process wasn’t a first for Nate, however, since as business consultant, he has worked with early-stage tech companies to help them build their nascent teams.

“I really enjoy bringing a lot of team members together,” said Nate, who single out John Cleary of BA Cleary & Sons for particular praise: “If you’re going to renovate a single-family home on Beacon Hill, or any home on Beacon Hill, use John.”

Cleary, who, like his father before him, has worked on many similar home renovation projects on the Hill over the years, said, “We did a lot of work on this house, but it came together nicely. It was a very extensive project, but Nate has been very good to work with.”

Besides working closely with his project team, Nate has also been in constant communication with neighbors, since he began the renovation project in earnest more than two years ago.

Since January of 2020, abutter outreach has included 213 emails, 20 calls, 11 letters, and 20 meetings – feedback from which eventually resulted in 14 design changes. In the end, 35 community members signed letters of support for the project.

Nate brought his proposal to the Beacon Hill Civic Association Zoning and Licensing Committee three times – on Aug. 5 and Dec. 2, 2020, Feb. 3 of last year, respectively – before garnering a vote of non-opposition.

`“Each step of the process involved extensive consultation with neighbors because as you can expect, neighbors have strong opinions,” said Nate.

He also made his case during an abutters meeting sponsored by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal on Aug. 26, 2020, and again at a ZBA meeting on April 6 of last year, when the application was approved. The Beacon Hill Architectural Commission subsequently green-lit the project on May 20, 2021.

“The biggest part of the project was the roofdeck,” said Nate, describing it as the townhouse’s “crown jewel.”

When Nate and Kendra were renting at 22 Irving St. prior to moving to  42 Irving, the rooftop was one of the biggest attractions, he said, so they when they bought a home, having a roofdeck was a top priority.

“Living in this neighborhood, it makes such a  difference to have outdoor space,” said Nate.

The new, 10-by-12-foot roofdeck offers expansive views of the city’s skyline. As one concession to neighbors, it was pulled back between two and three feet from the edge of the building.

Previously, a  hatch and ladder was used to access the roof from the front-facing fourth-floor bedroom, said Nate, while “a lot of old, rusting AC equipment” cluttered the roof. (Both the front and rear roof surfaces have since been removed and replaced.)

Due to negotiations with neighbors, and because of the limited amount of space,  Nate also had to find a unique solution for providing access to the roof from the  fourth floor.

After an extensive search, Nate settled on a motorized Skybox hatch, which had to be ordered from Glazing Vision, a company based in the United Kingdom. It then took nine months for the hatch to be custom built and shipped to the U.S. before it was grounded for a couple of more months sitting on a container ship off the coast of Los Angeles

The hatch finally arrived on Irving Street via crane in December  – a moment that Nate describes as a “key turning point” for the project. “Now, we had access to the roof and could finish the work there,” he said.

Prior to this, Nate has faced myriad unforeseen setbacks when the pandemic temporarily drove construction on the project to a halt and then once it resumed, he was faced with inevitable supply-chain issues.

“Certain parts and appliances weren’t available, which delayed the project by months,” said Nate.

Among other highlights of the reimagined townhouse are the second-floor kitchen, which has an open layout with new marble countertops, custom cabinets, handsome lighting, and commercial-grade Sub Zero, Wolf, and Miele appliances.

The spacious dining room, which, like the kitchen, boasts 10-foot ceilings, has built-in bookshelves surrounding one of the gas fireplaces.

The celling height was raised around 18 inches here, and to achieve this, plumbing features in the ceiling had to be moved, which required a substantial amount of work.

“When we pealed the onion, a lot of structural issues needed to be addressed,” said Nate.

In the walls, much of the masonry had lost its mortar and deteriorated because of water seeping in through the faulty roof. All of the brick walls on this level also had to be repointed.

“It’s something no one will ever see, but it’s really important to underscore the integrity of the house,” said Nate.

On the third floor, the roomy master bedroom is also equipped with one of the home’s gas fireplaces and has two closets, including a walk-in just off the bedroom. The redesigned master bathroom has new marble countertops and floor/wall tile, a custom double vanity, as well as new lighting/plumbing fixtures.

The fourth-floor’s two bedrooms were also renovated down to the studs, and on the fourth floor, structural changes were made to raise the sloped ceilings between 6 and 8 inches.

Throughout the home, new air conditioning, heating, water, and electrical systems have been installed, while the water and power connections from the street were also replaced.

“Because of the scope of the work in  the house, we wanted the front to reflect that work,” said Nate. “I think it really pops now, which is nice.”

The house’s 17 historic windows were switched out for custom-made replacements crafted by Sean Cryts of Historic Window & Door Corporation, while the new Beacon Hill-style shutters were handmade by installed by Beech River Mill, a millwork shop based in Ossipee, N.H.

The front dormer has been largely rebuilt, with its roof surface replaced and historic slate shingles installed on the sides, replacing the old tar shingles. The front and rear facades have also been cut and pointed from top to bottom by an expert mason, along with all the roof brickwork.

Once renovations wrap up, Nate plans to put the fully renovated, turnkey townhouse on the market in May.

“Renovating this house has really been a labor of love,” he said. “Regardless of what are plans are [for selling it], we wanted to do it right.”

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