Either-Or: Former Firehouse Digs in Southie vs. a Colorful Colonial in Providence

A historic condo in the heart of South Boston or a College Hill home decked out with hand-painted murals?

Welcome to Either-Or, where we compare two listings with the same price—one in Boston and one outside. Build your own conclusions.

Photo by MJ Graves Photography | Photo by Chris Whirlow

To remind you that real estate price tags around Boston are a special breed, we’ve been presenting two homes listed at the same price from time to time. This round, it’s a showdown between a condo in a converted firehouse in Southie and an antique single-family in Providence, where the decision could come down to whether you prefer to own a piece of 19th or 18th century history. Both of these unique homes are asking for $649,000.

119 Dorchester St. #7, Boston
Price: $649,000
Size: 783 square feet
Bedrooms: 2
Baths: 1.5
15 Arnold St., Providence, RI
Price: $649,000
Size: 3,247 square feet
Bedrooms: 4
Baths: 3

If you missed out on the last firehouse renovation, here’s your chance at redemption. The distinct brick building has been planted at the corner of Dorchester and West Fourth streets since it was constructed in 1868, serving as a fire station until 1977, until it was eventually flipped into condos in the early ’90s. This year, renovations brought energy-efficient windows as well as a new roof and HVAC system to the building. Inside this third-floor unit, nearly 750 square feet wrap around four rooms. The one-wall kitchen and large living room—roomy enough for a sectional and plenty of friends—are painted in soothing earth tones, while the full bath and master bedroom are amped up with energetic shades of orange and green. And while carpeting warms up the bedrooms, glossy oak hardwood furnishes the living area.

As any effective fire station should be, this one is centrally located: The Red Line at Andrew is under a mile away, and more importantly, a coffee shop (PS Gourmet) and a neighborhood bar (The Junction) are right across the street, waiting to fuel your mornings and nights with breakfast sandwiches, live music, and brews of all kinds.

Out of this city and across the eastern state border into another, this Providence house presents a different opportunity to call a historical property home. But this one, with twice the number of bedrooms and four times the square footage, brandishes substantially more space. Approaching the cobbled driveway of the address, it’s not hard to tell that this College Hill Colonial has been around for a bit—but a small sign at the right edge of the red facade makes its age clear: “Nathan Seamans House, Built c. 1792.” Photos and descriptions of the residence as it once was are catalogued in the Providence Preservation Society and the Library of Congress. But to see how it has aged some 227 years later, all you have to do is enter through the blue front door.

Time, as it turns out, hasn’t faded the home at all but helped it burst into color. From a cyan living room with kelly green trim, to a kitchen with crimson cabinets against white walls, the bright hues look playful against the original fireplaces and wide plank hardwood floors. But the home’s most original feature is a mural that transforms the walls and ceiling of the dining room into a visual history of Providence. One scene memorializes a local legend: “Nathan Seamans was known to be a distiller,” says listing agent Kira Greene, “and the story goes that George Washington himself may have had some of his whiskey.” Look closely, and you’ll see the nation’s first president getting his shot glass filled in front of this very house.

With the choice of a firehouse-turned-cozy condo in the heart of South Boston for $829 per square foot, or a College Hill home full of stories for $200 per square foot, you just have to decide: What’s more worth it to you?

For information, contact:
(South Boston) Deanna Czabaj, High End Homes Realty Group LLC, highendhomesllc.com.
(Providence) Kira Greene, Greene/Sweeney Team, Residential Properties, 15arnold.com.