Previous ‘This Old House’ project in Watertown hits the market

Exterior of 57 Russell Avenue in Watertown, once featured on "This Old House." Handout: Compass

When Christian Nolen and his then fiancee (now wife) bought their 19th-century Watertown home in May 1998 it was, in his words, a “wreck.”

“It had three separate staircases and it had closets that were also hallways. It was this really oddly fixed together Victorian,” Nolen said of the 1888 home they purchased for $670,000. “There had been one house in the front and they put an addition on in the back. They didn’t think how it would all fit together.”

Aside from the layout issues, the home also had crumbling chimneys, water in the basement, and old heating and electrical systems throughout.

Now, 18 years later, 57 Russell Avenue, which has five bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and 4,689 square feet of living space, is being listed for $1.5 million.

Back in 1998, when Nolen had an inspector at the house before he signed the final papers, just to ensure “it wasn’t going to fall down,” he offhandedly mentioned, “this would be a great home for ‘This Old House.'” His broker overheard and said he knew a producer on the show and that they had actually been looking to do a project in Watertown.

The PBS show, now in its 36th season, delves into a historic home renovation, in order to “demystify home improvement and provide ideas and information, so that whether you are doing it yourself or hiring out contractors, you’ll know the right way to do things and the right questions to ask.’’

After some back and forth, it was decided 57 Russell Avenue would be featured on the show.

“It was an amazing experience,” Nolen said. “They did a gut rehab of the house and replaced every system and did everything in six months.”

See inside 57 Russell Avenue:

“This Old House,” as always, kept some historic details in the home, like original oak, moldings, and some doors.

It now has four working fireplaces with functioning chimneys, open living spaces, lots of natural light, stained glass, two dining rooms, and a deck with a garden.

Nolen worked on the project with the “This Old House” team throughout the six months and his wife worked on it for four months. He emphasized the painstaking detail put into the home, which meant they have had to do no updates in the past 18 years since the renovation.

“We painted each shingle individually, let them dry, then hung them, then painted them again,” Nolen said.

He said they turned the once screened-in porch into an office and added a fence to the large backyard because they got a dog, but other than that haven’t even needed to repaint.

“The only thing we have replaced are lightbulbs,” he added.

The Nolen family is picking up and moving to Cambridge — they have two sons, one of which still lives at home — to be closer to their friends and their son’s school.

“We’ve done a lot of cleaning up and emptying out and thought ‘Gosh, this is a great house,'” Nolen said. “It’s a bittersweet change.”