104 Beacon was designed by architect Gridley J. F. Bryant and built ca. 1856. It was originally numbered 102 Beacon, but re-numbered as 104 Beacon ca. 1862 when homes were built on the south side of the street.
104 Beacon is one of seven contiguous houses (104-106-108-110-112-114-116) built ca. 1856 in the same design, all in brownstone with French Academic details, ridge roofs, and a common cornice line (the copper-clad oriels at 106, 108, and 110 Beacon were added in the mid-1880s). 104-106 Beacon, 108-110 Beacon, and 112-114 Beacon are each symmetrical pairs.
Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay does not attribute 104-116 Beacon to a specific architect. However, the October 1859 edition of the Architect’s and Mechanic’s Journal, commenting on the houses built on the first block of Beacon in the Back Bay, indicates that they were “from the designs of Mr. G. J. F. Bryant, architect.”
104 Beacon was built as the home of Edmund Dwight and his wife, Ellen Randolph (Coolidge) Dwight. They previously had lived at 68 Beacon. He was a dry goods merchant in the firm of Charles H. Mills & Company. Charles Henry Mills was his brother-in-law, the husband of Anna Cabot Lowell (Dwight) Mills.
Edmund Dwight purchased the land for 104 Beacon on June 28, 1855, from the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 104 Beacon, and click here for further information on the land on the north side of Beacon, including the Storrow Memorial Embankment on the Esplanade.
In 1857, Charles H. Mills & Co. was declared insolvent and on January 28, 1858, the assets of its partners were assigned by the court to Ezra Lincoln and Enoch R. Mudge for sale for the benefit of the firm’s creditors. Edmund and Ellen Dwight moved to 12 Pemberton Square; by 1860, they were living in Winchester.
On March 16, 1858, 104 Beacon was purchased from Ezra Lincoln and Enoch Mudge by James Henry Beal. He and his wife, Judith Drew (Beal) Beal, made it their home. They previously had lived at 45 Chauncy. They also maintained a home, Lawn Cliff, in Nahant.
James Henry (Brewer) Beal was the son of James Brewer and Eliza P. Beal. Eliza (Beal) Brewer remarried in November of 1831 to Henry Beal. James Henry Brewer and his sister, Eliza P. Brewer, changed their name from Brewer to Beal by an Act of the Legislature in 1839. James Henry Beal’s wife, Judith Drew Beal, was his first cousin, the daughter of his mother’s brother, Thomas Prince Beal.
James Henry Beal was a wholesale furniture dealer and banker. From 1857, he was president of the Granite National Bank and continued to serve in that position when it was renamed the Second National Bank in 1864. He retired in 1888. During the Civil War he was a leader among the bankers who helped to raise funds for the United States government.
James and Judith Beal raised their five children at 104 Beacon: Thomas Prince Beal, Helen Beal, Ida Gertrude Beal, Judith Beal, and James Henry Beal, Jr.
Judith Beal died in May of 1860 and James Beal remarried in June of 1862 to Louisa Jane Adams.
James and Louise Beal had two children: Boylston Adams Beal and William Fields Beal.
Helen Beal married in January of 1872 to John Mason Little. After their marriage, they lived at 2 Commonwealth with his parents, James Lovell Little and Julia Augusta (Cook) Little. John Mason Little was a wholesale dry goods merchant in his father’s firm.
Thomas P. Beal married in October of 1881 to Ida Deford. After their marriage, they lived at 36 Gloucester. He was vice president of the Second National Bank and succeeded his father as president when he retired in 1888.
By the mid-1880s, James H. Beal, Jr., was in Europe. He subsequently lived in Concord, Massachusetts, and Putney Vermont, where he died in September of 1912. He was unmarried.
Boylston A. Beal, a lawyer, married in October of 1893 to Elizabeth Sturgis Grew. After their marriage, they lived at 24 Chestnut and then at 73 Beacon. In 1899, they moved to 108 Beacon.
William F. Beal graduated from Harvard in 1893 and entered the real estate business. He moved to Exeter Chambers (southeast corner of Exeter and Blagden) and married in November of 1897 to Lillian Sprague Darrow. After their marriage. They lived at 18 Brimmer.
James Beal died in June of 1904.
Louisa Beal continued to live at 104 Beacon. Her two unmarried step-daughters, Ida Gertrude Beal and Judith Drew Beal, lived with her until the 1906-1907 winter season, when they moved to 361 Beacon.
Louisa Beal lived at 104 Beacon until her death in January of 1920.
104 Beacon remained the property of James H. Beal’s estate, and after Louisa Beal’s death, the trustees under his will – Thomas Prince Beal and Boylston Adams Beal – transferred the property to themselves and Thomas Prince Beal, Jr., as trustees of the Beal Associates trust.
104 Beacon was not listed in the 1921 and 1922 Blue Books.
On May 1, 1922, 104 Beacon was acquired from the Beal Associates trust by Miriam (Sears) Minot, the wife of investment banker and stockbroker James Jackson Minot, Jr. They had married in October of 1921 and had lived briefly at 229 Marlborough. In 1927, they also bought a home in Beverly.
The Minots continued to live at 104 Beacon until about 1942, when they made Beverly their year-round home.
On June 29, 1942, 104 Beacon was acquired from Miriam Minot by Errol B. Sawin, a property manager with Taff & Co., owned by William Walter Taff, Jr. William Taff owned 102 Beacon through his company, 102 Beacon Street, Inc., and he and his widowed mother, Agnes Celia (O’Riorden) Taff, owned 100 Beacon.
Earlier in June of 1942, Ellen B. Welsh (shown as Welch on the permit application), the wife of James J. Welsh of 844 Beacon, had applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 104 Beacon from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house. She probably was an employee of Taff & Co.
In August of 1948, 106 Beacon was acquired by William Taff’s brother-in-law, Edward Richardson Mitton, the president of Jordan Marsh department stores, who was married to Marie Frances (Taff) Mitton. After he acquired the house, it appears that it was operated as a lodging house in conjunction with 104 Beacon.
On June 6, 1962, 102 and 104 Beacon were acquired from 102 Beacon Street, Inc., by Fisher College. On the same day, Fisher College also acquired 106 Beacon from Edward Mitton. Fisher College also owned 108-118 Beacon.
In September of 1962, Fisher College applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 104 Beacon into a dormitory.