Which road? House could go either way

ADDRESS: 606 Watson Ave.


ASKING: $650,000



SIZE: 3,512 fin. sq. ft.; 1,607 unfin.

LAND: 1.08 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7.5 out of 10

LISTED BY: Sharon Donovan of Frank Hardy Realtors, 296-0134

Every house has a personality, and this house has always been solidly middle class. However, it has upmarket potential, thanks to quality construction, a large attractive lot with outbuildings, and several charming features. Its prime location and the rising real estate prices in the area mean that its next owner could invest in the upgrades that would make it resemble the swanky places nearby on Park Street and Locust Avenue.

Unfortunately, it also sits right next to the Rt. 250 Bypass, and the resulting traffic noise might dissuade any big spenders from such lofty aspirations.

The house sits right in the middle of a gently sloping dogleg-shaped lot, with an attractive open lawn bordered by some beautiful trees, including two rare and spectacular redwood cedars over 50 feet tall. The width of the house acts to screen the unexpectedly private backyard.

In a far corner, an old stone shed adjoins a high stonewall with built-in fireplace– all of hand-laid fieldstone– and a slate patio. Ivy twines over the wall and shed roof. Former owners used the shed to store garden supplies. However, with all its charm and location adjacent to the outside fireplace and patio, it could house a small sitting room and bar– a perfect place for parties.

Behind the shed and wall, the 500-foot-long dogleg extends between the five neighboring lots and the bypass. Since this long awkward parcel is inaccessible, one idea might be to sell each plot to the respective neighbor, or it could be used for a large garden and more plantings to reduce road noise.

The house is concrete block with brick veneer, while the garage, attached by a breezeway, is solid brick. When the current owners moved in five years ago, the house had been seriously neglected and needed major work. They have replaced the roof, installed two-zone HVAC, refinished all the wood floors, renovated the kitchen and bathrooms, upgraded the electric service, and repainted throughout. The materials and workmanship appear sound.

To reduce maintenance demands, the owners installed aluminum siding over all the exterior wood trim, and they replaced about half the original windows with new double-pane, aluminum-clad Pellas. Two high-end improvements are a new high-efficiency German boiler and small diameter, high velocity air conditioning ducts.

The few remaining things needing minor attention include one upstairs bathroom, the landing off the kitchen, and the back wall of the garage.

The house has several original features that spell luxury, including plentiful crown and baseboard moldings, and even chair rails in several rooms. The three brick fireplaces have decorative wood mantels, and elegant wooden valances top the windows.

The most unusual upscale feature is an amazing amount of built-in cabinetry– within or near every room in the house– including several display shelves and two massive walk-in closets. The two largest bedrooms have adjacent changing rooms with an entire wall full of built-in cabinets. Many of them house handy removable wood drawers.

A previous owner was reportedly a skilled carpenter who gradually added all that storage. One of the intriguing additions is a second-story built-in window seat that hides a homemade knotted-rope fire escape. Anyone trapped on the second floor could open the window, toss the rope, and climb to safety.

Even a large family would be comfortable in the four bedrooms, including two with private baths and dressing areas, the huge family room with bar, spacious kitchen and pantry, and an unfinished room above the two-car garage that could be an office or apartment. If all the built-in cabinets don't provide enough storage, there's even a 1,500-square foot, half-finished, full-height basement.

Will this house remain solidly middle-class as it always has been, or will a new owner invest in the high-dollar upgrades to enable it to compete with the nearby aristocrats?

Only time will tell, but the proximity of Route 250 might determine which road this house takes.