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For sale: Roxbury ‘estate,’ $2.9m

Listing is Fort Hill’s most expensive

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
For sale: Roxbury ‘estate,’ $2.9m
This home at 88 Lambert Avenue sits on two-thirds of an acre.

Hidden behind a high brick wall, 88 Lambert Avenue may be one of Fort Hill’s most unique listings: The two-thirds of an acre property includes two small ponds, a large renovated carriage house and additional workshops and studio space. There’s also a well-preserved, seven-bedroom 1794 Federal style home, designed by noted 18th century architect and developer William Lambert.

Listed at $2.9 million — the highest-ever asking price for a single-family home in Roxbury — the property may well stand as a high water mark for real estate in the predominantly African American neighborhood.

A workshop and renovated carriage house provide additional living quarters.

Owners Patti Moreno and Robert Patton-Spruill, who recently relocated, have listed the property with Sprogis and Neale Real Estate, a South End firm that regularly lists homes with prices north of $1 million.

According to broker John Neale, the property is one of the firm’s more unusual listings.

“We think of this as an estate,” he said.

While 88 Lambert Street is at the top of the Roxbury market, it’s not the only single-family property listed for more than $1 million in the neighborhood. Barely a hundred yards away at 82 Highland Street, a single family home with an adjacent vacant lot is listed for $1,295,000. And on nearby Beach Glenn Street, a two-unit, 2,400-square-foot home is listed for $995,000.

Not everyone is pleased with the increased interest in the neighborhood. Cedar Street resident Rodney Singleton, who lives in a marble-fronted row house a stone’s throw from the Lambert Avenue estate, says he regularly gets solicitations from real estate brokers.

“Me and all my neighbors get phone calls, people ringing the bell, letters, post cards, ‘You wanna sell your house?’” he said. “It’s been out of control. It’s harassment.”

The million-dollar values are confined to the Fort Hill section of Roxbury, but the rising values there are indicative of increased interest in the rest of the neighborhood, according to real estate broker Sharif Abdal-Khallaq.

“Prices are high everywhere,” he said. “Roxbury has the highest rate of increase in value anywhere in the city.”

With million-dollar condominiums in Jamaica Plain, $600,000 studios in the South End and a coveted space in a Beacon Hill parking garage trading for a cool $650,000, it was only a matter of time before large homes in Roxbury surpassed the million dollar mark, says Abdal-Khallaq.

“I’m not surprised at all,” he said. “We all saw it coming. What’s surprising is how fast it came.”

The increase in value is showing up in different Roxbury neighborhoods, including the Garrison Trotter area, where a 3,400 square-foot Queen Anne Victorian at 268 Humboldt Avenue reportedly sold for more than $900,000 this summer. 

While many say Roxbury’s proximity to downtown and other high-rent neighborhoods is driving increased values, Singleton chalks it up to the neighborhood’s large Victorian-era homes.

The owners converted some of the property’s 32 garage bays into studio space.

“It’s an historic neighborhood,” he said. “If you look at the areas of Roxbury — the Garrison Trotter neighborhood, the Mt. Pleasant Street area, the Moreland Street Historic District — there are beautiful homes in Roxbury. It has excellent housing stock and it’s relatively affordable.”

With million-dollar listings in Fort Hill, the affordability of Roxbury real estate could soon change. Patton-Spruill and Moreno purchased their Lambert Avenue estate for $451,000 in 2002. A tour of the property underscores the bargain the pair landed.

The 1794 main building boasts an 18th century floor plan, with a main hallway running from the front to the back of the house. Off the hallway, an unadorned stairway with an elegant balustrade curves up to the second level. Simple crown moldings, stately mantels with Italian marble and floor-to-ceiling windows show the home’s Federal style architecture. On one side of the home are a large living room and dining room with an attached kitchen. Separated by a pair of bedrooms and bathrooms is a second eat-in kitchen with a servants’ stairway leading to the second floor, which features four more bedrooms and three more bathrooms.

The carriage house has an open floor plan on the first level and a cavernous 30 by 19-foot bedroom with skylights, a second bathroom and a loft on the second. An unheated workshop is attached to the building.

In a somewhat incongruous 20th century addition to the property, 32 garage bays occupy the southwest corner of the property. Patton-Spriull and Moreno, both filmmakers, used some of the space for film production. Moreno, whose Garden Girl TV video series helped popularize urban gardening, maintained a series of raised beds between the rows of garage buildings.

Broker John Neal says the property has attracted attention from both developers and prospective owner occupants. All are impressed with the main building, he said.

“Everybody who’s looked at it understands they need to keep the original Lambert house,” he said. “But that could easily be converted into a two-family.”

For full tour of property click here