Apparently the straightforward architecture of the house
did not appeal to James Greenleaf, a businessman married to
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s sister Mary, who purchased
the property in 1857. He planned to build a new house on the
land, and the unpretentious residence Saunders built stood
in the way. Greenleaf had the structure moved it to its current location around the corner, and, in the process, an ell
that had been on the side of the house ended up behind it.
It was a fortuitous change for the current owners, who were
charmed by the design of the front facade, but wanted to
bring the rear portion of the house into historically sympathetic modernity.
by,” says the owner, who with his wife had been looking in
Cambridge “for an old house that no one had compromised.”
The building didn’t entirely fill the bill. “It had suffered a long
period of decline with a series of unfortunate additions in the
1900s,” says the owner, “but the essential bones were intact.
The Federal-style rooms and fireplaces were there.” They saw
the potential in its architectural significance. “That began a
very long process.”
In fact, it took from 2000, when the couple purchased
the property, until 2007 to complete the final phase of the
renovation. Initially, they worked with an architect for a year
before concluding that “we were just not on the same page
in terms of sensibility.” They then hired an architectural