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Charlie Allen Renovations, Inc. | 91 River Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
617.661.7411 | info@charlie-allen.com | www.charlie-allen.com



Project SpotlightThere’s both thrill and privilege in preserving the loving craftsmanship of long-stilled hands, peeling back layers in buildings that have endured centuries. Recently we had the chance to work on a building with an especially stirring history.

Christ Church Cambridge in Harvard Square, an American treasure that was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960, was designed by revered eighteenth-century architect Peter Harrison, who also designed King’s Chapel in Boston.  It was built in 1761. 

In 1775, George and Martha Washington attended New Year’s Eve services at the church, but three years later, it was vandalized by townspeople angered that the funeral of a British prisoner of war had been held there.  The church reopened twelve years later, and over the following centuries, hosted everyone from Sunday School teacher Teddy Roosevelt (years before he assumed the presidency) to Reverend Martin Luther King, who held a press conference there denouncing the Vietnam War in 1967.

This handsome colonial structure had become weathered over the years, and the congregation requested a meticulous historical restoration of its exterior. Budget and time constraints determined that the front (or north side, including the iconic tower) and west sides were to be restored for the 250th anniversary on October 15. 

Primary on our to-do list was to restore the church’s deteriorating siding. After years of getting by with a haphazard scrape and paint approach, a more concerted effort was required.

Some of the original siding had shrunk and then expanded again over the years, leaving gaps, and other sections were discovered to have been installed upside-down. For quite some time the west side was a giant puzzle piece while we removed some of the original boards and stripped, painted, and reattached them, this time correctly-spaced (and right-side up!). The tower was re-sided using old growth western red cedar wide boards replicating the original installation. And because of its age, strict lead paint removal processes were utilized.  

The project wrapped up and scaffolding that had shielded the building all summer came down in early October.  Today, Christ Church faces its next 250 years with a restored facade.  Come by and take a look!



Events CalendarDECEMBER OBSERVATORY NIGHT: Thursday, December 15, 2011, doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge. “Observatory Night” features a lecture and telescopic observing from the observatory roof (weather permitting.) Seating is limited and available on a first-come basis. Parking is free, and spots marked for observatory staff are open to the public on event nights. Free. Call 617/495-7000 for more information.

Mount Auburn Cemetery, Story Chapel, Cambridge, MA
Meg Winslow, Mount Auburn Cemetery’s Curator of Historical Collections, shares horticultural records including planting plans, historic photographs, and other records that document the Cemetery’s changing landscape and horticultural diversity.

WINTER SOLSTICE NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: Wednesday, December 21, 2011,
5 – 8 p.m.

Harvard Museum of Natural History, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge
Reindeer fans, celebrate the winter solstice and explore the symbolic power and cultural history of antlers. The Christmas Revels and The Pinewood Morris Men will perform the traditional Abbots Bromley Horn Dance in the Headgear: The Natural History of Horns and Antlers Gallery. Call 617/495-3045.



Project Development Manager Mark Philben was interviewed in the Boston Globe on Sunday, August 21. Mark discussed the importance of thoroughly mapping out your home renovation project before hammer hits nail (view article)

As work got underway at Christ Church, the Cambridge Chronicle came by to report on our efforts.

Later, as the project concluded, the Associated Press offered a wonderful article about the history of the church and the work we did to restore it. Their article ran locally on Boston.com, in the Boston Herald, and the Worcester Telegram-Gazette, and nationally, in newspapers and websites all over the country.



It was an honor to be named Boston’s Best Renovation Contractor by Boston Home magazine in 2010. And we’re often asked to contribute to lists like these. So who do we think is best? Here are the suppliers and subcontractors that we never hesitate to recommend

Mark Philben1. Plumbing: For all of your bath needs, consider Splash, with a showroom at 244 Needham Street in Newton. http://www.SplashSpritzo.com.

2. Lighting: We like Wolfers: The Lighting Experts, at 103 N. Beacon Street in Allston. http://www.wolfers.com.

3. Appliances: Yale offers everything from refrigerators and ovens to washers and dryers, at 296 Freeport Street, Boston. http://www.yaleappliance.com

4. Tile: Roma Tile Co, Inc. For all your kitchen and bath tile needs, Roma is at 400 Arsenal Street in Watertown. http://www.romatile.com

5. Architectural Salvage: Require a period mantel, door, or banister? Restoration Resources can help. They’re based on Thayer Street in Boston. http://www.restorationresources.com

6. Floor Finishing and Installation: Goddard Floors offer excellent floor finishing & installation services. http://www.goddardfloors.com

7. Shower Doors, Mirrors, and More: Prestige Custom Mirror & Glass. http://prestigecmg.com

8. Painting: Masterwork Painting & Restoration, Inc. A great understanding of historical painting styles and colors. www.masterworkpainting.com

9. Wood: Longleaf Lumber – For salvaged/antique wood floors as well as other specialty woods. http://www.longleaflumber.com

10. Mason work: New England Stone Masonry – High-quality landscape and exterior stonework, driveways and more. http://www.newenglandstonemasonry.com/324522.html

11. Pipe and Duct Work: M & R Plumbing & Heating – Located in Wakefield. www.mandrplumbinginc.com

12. Bath and Kitchen: The team at Metropolitan Cabinets and Countertops work directly with the trades, but you can always visit their showrooms in Natick, Norwood, or Watertown with your contractor and make all of your cabinet, countertop, hardware, and tile selections, and they’ll build your bath or kitchen to your specifications. www.metcabinet.com



New England IconsNew England Icons, by Cambridge resident Bruce Irving, is a compilation of 23 short essays that first appeared in Design New England magazine. Eminently readable, the book will whisk you through Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, visiting natural and manmade icons of the region including armories, rock walls, church steeples, skating ponds, roof walks, and more. As is often the case with old house restoration, the book underscores how less is often more. Each chapter offers three pages on one New England icon, with photos by Greg Premru that play wonderfully with sun and shade. The author sets a historical context and explains each icon’s origin, tenure, and passing, all with real clarity. Bruce produced This Old House for 17 years, and the book is ably introduced by This Old House master carpenter, Norm Abram.

New England Icons isn’t “history light” for your coffee table.  It’s an often-humorous Cliff Notes for each New England subject, with a map in the back showing where you can visit them.  No matter your previous interest and study of things New England, you’ll know more after reading these short essays.  If, like me, you have a hard time finding time for pursuing your interests, the book is a remarkable return-on-investment for your time.  And it’s a very affordable and spot on holiday gift for friends and family.



Contractor of the Year - Mark PhilbenEvery year, the Eastern Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry hosts the Contractor of the Year awards, honoring the work of the region’s many talented build and design professionals.  This year, our team received a Coty Award for our renovation of a dated master bath and dressing area—now an elegant spa-style bath and dressing suite.   The project, which was featured in a previous edition of our newsletter, has also been showcased in Southern New England Living, Kitchen & Bath Design News, and Signature Kitchens & Baths.

(pictured: CAR project development manager Mark Philben with our 2011 Contractor of the Year award.)



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Like the Victorian, the Colonial housing style is one that defies easy categorization. The label has been applied to residential architecture inspired by several of the cultures that first colonized America, including the English, French, Dutch, and Spanish.  In this area, we’re most likely to encounter the English style.

Charlie Allen - Triple DeckerAlthough few examples of the First Period English Colonial style, which drew from medieval housing types, remain today, those that do typically feature small casement leaded glass windows, a large central chimney, and steep roofs. (The Fairbanks House in Dedham, built in 1637, is a local example of First Period English Colonial.)

The Georgian Colonial style, which was popular throughout the eighteenth century, is what most of us think of when we think “Colonial”: A tall square design with a handsome central entrance, a formal living room (often with fireplace), and separate dining room at the front of the home, with the kitchen located in the back.  Three or four bedrooms are on the second floor, accessed by a central staircase. This style was especially popular in New England, and is named after the four kings (George I through George IV) who ruled Britain from 1714 to 1830.


Charlie Allen Renovations | 91 River Street, Cambridge, MA 02139