The Treasure of Avon Hill

A remarkably well-preserved Victorian masterpiece goes on the market for the first time in almost a century.

her grandparents during the night. Worden also remembers a special piece of red glass in the stained-glass window along the grand staircase. Considered good luck, it was out of children’s reach, but when she was carried upstairs to bed, Worden would stretch out her small hand to brush the talisman. Margo Rogers, another grandchild, recalls going to her grandparents’ home for Sunday dinner, and how her grandfather would ring a chime in the dining room to call the family to the table.

Dorothy knew her house was special – an architectural diamond worthy of great respect. She fretted over the smallest changes: She was loath to install a dishwasher, for example, for fear of disturbing the kitchen’s custom cabinetry or the butler’s pantry.

When Dorothy and William passed away, their daughter Patricia became the de facto caretaker of the house. A shy woman, she never married and seldom interacted with her neighbors. On Halloween, her doorbell went unanswered; on a recent tour of the house, a neighbor was overheard saying it was the first time she’d set foot inside the house in the 30 years she’d lived nearby. But Patsy’s door was always open to family, and she embraced her brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews.

Over the decades, the building shielded the timid woman from the outside world. In turn, she protected the home from the ravages of time. By keeping the curtains closed, she inadvertently protected the home’s delicate wood and 19th-century finishes from the darkening caused by sunlight. To this day, everything remains bright and colorful; the original hand-rubbed wax finish on the cherry pocket doors looks brandnew. Hand-stenciled wall paintings that should have faded into memory are still vibrant.

Now that Ms. Field has passed, Realtors and potential buyers are peeking into a rarified world seen by few beyond the Field family. To cross the threshold of her home at 37 Lancaster Street is to step into another era; one can imagine the din of servants polishing silver and boiling the laundry, or the groomsman prepping the coach. Every surface you see was designed by architects, executed by craftsmen, and safeguarded by the owners. One could marvel at the detailing for days.

Of course, the always-competitive Cambridge housing market and a prime location make it entirely possible for this living legacy to fall victim to a flip makeover. Let’s hope the Yerxa-Field house, as it is known today, lives on with another family that prefers fine architecture to diamond rings.

Architecture and Interiors
Hartwell and Richardson
Contractor Parkage and Littlefield, Boston