A Home With A View
The Allen house is a forward looking home. It sends its view, weather data and even the power it generates to the larger world.
Most people consider their home’s front the part that faces the street.
Not George Allen. He considers the opposite side the front at 27 Bay View Ave.
That’s because the look at the Allen household is as much about the view and where it leads as its appearance.
He's had that outlook since he and his wife, Sarah, first entered the home in the early 1990s.
They had been house hunting for a couple years, and had looked at about 30 by the time they visited the one that became theirs on Bay View. It was in a part of town that had been out of their price range.
But then home prices dropped in the cool market of the early 90s.
When they entered the neat, symmetrical Colonial Revival they saw what they were looking for.
Just over threshold a hallway led to an enclosed but sunny room overlooking Swampscott Harbor maybe 100 yards away.
“When we came in and looked out we said this is it," Allen said.
From their hillside vantage they see the top of the Fish House — its gable end, widow's walk and codfish weathervane — and a boat-filled harbor in summer.
Beyond is the Boston skyline, and, scanning the distance at night the dark horizon reveals itself in a flickering threesome: Boston Harbor Light, Graves Light and Minot's Ledge Light flashing like fireflies.
Above, planes hang almost motionless in their Logan approach.
From the side of the house below the roof hang two cameras that capture sweeping images of harbor and sky every 15 minutes.
Allen is an environmental scientist whose focuses on air quality.
The cameras, just as others perched in Baltimore, Boston, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont and elsewhere collect visibility, documenting levels of haze and air pollution.
The images appear on the Internet at http://www.hazecam.net
for which Allen works.
Below the cameras is a weather station, the only one in Swampscott that feeds its data to NOAA's nationwide weather collection system.
“We share our view and our weather with the world,” Allen said.
He's been doing it for more than a decade.
Allen considers himself a retro geek.
He likes his home's old feel and appearance and quality.
A local builder, Mr. Yozell, built it in the late 1920s for his own home.
The five-bedroom, three-floor Colonial Revival has Federal and Georgian elements, says Sarah Allen.
It is solid and modestly stylish with eye-pleasing molding and wainscoting. A wide first-to-second floor staircase is bordered by a hardwood railing as smooth as glass.
The floors are hardwood and much of the lighting is natural.
Window space abounds. Even doors hold glass panes, several of them arched at the top.
And, speaking of light, sunlight, the Allens generate their own electricity. All of it. And more.
Roof-top solar panels at the "front" of the house face south, unobscurred by trees.
Energy collected by the panels streams out to the grid.
Since the Allens generate more power than they use they get periodic checks, most recently one for $1,000.
The electricity goes out from the house. Data on wind speed and direction, temperature, rainfall, dewpoint and humidity goes out to the world, as do images of Swampscott Harbor.
Some of George Allen's friends who moor boats in the harbor visit the Hazecam website to keep an eye on their vessels in stormy weather.
The images come from the home with a view — at the front of the house.