Doyle Home
The 73 and 75 Huron Avenue garages were built in 1924 by Fred A. McNamara, using the new low-cost cement-block technology that was replacing more expensive bricks (which had been pioneered by New England Brick Company). Down the north side of Observatory Hill was the gigantic clay pit that had been the principal source of bricks for houses in New England for the first two hundred years. The garages were built on that non-porous clay, the cause of severe water drainage problems.

Lots on either side on Huron Ave were empty, but there were several homes behind the garages on Winslow Street. Sherman Street was known at that time as Dublin Street and the whole area down the hill to Walden Street was known as Little Dublin. It was home to many immigrant Irish families. At one time there were 40 children living on Winslow Street alone. Ella Shea owned 38 Winslow, Edward C. Fitzgerald was at number 44, and John Falvey was at 54.

In 1925 Freeland E. Hovey began construction of the 67 and 69 Huron Ave garages along with a home at 65 Huron, next door to Jeremiah O'Donnell at number 61. His home had a cinder-block foundation, and used the new fireproof Lally columns invented by Massachusetts inventor John Lally, who had a factory in North Cambridge. Elizabeth McNamara granted a permanent easement through a common driveway, so Hovey's tenants could reach his back garages.

The City of Cambridge License Commission granted License #32 on June 10, 1925, which allowed the storage of gasoline in the garages.

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Joseph A. and Marie R. DeLeo bought the garages in 1956. Most of the tenants in those days lived along Huron Avenue or one block over on Gray Gardens East.

In the 1980's, Bob and Holly Doyle began renting the 75A garage next to their three-decker at 77 Huron Avenue. In the 1990's, their son Rob began renting one of the lower garages (73B) to store a BMW, and Rob's wife Heather began renting a second garage fronting on Huron Ave (75B). In 2010, a double-wide garage became available (73A) and the Doyles modernized it with an electric overhead door.

Over these years, the Cambridge painter and poet Nicholas Kilmer, our neighbor on Winslow Street, wrote two book-length poems in which the DeLeo Garages played a significant role. He describes...

'the fence that undulates
weakly, its posts rotted away,
between DiLeo's lot and my yard.
I have failed to repair the fence
for ten years, and the boundary line
now is a matter of controversy...

"Did DiLeo send you?"
I demand. "Who are you? What
does he want: the post-hole-digger
I borrowed? It's lost. The shovel
I can still find, and I'll return.
I haven't gotten to the fence
as you see...'
(DiLeo's Garage, p. 4-5)


'Heard from Bob Doyle, the back fence neighbor.
It seems maybe Val
Was premature in her confidence that the garages
Are for sale. Bob says he's on it. Joe DiLeo's promised
First refusal many times, but Bob doesn't think, he says,
Anything's happening yet. Maybe, who knows? never.'
(Day Book, Little Dublin, p.72)

Then, in late January, 2012, the Doyles learned that Curtis Mueller, a developer, had a purchase and sale agreement to take down the garages and replace them with three 35-foot-high condominiums. Bob told Kevin DeLeo he would be happy to pay more for the garages, specifically 10% more as a first offer, but was told the contract with Mueller put the matter out of the DeLeo hands.

On January 31, Bob and Holly went to meet with Marie DeLeo, who was quite happy to sell the garages to the Doyles so they could be preserved, if some arrangement could be made with the developer, Curtis Mueller.

On February 2, 2012, Bob Doyle sent the following appeal to several neighbors and friends.

77 Huron Avenue
February 2, 2012
Dear Neighbors and Friends,

My wife Holly and I would like your support in requesting that a condominium developer back out of his purchase and sales agreement with Marie DeLeo and allow me to buy the property at 67-73 Huron Avenue in order to maintain it as garages.

Marie DeLeo did not realize in December that there was an understanding for many years that I wanted to buy the garages. I made several specific offers to her late husband Joseph DeLeo, starting in the 1980's, but Joe preferred to keep the garages. He loved to work on them. I often supplied him with electricity, with the red paint I used, so the three garages near me matched the white and red of our house. I rebuilt the gutters on my side of the garages, installed electric overhead doors on my garage and my daughter-in-law's garage. And most recently, I spent a lot of time renovating a wide garage for my son Rob. Since Joe died I have been painting the garages next to me, rebuilding their wood frames, remortaring falling pieces of the facade, etc.

All this Joe’s son Kevin DeLeo knew. He said the garages were not likely to be sold until some future time when they might be inherited by himself and his brothers. He was caught by surprise when his mother decided suddenly to sell the property to Curtis Mueller, son of Peter Mueller, a long-time renter of one of the garages. Kevin tried to reach me when he heard what his mother was doing, but I was out of touch and the sale went through, with a closing pending this coming February 15. The sale is dependent on Curtis getting financing, and if he does not, the DeLeos say they will sell the property to me.

Holly and I recently met with Marie. Kevin and his mother agree that they would prefer to sell the property to me, especially since it would not precipitously disrupt the lives of so many of Joe's old friends here who have been renting their garages for years. And it would not put a lot more cars out to park on our already crowded streets.

Curtis says he would use the same builders as those in the recently completed development of 54 Winslow Street, which now has two new 3-story houses, next to the old duplex house refurbished as condos.

Kevin consulted his family lawyer and they agree that I should approach Curtis with a request that he withdraw his offer. I know this will be a disappointment to Curtis, but hope that he will agree it will be a much greater disappointment for so many of us on Huron Avenue who would be his future neighbors should he build here.

I am proposing to offer Curtis a return of his escrowed deposit (plus interest), compensation for all his incidental expenses realized during the transaction, any legal fees, appraisal fees, and any designer costs, including his preliminary plans for the three condominums. These are all the costs that a court would likely order to be paid in the event the seller wanted to break the contract.

The DeLeos do not want to break a contract. Holly and I do not want to involve the court, and we want to avoid unnecessary legal expenses.

We will offer an additional amount to be negotiated with Curtis, so that he will not only recover all his costs but make a profit for his time and energy invested these last several weeks.

If you are interested in helping us, we might ask you to write to Curtis, or at a minimum, allow us to add your name to our voices requesting that there be no change in the garages. I hope to meet with Curtis very soon to make my proposal, and will at that time get his (and perhaps his father Peter's) email address.

Thanks very much in advance for your help.

Bob and Holly Doyle, 617-876-5678

P.S., Holly and I met with Marie a few days ago and gave her the following snapshots of the garages showing the work we have done on them.

The 77 Huron Avenue House and Garages

Just a few days later, on February 5th, Bob Doyle and his neighbor on the other side of the garages, Steve D'Amato, met with Curtis Mueller, and Curtis consented to sell his purchase and sale agreement for the garages to Bob Doyle. The purchase and sale agreement was for a 7003 sg.ft. parcel that was the result of merging the original McNamara and Hovey lots. It did not include a mysterious strip of land (shown in red below), approx 50'x7', that was originally part of Ella Shea's (Now Nicholas Kilmer's) lot. Kilmer explored claiming the land, for which taxes had not been paid to the city for over 50 years. But his attorney showed that Joe DeLeo had closed it off with "no trespassing" signs for decades, and suggested that it could most likely be claimed by the DeLeos (or the current buyer).

Just one day before the closing on the DeLeo Garages, the Doyles' attorney, Carolyn Atinizian, found a record that Marie DeLeo had purchased this strip of land in 1948 (a subdivision of the current Kilmer lot had been prepared in 1947), but apparently had never assigned it to the DeLeo trust that owned the two garage lots. Perhaps it was convenient to avoid paying taxes on that small strip?

In any event, the DeLeo attorney, Frederick J. Conroy, offered to prepare a new quitclaim deed for the mysterious strip, conveying it to the Doyles for $1 (paid in cash), since the intention was to close the sale on the entire Huron Avenue property. The strip was registered in Cambridge Land Court and taxes will be properly assessed in the future.

The DeLeo Garages were thus preserved and will now remain garages for the foreseeable future. As of November, 2012, they have been renovated with new electric overhead doors, the driveway and courtyard have have been repaved, and a large drywell was installed at the rear of the lot.

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The Doyles hope to be able to subdivide the property. The intention is to split up the land among the neighboring abutters so as to reduce the chance that some future owner could again threaten to build new townhouses. Subdivisions would need variances from the Cambridge Zoning Board. If we get approvals, the following changes will be made.

Two front garages (67C and 67D Huron) and land abutting Stephen D'Amato's property will be sold to him at his tax assessment rate and merged with his existing property at 65 Huron. His new lot (shown in red) would be approximately 4580 sq.ft.

The "mysterious strip" of land abutting Nick Kilmer's property will be sold to him at his tax assessment rate and merged with his existing property at 36-38 Winslow. The new land (shown in yellow) would add approximately 350 sq.ft. to the Kilmer property

Three of the front garages (75 Huron) and one behind (73A) will be merged with the Doyles' property at 77 Huron. The new lot (shown in blue) would be approximately 4650 sq.ft.

Eleven of the back garages (73B to 73F, and 69A to 69F) and two front garages (67A and 67B) could be deeded to a condominium association (e.g., DeLeo Garages, LLC) and sold off as individual units. We hope that some nearby neighbors would be the purchasers. The condominium lot would be approximately 4820 sq.ft. The Doyles might keep some of these garages as rental properties.

At the back of the garages, new gates through the fences provide abutters on Winslow Street (Kilmer, Donham) with a deeded permanent easement to the garages. The Wilson/Abraham lot will also have an easement, even though they do not presently want a gate or access.

Abutter gates are almost an invisible part of the new white fence boards on the Kilmer fence at the back of the lot.

Our third Winslow Street abutter, Helen Abraham, did not want a gate, or even an easement (despite the value it would add to her property), but hoped to rebuild her back fence where it has been for the last twenty years or more. The fence actually leaned against the back of the 73 Huron garages. A city inspector from the Cambridge Public Works Department, Bob Patterson, explained to Abraham that she should rebuild the fence clearly on her property or risk a cloud in the title. He recommended six inches back from the property line, and said that it should be a straight line (and not curve into neighboring properties) because her deed describes a straight line. As a result of Patterson's mediation, we reached the following agreement as to where the replacement fence was built.

There is now a tight, but usable, walk-through space from the 77 Huron Avenue Doyle backyard into the rear of the DeLeo Garages.