Hot property: Vila’s old villa is a gem in JP

Friday, 24 November 2017, 02:53:04 PM. You know a house has a lot going for it when Bob Vila’s past ownership of the place just feels like a footnote in its history.That’s the case with this sprawling stone residence at 96 Rockwood St. in Jamaica Plain, now listed for $5.5 million, that Vila — of “This Old House” fame — owned decades ago.In fact, the more you get to know about this massive, medieval-inspired manse set back in thickly

You know a house has a lot going for it when Bob Vila’s past ownership of the place just feels like a footnote in its history.

That’s the case with this sprawling stone residence at 96 Rockwood St. in Jamaica Plain, now listed for $5.5 million, that Vila — of “This Old House” fame — owned decades ago.

In fact, the more you get to know about this massive, medieval-inspired manse set back in thickly wooded Jamaica Hills, the more intriguing it becomes.

Built in the late 19th century, the home has a jagged facade of Roxbury puddingstone, several pointed gables and triangular dormers poking through its fish-scale slate roof. While the place has Gothic and Victorian influences, it lacks many of those Gothic revival ornaments that can appear creepy. It instead looks strikingly like an old English mansion.

Inside, the house is so big — at nearly 8,400 square feet with 20 rooms and 9 bedrooms over three floors — it’s almost dizzying. From the main entrance, you’re greeted by a set of grand, white Corinthian columns and matching square pilasters that are so huge they actually temper the intimidating 13-foot ceilings. Ahead is the striking spectacle that is the suspended staircase.

Embellished with one meticulously carved spindle after another, the balustrade acts as a virtual screen letting sunlight flood through the foyer into the second floor landing and first floor living room, dining room and library.

The staircase is so fantastic, in fact, that even the newel can’t escape notice. The carved post is a tightly grooved spiral trapped inside the gripping exoskeleton of another corkscrew-like spiral turning the opposite direction. If you look at the thing long enough, you’ll swear it’s spinning.

What saves this manse from becoming maze-like, and even from appearing garish, are its elegant proportions. Everything complements each other: The great size of the rooms is made liveable by the great size of the windows and entry­ways, and the great details — the columns in the foyer, the ceiling moldings in the living areas, leaded glass transom upstairs, and murals of mountains in the dining room.

And, more importantly, the great many rooms are made navigable by the great design and openness.

Yes, there’s a lot going on here, and to be clear, it’s not all old. The kitchen was updated about a decade ago with polished poured cement flooring, slick natural wood and frosted glass cabinetry and stone countertops. There’s also an in-ground pool outside and a detached garage on a lot of nearly 5 acres.

While much of the home has a museum quality — the build date is unclear but most likely in 1876, according to Boston city archivist Marta Crilly and state historic records — it all feels in good shape. Too good of a shape, for example, to need the crafty hands of say, another Bob Vila-type to move in any time soon.

The sale of 96 Rockwood is being handled by Conor and Miceal Chamberlain, 617-240-1428.

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