Finders, fixers.

northampton entryway

Wish Listing: Northampton

My wife and I love Quincy, but it’s not like we grew up here or have any deep, philosophical connection to the town. We just felt like it offered the best bang for our buck when we were ready to buy a house: It’s got the ocean, pretty good schools, walkable neighborhoods with shops and restaurants, and easy access to the Red Line into Boston — all for way cheaper than neighboring towns (or, of course, Boston itself).

But, we still think about other towns from time to time, if we were to move one day. And one of those places — maybe the No. 1 town on our short list — is Northampton.

For one thing, we’re pretty far from my wife’s family right now, who live in New York’s Hudson Valley. Northampton would put us halfway between both sets of parents, but still keep us in Massachusetts.

Plus, Northampton is one of those artistic enclaves, like Burlington, Vt., that attracts artists and musicians who inject the place with an invigorating, youthful energy. It has more music venues than cities four times its size. And for a small town of around 26,000, it has “an improbable number of good restaurants,” Jordi Harold, co-founder of the Iron Horse Music Hall, told me in a recent interview.

We also dream of running a bed and breakfast one day, and for that you need a) a grand old house and b) a steady stream of out-of-towners. Northampton, with its Elm Street Victorians, vibrant arts and music scene, and steady flow of Smithies, has plenty of both.

Now, Quincy has actually surprised us in terms of its tourism draw. It’s mostly just overflow from Boston, where demand for lodging is fierce and only ebbs in deep winter — but because it’s closer to the Cape and has some historic significance of its own, we actually get far more visitors than I’d ever expected.

But for a long time, we figured we’d have buy somewhere with a stronger, steadier tourist draw if we really wanted to succeed with a B&B. (A top-to-bottom Back Bay brownstone would be nice, but who’s got $3 million lying around?) I actually have a spreadsheet going with about a dozen cities and towns — from Portland, Maine, to Newport, R.I. — ranked in several categories, from tourism to cost of housing and taxes to local school systems. And Northampton is right near the top of that list.

I was browsing MLS listings in the Hamp while writing a “Location” piece for the Boston Globe recently, and I came across this beautiful charmer:

exterior victorian northampton house

The leafy grounds look a little overgrown, but look at the sun-flooded entryway:

northampton entryway

{{{Swoooon}}}. The wood. That bench. The paneling, the sidelights, the moulding! The balusters! Foy-YAY!

[Wincing]: Oof, that was bad. I’m sorry. Back to the eye candy.

I mean seriously, look at those intricately carved balusters:

balusters northampton real estate

The bright, inviting living room was pulled right out of my dreams:

living room

I long to have a piano in our house, but it’s not going to happen in this apartment. We couldn’t even fit our sofa up the stairs without paying a furniture maker to disassemble it first.

(Did you know that’s a thing? If you can’t fit your new couch through your doorway or up a narrow stairwell, one option is to have a furniture maker or carpenter take it apart, carry it up in pieces, and then re-assemble it in your living room. It cost us about $250, completely wiping out the savings from buying it on sale, but it was still preferable to leaving it on the front porch. Of course, we’ll have to do it all over again if we want to take it with us when we move into this lovely house.)

Ogle those pocket doors. And notice the paneled ceilings in just about every room. My word.

living room

The downstairs has a nice flow to it, and a fireplace in the dining room. Now, let’s face it, that’s not the most useful spot for a fireplace in 2016 unless you plan to keep a cauldron of soup warm over an open flame, but it sure is a charming touch.

dining room with fireplace

And wait til you take a gander at the giant porch. Victorian-era folks really knew how to make a porch.

beautiful porch northampton real estate

The kitchen is also bright.  I don’t particularly love the colors or materials, but I am a fan of open shelving, which gives it a more spacious, airier feel.

remodeled kitchen open shelving

At least one of the bathrooms is beautifully remodeled in light gray and white.

upstairs bathroom

And the upstairs bedrooms are no less charming.


Key stats

  • Price: $869,000
  • Beds: 6 bedrooms
  • Baths: 3 full, 1 half
  • Size: 3,826 sq. ft.
  • Lot: 0.28 acre
  • Year built: 1892
  • Taxes: $10,357
  • Plus: Gorgeous, grand Victorian in a prime location in a vibrant, artsy college town.
  • Minus: We would have to pay someone to chop up our sofa so we could move it there. Honestly, that’s all I’ve got. Do you see any drawbacks here?

  • Address: 25 Harrison Ave. Northampton, Mass.
  • WalkScore: 57 (Somewhat Walkable)
  • Listing agentJulie Held, Maple and Main Realty
  • Verdict: I’ll be surprised if this place isn’t sold by the time I press publish on this post, although the market certainly takes a holiday hiatus. But this looks to be a swoon-worthy home on a peaceful, tree-lined street in one of my favorite towns anywhere. It’s hard to beat that.

Jon Gorey • December 29, 2015

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