The 4,000-square-foot Italianate had been built in 1878 by a wealthy family of grocers, the Robertses. By the 1950s, the house had been sold to another owner who had a good reason for splitting it up: to accomodate as many—ahem—paying customers as possible. "The house was a brothel for a good number of years," Jessica says.
Main floor studs had been sawed off at the ceiling to make room for new doors, leaving the second story without support in numerous spots. Plumbers had sawed through joists to run sewer and supply lines, compromising the integrity of the timbers. Hidden behind the plaster and lath on the south wall was an apparently extraneous inner wall of brick and mortar that necessitated removal with a hammer drill and sledge.
Yet despite all that the home had suffered, it still coughed up many fine treasures. For decades, the living room's intricate floor medallion lay hidden beneath commercial carpet. The light fixture, once lit by gas, is also original.