SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 14, 2012

New life for old house

Ropes estate has been transformed in just one year

SALEM — It took a whole village to save the Ropes estate.

The century-old Queen Anne Victorian on Felt Street, once a crown jewel of North Salem, had fallen into ruin. For more than a decade, an aging family member had lived inside the house in deplorable conditions. The lot had become overgrown with scrub trees and brush and was a stomping ground for coyotes and other wild animals.

A year ago, a developer bought the sprawling property, only to raise new concerns. He planned to demolish the historic house and cut down virtually all the trees, including majestic beech and larch trees that were neighborhood landmarks.

Today, one year later, a lot has happened. The house has been saved and has new owners: Michael and Linda Blier.

Neighbors have taken notice. Cars drive slowly past. Some neighbors even walk up the long driveway and knock on the door. Others bring food.

“I think they’re just so happy to see a family in here,” Linda said.

A lot of hands reached out to save 18 Felt St., a once-sprawling property that stretched almost all the way to the North River. Not only was the five-bedroom house a treasure, but the property was once a horticultural showcase with vegetable and flower gardens, a beehive, chickens, and an old barn.

The first to step forward was Jessica Herbert, chairwoman of the Salem Historical Commission. Acting more as concerned private citizen, she convinced the developer, ICECAT LLC of East Boston, that the house not only could be saved but was more valuable preserved.

During its restoration, she was an almost daily presence, working with lead developer George Wattendorf of Swampscott and his subcontractor, Percio Rosario, who painstakingly restored and rebuilt architectural details.

Neighbors attended public meetings to express concerns about the Ropes house and redevelopment proposals that called for three new houses on the 1-acre-plus site. Today, there are two.

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