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The Past, Present, and Future of 186 Summer Ave

The fence is down at 186 Summer Avenue!

If you live in Reading, especially in the neighborhoods surrounding Parker Middle School, you were most likely thrilled to notice that the chain link fence is down around 186 Summer Avenue. 

The Italianate home, built in 1853, is iconic in the community. Its elaborate craftsmanship, original cupola, and charming wrap-around porch have earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The home was built by Robert "Father" Kemp, founder of Old Folks Concerts, a touring vocal ensemble, who was very active in the local community. Throughout its century-and-a-half history, it was owned by several other families until 2014, when its owner proposed demolishing the house and carriage barn.

From 2014 until late 2023, the property was the topic of much debate and controversy as neighbors worked to save it from demolition or corporate use. Thankfully, two hometown heroes—Reading resident and real estate developer Dennis O'Neill and neighboring Reading resident Jerry Lamb (Nash Partners, LLC)—stepped up to purchase it from the commercial developers. 


O’Neill and Lamb have assembled a team to restore it to its original splendor as a single-family home, and work has begun in earnest this spring. 

I was thrilled to be asked to consult with the team on this project. Not only does it align with Wilson Wolfe Real Estate's values of community and history, but it also resonates with me personally. Having raised my family in this neighborhood, I have a soft spot for this project and understand its significance in the community. I am grateful for the opportunity to ensure the property has everything today's buyer needs while continuing to honor the home's proud historic past. 

Collaborating with Dennis, Jerry, the Reading Historical Commissions, Designer Jennifer Colvin, Project Manager Ihatar Cremasco, Architect Luis Lobao, and Structural Engineer Brian Jones has been a joy. It's rare to see a team so deeply committed to understanding the viewpoints of all stakeholders!


Our goal with every decision is to respect the home's history while adding a new chapter to its story. 

If you're curious about what's happening with the property and what's to come, read on. We're answering some of the questions we know are on our neighbors' minds about 186 Summer Avenue. 


What progress has been made so far as of May 2024?

In April, we removed a make-shift addition and pergola in preparation for a new addition to be built. We also finalized renderings for the new addition, which will seamlessly marry old and new. Hundreds of little decisions have been made as we prepare to accurately restore the original structure while adding modern amenities to make the home a dream come true. 


What efforts are being made to preserve the historically significant aspects of the home?

So much of this home's charm is in the exterior details. We will restore the building's façade, maintaining the slate roof, cedar clapboards, and many custom exterior details, including corbels and cornices. We will also restore the cupola (which we discovered through our research is actually a belvedere) and the wrap-around porch. We are currently trying to determine if the balustrade around the porch is original as we make decisions about the porch restoration. 


What are the most notable features of the new addition?

The new multi-story addition will complement the original structure while offering the new owners everything they need to live and entertain comfortably. 

Potential buyers will find 14 rooms within the original structure and addition: 6 bedrooms and 4.5 baths, including an au pair/guest suite, as well as a new two-car garage. Situating the garage beneath the addition will create a connection point to the original basement, seamlessly marrying the old and new parts of the home.

On the first floor, you'll find a grand but approachable foyer, formal dining and living rooms, and an open-concept family room with adjoining state-of-the-art kitchen and scullery (cleverly tucked away and accessible from an exterior side entrance!). While you may not be familiar with a scullery, it's one of my new favorite words of 2024! It offers a small working kitchen off the main kitchen to keep things spotless and hide the mess when entertaining—what a dream! The addition will also include a new deck with access from the newly constructed portion of the house. 

On the second floor, you’ll find the new primary suite, including a well-appointed bath, an office/nursery, dual walk-in closets, and a charming Juliet balcony. Three additional spacious bedrooms are also part of the new addition, one with an ensuite bath and the others with access to a hall bath. The two-car under-garage will grant access to the house via the impressive original basement, brimming with storage and other possibilities.   

On the third floor, a spacious bonus room offers the perfect spot for recreation, home theater, or play, while the guest/au pair suite offers comfortable accommodations, including a bedroom, full bath, and kitchenette.


When will you be breaking ground on the new addition?

We plan to break ground on the addition next month (June 2024). 


What about the barn?

The incredible carriage barn will have a structural facelift and will be restored on the exterior to complement the main house. The interior will likely be left to the new owners’ imagination and needs. More to come on the barn as the project progresses!


Will there be an opportunity to see the progress?

Yes! 186 Summer Avenue will participate in the sixth annual Reading PorchFest event on Saturday, June 22, 2024. As part of this free town-wide music festival, we’ll welcome local musicians and community members to the property. During the event, you can join us for a hard hat tour to see construction progress.   


When do you expect the property to be ready to list?

We anticipate being ready to list 186 Summer Avenue in late fall 2024 and can’t wait to find the perfect buyer for this very special home. 


We hope you are as excited as we are to see this stunning property restored, and we look forward to sharing more news throughout the journey. 

We’ll be back with more updates next month. In the meantime, we invite you to share this blog with a neighbor who may be curious about what’s happening on Summer Avenue.


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