155 Downer Avenue
Nancy Melville Downer Cottage
This two-story, 13-room Victorian home did not always overlook Hingham Harbor; built in 1874, it was moved to this location around 1900. Its original location and occupants are lost to time, but we do know that this is the second house to sit on this lot. The first building at this address was an elaborate, Mansard-roofed “cottage” built around 1881 for Nancy Melville Downer, widow of Melville Garden’s founder Samuel Downer. That cottage was demolished, however, by 1897, shortly after Melville Garden was closed, and at some point before 1909 the current 1874 house was moved to the site.
After Melville Garden closed, the property was not simply abandoned. Some buildings were moved, and many continued to be rented as summer homes, perhaps while the trustees of the estate worked out a plan to subdivide and sell the lots.
This house was purchased from the Downer estate by Marie S. Harvey of Wellesley in 1931. Its assessed value at that time was $10,000.
The house was rented annually, starting in 1939, by Corrado Romano, a coin dealer from Hull, and his wife Mildred. The Romanos purchased it after World War II and raised three children there. Their son, Don C. Romano, like his father a coin dealer, lived in the house with his wife, Susan from 1995 until 2002, when it was sold to the current owners. The current owners have extensively renovated the house, a project which has included adding an addition on the back and restoring the old promenade called Alice Walk, which was once a part of Melville Gardens. The walk is now accessible directly from the house, as it was in Mrs. Melville’s day. Although it may not be the original cottage on the site, the whimsical eclecticism of the house at 155 Downer Avenue echoes the frothy architectural spirit of Melville Gardens’ original buildings.