JC100 Tribute: Visiting Julia’s House

This post is part of a weekly series celebrating the extraordinary legacy of Julia Child leading up to what would have been her 100th birthday on August 15, 2012.

When I visit Boston I stay in Cambridge, about a ten-minute walk from where Julia Child used to live. I’ve visited her house a few times. That is, I’ve seen where she used to live. Since Julia’s house is a private residence, I didn’t dare knock on the door and ask for a tour. Though I was tempted.

 

Julia and her husband Paul moved into 103 Irving Street in 1961. The 6,000 square foot home had 5 bedrooms and 4-1/2 baths. The neighbourhood is lined with turn-of-the-century houses and is just blocks from Harvard Square. According to Elizabeth Bolton of Centers & Squares, this neck of the woods is long popular; with Harvard professorsamong them, economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who lived one block over on Francis Avenue, Cambridge’s “Professor’s Row.” The house is directly across the street from the birthplace of poet e.e. cummings and is two houses down from the home of 19th-century philosopher and psychologist William James.

103 Irving Street in 2010

Julia described the kitchen as “the most loved and most used room in the house.” That kitchen was the set for her cooking shows for several years, until she retired to California for the last few years of her life and the house was sold.

Julia Child, photographed in her Cambridge, Massachusetts, kitchen, June 29, 1970.
By Arnold Newman/Getty Images.

Architectural Digest published photos of Julia’s home in 1979. Here’s what it looked liked then:

The house was sold in 2001 to a developer and redesigned with six newly installed, central air conditioning, central vac and a new kitchen. The new kitchen, IMHO, is sterile and devoid of any charm or personality. I have this fantasy that I will one day buy the house and restore the kitchen to its former glory. The newly renovated house was sold in 2004 for $3,755,000. In 2008, Boston.com ran an article about the house being up for sale for $4.35 million. I guess I need to start playing the lottery to make my fantasy come true.

Thankfully the kitchen was not demolished. It was donated to the Smithsonian and the kitchen in its entirety was removed from the house and sent to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2001, where it resides today.

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