, Salem, MA

Local News

December 14, 2012

New life for old house

Ropes estate has been transformed in just one year


The Board of Appeals approved plans that included preservation of the house and four key trees, an unusual condition for a redevelopment.

The developer’s attorney, Scott Grover of Salem, acted almost as a mediator between his client and city boards, helping work out the preservation agreement.

And then along came the Bliers, who needed both capital and courage to move from the McIntire Historic District, a neighborhood of stately Federal Period homes, to a property that looked like the setting for a Stephen King novel.

The porch was leaning; some floorboards were ruined; the front steps were unusable; a key support beam was rotten; windows were boarded up; raccoons were camped in the attic; the plumbing, furnace and wiring had to be replaced; and there were holes in the roof, allowing rain to pour down on the interior.

“It looked like an elephant had run around in the house, it was so beat-up,” Linda said.

Nevertheless, the Bliers went ahead with the $625,000 purchase and worked closely with the developer on its restoration. It was a leap of both faith and love.

“The bones were good,” Mike said of the three-story house built in the 1890s.

A lot that made the Ropes house special has been saved: the tile fireplaces, curved-glass windows, wooden stairways and railings, a corner turret, and a third-floor room with an arched Palladian window. The distinctive wraparound porch will be extended.

There are also plans to plant trees, grass and flowers — maybe a vegetable garden. Mike Blier, a noted landscape architect, wants to pay homage to the past.

“I want to make a landscape that has something to do with harvest and production,” he said.

The Bliers, who are holding a neighborhood open house in the next few days, have a lot of plans for their new home, but it will take time and money.

“We’ll be working on it until we’re old and gray,” Mike said.

Tom Dalton can be reached at

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