History in Every Corner

In recent years there has been a trend for builders who buy property in a desirable waterfront location to tear down the old buildings to build brand new ones. Warren Kelly, owner of Kelly Properties & Construction Management, prefers to buck that trend. When the historic New England Home for the Deaf in Danvers came on the market, he saw an opportunity to do something really special with the property and partnered with the Thomson Group to create Riverbank, an exclusive condominium complex.“The Home for the Deaf has enormous historicalvalue to the community,” Kelly says.

The 'granite barn' portion of what was the New England Home for the Deaf now houses several condominiums.

The ‘granite barn’ portion of what was the New England Home for the Deaf now houses several condominiums.

“There are two buildings and we basically gutted them both and rebuilt them, but everything you see when you look at the buildings is how it was originally back in the 1800s.”

 A history lesson

The property was initially a private estate on the shores of the Waters River, a tributary of the Danvers River that flows into Salem Harbor. The buildings included a large brick Italian-style mansion and a massive granite barn. With fundraising help from Helen Keller and her teacher/interpreter Ann Sullivan, it was purchased to become the New England Home for the Deaf in 1925. The Home for the Deaf converted the granite barn into a social hall and turned the brick mansion into housing for the elderly deaf.  Waning residency and damage from an explosion at a nearby chemical plant in 2006 caused the home to close. It had remained empty until Kelly bought it.

Each unit was individually with high-end cabinetry and granite countertops.

Each unit was individually with high-end cabinetry and granite countertops.

A complete transformation

The brick mansion and stone barn have been transformed into 14 luxury condominiums, with three more in the works. Kelly preserved the historic aesthetics of the two buildings, reusing the old timbers, wrapping the beams, and retaining the original 12-to 18-foot ceilings and unique architectural angles. He replaced the old windows with brand new custom ones and rebuilt all the original porches. Every unit has a deck overlooking the water and one townhouse unit in each building has a completely refurbished cupola, offering even more sweeping views.

Each unit is unique

The exterior walls in the granite building are 36 inches thick, creating deep window wells and a sense of history. The building still has two layers of brick, reflecting its use as a structural element as opposed to the cosmetic manner brick is used today. When it came time to do the interiors of the condos, Kelly turned the job over to his wife, interior designer Lisa Stanley-Kelly, owner of Décor 64.

Stanley-Kelly wanted to keep true to the historic New England roots of the buildings so she used a very traditional style in all the condominiums. One of her main goals was to make each condominium unique so that neighbors wouldn’t feel like they were living in identical homes. With that in mind, she chose a traditional style cabinet in three different shades of mahogany for the different kitchens and different granite countertops for each.

kelly Properties_Josh Kuchinsky_bedroom

Interesting details, such as the eaves in this bedroom, are found in each bedroom.

“It’s amazing, but every one of them does feel different,” she says. “The layout and the architectural windows are all different. Some windows are oval moon shape and there’s a big round porthole window in one unit, so they all have a unique feel.

Finishing touches

The kitchens are all outfitted with stainless steel appliances and have either stainless or bronze faucets, depending on the granite used for the countertops. They also have beautiful hardwood flooring throughout and ceramic tiles in the bathrooms. Each bathroom has a spacious shower stall with solid glass doors, but Stanley-Kelly made each one distinctive by choosing various tiles for the listellos. Some units also have a soaking tub surrounded by a wide tile ledge.

Because the units were all going up for sale, Stanley-Kelly chose from a palette of warm but neutral colors for the walls. The main rooms are done in shades of tan and camel. Bedrooms are a combination of buttery yellow, soft ivory cream or sea salt green to reflect the waterfront location.

Many of the units at Riverbank feature roomy soaking tubs ans separate showers.

Many of the units at Riverbank feature roomy soaking tubs ans separate showers.

“I’m extremely proud to have restored the buildings I’ve [developed],” Warren Kelly says, explaining that he also restored two historic buildings in his hometown of Milton. “It feels good to look at an old building and say I brought that back to life. I do a lot of new buildings but there is more satisfaction with restoring the older ones.”

Photography by Josh Kuchinsky
Project Development: Kelly Properties & Construction Management

Article published in 2013-14 issue.

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