Historical Belmont home reborn as low-income housing 

One of Belmont’s oldest and most historic homes has come a long way in 126 years. About three blocks, to be precise.

The former home of a prominent citizen, Belmont’s Emmett House was ripped off its foundation nearly three years ago and transplanted to a new location.

Now, after nearly $1 million in seismic and structural renovations, the house has been converted to two units, has had a two-car detached garage added, and is ready to begin a new life as low- to moderate- income housing. The city is in the final stages of choosing the residents, and will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday.

Though the 10-year ordeal of saving the historic home is near its end, the project didn’t come without controversy.

“We wanted to preserve it … plain and simple,” said Carlos de Melo, Belmont’s community development director, citing the house as one of the city’s more special historic landmarks.

De Melo said the house’s previous location at 843 Ralston Ave. began to see rapid development and was deemed to be no longer appropriate for a historic landmark. After a number of public hearings, the City Council voted to move the house to its new location at 1000 O’Neil Ave.

In a bizarre sight, the 126-year-old relic was lifted off its foundation and transported to an empty parking lot on the rainy night of Jan. 22, 2008. The house had to be moved via roadway at night to avoid traffic, said Belmont Mayor Coralin Feierbach.

When the home was relocated, however, some people in the vicinity of O’Neil Avenue objected to their new but run down neighbor. The house “didn’t look very good” and added to neighbor resentment of low- to moderate-income units in the area, Feierbach said.

Feierbach said that other key historical Belmont buildings have been lost in the past.

“Several buildings were destroyed because of the [railroad] grade separation,” Feierbach said. “We have to save what we can, even if it’s not pretty.”

Emmett House was built in about 1885 by Walter Alfred Emmett, Belmont’s leading merchant between 1880 and 1910.

“He’s what I consider the pioneer of Belmont’s business community,” said Denny Lawhern, president of Belmont’s Historical Society.

The one-story cottage had a second floor added in 1899 and underwent various changes through the years. In November 1992, the house was granted historical landmark status by Belmont’s City Council under the city’s historical preservation ordinance.

“In my opinion, it’s not so much for us today, but for the future of Belmont to enjoy a little bit of their past,” Lawhern said.

By the numbers

Age of Emmett House: 126 years
Size of house: 3,400 square feet
Number of units: Two
Amount city plans to rent each unit for: $1,988
Cost of project: $905,388.48


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