It's one of the most famous houses in the "Town of Homes."
Built during the first great expansion of residential properties in the 1850s, the house on Pleasant Street – one of the finest examples of early residential Victorian design – was a summer house for a rich Boston merchant. It was where the owner hosted his wealthy friends before, during and after the Civil War and was used as settings for one of the foremost painters and illustrators in 19th-century America.
And for the past 80 years, the overlooking has been the home of the Belmont Women's Club, celebrating its 91st anniversary in 2011.
"What a magnificent treasure to have in our town. There are so few of these sorts of homes left," said Sandy Kendall, president of the .
The 15-room house is a superb example of 19th century construction and detail, from the magnificent circular staircase in the grand foyer, exquisite artisan work, likely produced by early Italian immigrant workers, 1850 circa tiles and brass tub in the up-stair bedrooms, and original chandeliers and stain glass windows and rotunda.
There is a "replacement" iron stove of 1870s and the original metal-lined cold storage room in the kitchen (which school children each year enjoy walking into, said Kendall), an oval-shaped dining room with curved doors, sitting parlors with bay windows, and a magnificent library with oak paneling and its huge brick fireplace.
Some of what is known of the summers at the Homer house was depicted in the early works of the owner's nephew, Winslow Homer, who spend the years during and after the Civil War in and around Boston as he developed his oil and watercolor techniques. Homer's "Croquet Scene," "The Girl on the Swing," "Boys in a Pasture" and "What Shall We Do Next?" where all painted or drawn on the grounds of Homer house or close by.
Yet there is much to do in repairing the house to a more presentable condition. The third-floor servants quarters are in disarray and needs a complete renovation, according to Kendall. Other repairs need to be prioritized.
"There's never enough time or money to do what needs to be done," said Kendall. The Women's Club, which uses the house as its headquarters and rents to groups and individuals, is hoping to bring the importance of the Homer house to a greater population as well as groups that can assist in the long-term restoration of the building.