122 Beacon was built ca. 1857. It was originally numbered 111 Beacon, but re-numbered as 122 Beacon ca. 1862.
In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting indicates that 122 Beacon had the first mansard roof in the Back Bay. However, photographs of the original townhouse at 100 Beacon, built ca. 1856 (and demolished in 1924) indicate that it, too, had a mansard roof.
The land for 122 Beacon was purchased on May 5, 1856, from the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation by George Phineas Upham.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 122 Beacon, and click here for further information on the land on the north side of Beacon, including the Storrow Memorial Embankment on the Esplanade.
George P. Upham was a merchant and sales agent for several cotton mills. In October of 1856, he married Sarah Sprague. They lived at 23 Mt. Vernon while awaiting completion of their home at 122 Beacon.
In April of 1859, he purchased the land next door, at 124 Beacon, and had a house built there, which he sold in January of 1860 to Charles Stoddard.
George and Sarah Upham continued to live at 122 Beacon during the 1878-1879 winter season, but moved thereafter to 144 Beacon.
On October 24, 1879, 122 Beacon was purchased from George Upham by Thomas Jefferson Coolidge. He and his wife, Mehitable (Hetty) Sullivan (Appleton) Coolidge, lived at 93 Beacon. He was an investor in textile mills, banks, and railroads, and later would serve as Ambassador to France. In 1901, soon after his wife’s death, he purchased 315 Dartmouth and made it his home.
122 Beacon became the home of T. Jefferson and Hetty Coolidge’s son-in-law and daughter, Frederick Richard Sears, Jr., and Eleanora Randolph (Coolidge) Sears, who had married in June of 1879. They also maintained a home in Beverly Farms.
On April 6, 1899, T. Jefferson Coolidge transferred 122 Beacon to Eleanora Sears.
She died in December of 1912. Frederick Sears continued to live at 122 Beacon with their unmarried children, Frederick Richard Sears, III, and Eleanora (Eleo) Randolph Sears.
Frederick Sears, III, married in August of 1924 to Norma Fontaine. They spent the 1924-1925 winter season in Florida, after which they moved to 267 Commonwealth.
Frederick Sears, Jr. died in December of 1939. 122 Beacon was inherited by Frederick Sears, III, and Eleo Sears, and remained Eleo Sears’s home until about 1941.
Eleo Sears was a noted athlete. In her March 27, 1968, obituary, the Boston Globe described her as “a national tennis and squash champion, a famous rider and breeder of hunting, racing, and polo horses, a strong swimmer, and perhaps the best known woman pedestrian ever. Miss Sears frequently walked a score or more miles a day, and her round-trips between Boston and Providence were reported throughout the world.”
From 1942 through 1959, 122 Beacon was shown as vacant in the Boston City Directories. It remained Eleo Sears’s Boston home, and she was listed there in the 1944 and 1948 Lists of Residents, but otherwise it was not included in the Lists. Her brother died in January of 1947, and on May 22, 1947, she acquired his interest in the property from his estate.
On June 5, 1959, 122 Beacon was purchased from Eleo Sears by the Joseph Vincent Realty Corporation. In July of 1959, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house from a single-family dwelling into eight apartments, including replacing the front façade, eliminating the original mansard and dormers, and also eliminating a two-story oriel window on the second and third floors (later residents of 122 Beacon indicated that this remodeling was as a result of a major fire; while this is likely, the permit for the work makes no indication of fire repairs). Partial plans for the remodeling (with no architect indicated) are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN R-212).
The building subsequently changed hands, and on October 17, 1969, 122 Beacon was acquired by Alvin S. Hochberg, trustee of the Beacon-Catherine Trust, formed by cartoonist and political satirist Al Capp (Alfred Gerald Caplin) and his wife, Catherine Wingate Cameron. They lived in Apartment 2, where he drew his long-running “Li’L Abner” cartoon strip until his retirement in November of 1977. He died in November of 1979, and the next month the Trust mortgaged 122 Beacon to his business, Capp Enterprises.
On July 20, 1980, the Beacon-Catherine Trust converted 122 Beacon into seven condominium units, the 122 Beacon Street Condominium.
On May 22, 1981, the condominium association amended the master deed to specify that there would remain seven units but that the studio unit on the ground floor would be part of the common area.