Belmont ‘Christmas House’ debuts on April house tour

The rehabilitation of a once beloved, formerly abandoned three-story, turn of last Century mansion is among three homes in SE featured on the Architectural Heritage Center’s April 13 Old House Tour.

Elaborate renovations of the Jacob H. Cook house on Belmont St. are bringing the boarded up classic back from the brink. Sitting empty for years, it was heavily damaged by rodents and squatters with a conscience, according to owner Lyrin Murphy, who says they left century-old woodworking largely intact.

Murphy, a realtor with the passion and energy to save old homes, bought the house she now calls Walter (possibly for a rumored connection to Walt Disney) at auction, narrowly outbidding investors who likely would have torn down the Colonial revival style manse.

For Murphy and investor Steve Day it’s been a rewarding, if daunting, experience.

The biggest challenge was rebuilding railing on three balconies. After sorting through nearly three hundred balusters, those deemed unusable were remilled by Creative Woodworking based on complex math calculations by Richard DeWolf at Arciform.

The curved corners were then carved out of Mahogany wheels and each spindle was hand-nailed into place.

“There’s a reason they don’t build like this anymore,” laughs Murphy who went from panic to thinking how incredible it looks. “What a long road it was. It’s remarkable how the community rallied behind this house to help save it.”

The future use of a landmark locals used to call the Christmas House for its grand holiday light displays is dependent on city permits. Murphy envisions a place for a traditional bed ‘n breakfast, community events and weddings once the gardens are planted.

Other houses on the tour include a 1923 bungalow in Ladd’s Addition, the first time in years a home in the historic district will be featured.

Also open in SE is a Colonial Heights bungalow that retains its historic charm on the outside and is open, light and modernized on the inside.

For information on all six houses: see

Belmont ‘Christmas House’ debuts on April house tour

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