Beyond the updates (central heating and air conditioning, recessed lighting, tiled baths, two laundry facilities and a full granite/stainless kitchen with gas cooking in the old parlor), its Federal-period floor plan of sizable rooms with wood-burning fireplaces, multiple windows and no wasted space remains very livable for entertaining and growing a family.

Saunter down the narrow brick walkway, open the sidelight-flanked, cornice-crowned door of the perpendicular yellow clapboard house, step into the central stair hall with the curving stick-baluster rail and enter into one of the brick-hearthed, wide-pine-floored rooms with candlestick chandeliers at 81 Warren St., Charlestown. This charming home is a step back to an era when firewood purged the cold, candles diminished the darkness, wooden shutters cut the glare and the parlor and dining room were the household’s social centers.

Yes, 81 Warren St. in the Gas Light District of Charlestown looks virtually unaltered from when it was built in 1808 for merchants and brothers-in-law Benjamin Fiske and William Stoddard Bridge (hence its historical renown as the Benjamin Fiske House). But that doesn’t make this 2,792-square-foot, four-bedroom home unsuitable for today’s lifestyles.

Beyond the updates (central heating and air conditioning, recessed lighting, tiled baths, two laundry facilities and a full granite/stainless kitchen with gas cooking in the old parlor), its Federal-period floor plan of sizable rooms with wood-burning fireplaces, multiple windows and no wasted space remains very livable for entertaining and growing a family.

Aiding this is the quiet privacy desired today, made possible by the house’s off-street location in Donnell Court, where the plant-bordered brick walkway leads back to a private cobblestone garden with a flower-planted birdbath and shed for trash/recyclables bins. Then head into a fenced-in grassy yard shared by covenant with two other 19th-century wood-frame homes.

The house’s historic hall-and-parlor plan provides a convenient, immediate choice between formal dining in the left-hand dining room and informal supping and breakfasting in the right-hand eat-in kitchen when you have a “rumbly in your tumbly.”

The museum-quality dining room is treated in a colonial green hue to highlight the historical features: the chair-rail and lower-wall wainscot, the classic fireplace mantel, the sash windows and their folding paneled shutters, and the projecting corner posts.

The brick hearth retains its wrought-iron swivel bracket for a cauldron from the over-the-fire cooking of Colonial-Federal days. A deep walk-in closet connects the dining room back to the central stair hall.

The right-hand kitchen’s 2006 black granite counter, reddish-brown paneled cabinets, corner-angled stainless steel sink with retractable faucet and stainless Frigidaire Gallery dishwasher, four-burner gas range and microwave/vent were built in along one side to preserve the parlor’s horizontal pine-plank wainscoting, chair rail, brick fireplace, wooden mantel with paneled pilasters and pantry.

The stainless GE two-door refrigerator with a freezer-drawer and water/ice dispenser gives center-stage to the historical elements as well.

The parameter placement of the appliances and built-ins also makes space for a full dining-room set, enhanced by a black-and-maroon-bordered diagonal checkerboard pattern painted on the floor as a mock throw-rug.

This entire arrangement revives the old parlor as the house’s social center by virtue of today’s household trend of social gravitation toward the kitchen.

A hall accesses the old servants’ stairs up to the bedrooms and a stairway down to the unfinished basement where ample storage and a washer and dryer are handy and the brick and fieldstone foundation is handsomely exposed. Also along the hall is a powder room with a classic Carrara marble vanity and plantation shutters.

In the two-story ell added about 20 years later is the living room, intact with its brick fireplace with a cauldron bracket and two-level brick oven for baking bread and possibly storing firewood in Federal times.

The corner post, chair rail, painted wainscot, paneled shutters and exposed beamed ceiling add more historical character without cramping the entertaining space or denying it sunny corner exposure onto the walkway and cobblestone garden. A projecting wall yields an upper shelf for artistic displays - a popular feature in contemporary housing.

Off the living room, a short hall with an upper storage closet exposing some of the fireplace brickwork leads to a back door to the walkway. This is handy for spilling the entertainment out into the garden in warm weather, or the yard with advance permission from the owners of 81B and 81½ Warren St. Also at hand for guests is a coat closet beside the fireplace.

The central stairway’s wide-pine treads and stick-baluster rail gracefully introduce the bedrooms – all with original fireplaces and generous light and space.

Just off the second-floor landing is a powder room with a slate-like green tile floor, a marble-like laminate vanity, paneled pocket shutters and a chair rail. The right-hand bedroom retains its corner posts, a chair rail and a mantel with fluted pilasters.

The master bedroom across the landing is laden with details and conveniences: corner posts, chair rail, mantel with paneled pilasters, a closet of shelves, a built-in bookcase and varnished plantation shutters for good light control.

The ell’s upper floor completes the master suite, which has direct back-stair access. A well-lit hall with three plantation-shuttered windows accesses a roomy walk-in closet with a stacked washer/dryer, followed by a galley bath with a granite vanity, maple cabinetry, an Italian-tile standup shower with hand-held showerhead and deep linen shelves.

The small, square top-story windows, typical of Federal domestic architecture, don’t impede the two bedrooms up there from comfortably accommodating guests or an au pair. One bedroom has a handsomely corniced fireplace and generous wall area; the other features a spacious alcove with a wide two-door storage closet. Under the hipped roof is ample attic storage.

This old house remains timely in not only accommodations, but also neighborhood shopping, dining, post office, school, library, bank, park and transit amenities - most in Thompson Square down the hill.

Also notable is the historic Warren Tavern down the street. Named for Dr. Joseph Warren, who sent Paul Revere and William Dawes on their midnight rides to Lexington on April 18, 1775 and died in Charlestown’s Battle of Bunker Hill the following June 17, the tavern hosted Revere, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and has served fine food and drink almost continuously since 1780.

Offered at $1.8 million, 81 Warren St. demonstrates how historic architecture can serve contemporary living needs without a gut-rehab or a teardown.

For a private showing, contact Grace Bloodwell or Chris Remmes of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage at 617-512-4939, 617-947-9337,, or


 -        Charlestown Historical Society, “Historic Timeline 1800-1809,”, 2019,

 -        Kueny, Nancy Hayford, “Historic Houses of the Month,” Charlestown Patriot-Bridge, September 20, 2019,

 -        Southworth, Susan and Michael, AIA Guide to Boston, Second Edition (Chester, Conn.: The Globe Pequot Press, 1992), p. 378.

 -        “The Warren Tavern: History,”,