Christmas cheer, decorating and amazing architecture in Newburyport, MA

I made my annual pilgrimage to the Newburyport Holiday House tour on Saturday and this year, we were treated to some amazing homes and lovely, though not ostentatious, holiday decorating. The House Tour is put on and benefits the Custom House Maritime Museum of Newburyport.

The first house I visited was the 1774 Lowell-Tracy-Johnson House, which is perhaps the finest surviving example of Georgian architecture in Newburyport. The original owner, John Lowell, served in the Continental Congress, helped frame the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, was the patriarch of the powerful and philanthropic Lowell family of Boston. So, lots of history here! The house, located at 203 High Street,  is currently on the market for $4.1M, listing is here.

The house features some truly lovely wallpapers, including this William Morris looking paper used in the dining room.

The kitchen is located in an ell on the back of the house which was a 19th century addition and has been updated and added on to by Newburyport architect Andrew Sidford. The dining area opens the back of the house up to the grounds. Typical for houses of this era, especially on High Street in Newburyport, the front of the house is quite close to the road, but the back yard is open and spacious. The dining table, as well as the kitchen island (see real estate photos) was custom made by Andrew Sidford Architects.

Out the kitchen door to a deck with a little holiday moment.

A screen porch along with a lovely rear terrace awaits. I’m sure there’s a story behind the Mobil oil pegasus horse piece on the screen porch wall. I wonder if it’s neon and lights up?

The next house dates to 1850 and is part of the same property as the Lowell house above. It was slated for demolition, so the owners of the Lowell house bought this one and brought in Andrew Sidford to re-imagine it for use a recording and performance space. And, reimagine it he did.

The two-story glass, steel and wood facade only hinted at how unexpected the inside space is…

Open, soaring and breathtaking! I literally teared up at how spectacular this space is.

Original rafters and structural elements are married to modern finishes in this sustainable space that re-used as much of the original materials as possible. The space has incredible acoustics – there was a piano player there and the sound just moved so beautifully around the room.

Of course, even the Christmas tree took on a new look.

The exterior remains true to it’s 1850 heritage and there are two separate living spaces on two floors below the performance space above.

I really can’t say enough about how amazing both these houses are. The real estate listing has lots more of this house as well.

The next house I visited is an updated Double Gambrel style house. Built in 1997, the current owners purchased it in November of 2015 and had the interiors and landscaping renovated and updated all by Christmas of that year. Four weeks! You can see the real estate listing here, which shows the original interiors.  The owner’s did their own work through their firm Coffey Design and Build and worked with interior designer Katie Goodrich of Ivory & Bone Interiors.

Loved this flooring detail between the dining room and kitchen.

It was a cold day, the hot cocoa station was a welcome moment!

The next house is a Georgian style home dating to around 1798. The house was recently renovated but still maintains its vintage appeal. Unfortunately, what it also maintained was the small proportions and difficult traffic patterns for a house tour. That sounds more critical than it’s meant to. But, the line to get inside took me about 25 minutes and another 20 minutes just to snake through two of the downstairs rooms. While I love a house tour, I don’t love crowds.

Luckily, the house exterior was charmingly decorated, which made the wait much more interesting.


The entrance to the house was in this three season porch on the far right of the house. I didn’t get photos because it was too crowded.  We finally made it to the kitchen and sitting area which is lovely and perfectly done for a small home. Interestingly, I was standing next to a woman who had lived in the house two decades ago – it was in her husbands family – and they had done a major renovation, including adding the wide pine flooring. It looks original to the house, but isn’t. There might have been similar flooring originally, but sadly someone along the way must have removed it.

I love the sofa greige color of the cabinets and counters. Not really cream, not really white, not really gray.


Unfortunately, this is where I bailed on this house tour. The line wound through this sitting room to the front hall (which is about 4 x 3). There was a living room across the hall (presumably, I couldn’t see into it) and the staircase upstairs. The volunteers had to direct traffic, holding each group back to let others go. It made sense then why people were leaving the house with their shoes in hand as there was little space to stop and put our shoes back on. Luckily, while it was in the 20’s out, it was bright and sunny with no snow. Meanwhile last year’s house tour had a balmy 65 degree day and I walked the houses barefoot. What a difference a year can make!

So, sadly, I didn’t see any more of this house, but what I did see is charming and adorable.

I drove to the next house on the list, but it too had quite a line. The neighborhood that these two houses were in is packed with small, but beautiful antique homes all closely situated. I was so cold by this point I couldn’t bring myself to wait in another line so I moved along.

I next visited the Old South Church on Federal Street, which was built in 1756. It’s one of the oldest wooden frame churches still in continuous use in New England today. The bell tower houses a Paul Revere bell that is still rung on Sundays, holidays and special occasions. They provided much welcomed hot cider and cinnamon powdered donuts. There is nothing tastier on a cold day!

I ended up not making it to any more houses on the tour, sadly. I ran some errands and did some quick Christmas shopping and then realized it was 4:00 and the tour was over!

I did stop by my favorite little house which I’ve been stalking for nearly 20 years. It’s apparently undergoing some kind of renovation as the carport/screen porch has been removed. I hope they keep the quaintness of this cottage!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my tour. Thank you to the Custom House Maritime Museum for the annual invitation. it’s my favorite tour of the year!

All photos ©Linda Merrill, 2016, for Surroundings Blog.

Oh, and don’t forget my giveaway!  Click here for the details

xoxo Linda

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