131 Beacon was built in 1860-1861, one of two contiguous houses (131-133 Beacon) built in the same design. As originally built, 131-133 Beacon both had flat front façades; in about 1898, a oriel window was added on the third story of 131 Beacon (it is not shown on the 1895 Bromley and 1897 Sanborn maps, but is shown on the 1898 Bromley map). Two other houses, 127-129 Beacon, in a similar style, were built at about the same time on slightly smaller lots.
All four houses were built on land owned by William Warren Goddard and T. Bigelow Lawrence, part of a tract of land they had purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on August 1, 1857. That tract included all of the land on the south side of Beacon Street from Arlington to Berkeley.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 131 Beacon, and click here for further information about the land on the south side of Beacon from Arlington to Berkeley, north of Alley 421.
Three different builders constructed the houses: James Standish built 127 Beacon, John Danforth Dunbar built 129 Beacon, and Samuel Shurtleff Perkins built 131-131 Beacon. In each case, after the buildings were completed, the land was acquired by the builder from William Goddard and T. Bigelow Lawrence, and then the builder resold the house to its first occupant.
On May 7, 1860, Standish & Woodbury (Lemuel Miles Standish and Charles Woodbury), masons, filed with the Board of Aldermen a Notice of Intention to build on land on Beacon owned by Samuel S. Perkins. The notice neither indicates the number of houses to be built nor the dimensions, but It probably was for both 131-133 Beacon. Lemuel Standish was the brother of James Standish, also a mason, who built 127 Beacon. Samuel S. Perkins was a carpenter and builder, and probably provided the carpentry at 131-133 Beacon while Standish and Woodbury provided the masonry.
On September 3, 1860, Samuel Perkins joined with land owners and builders of the houses further west, at 135-147 Beacon, in a petition to the Board of Aldermen seeking permission to remove “the very objectionable Poplar trees in front of their premises.” The petition was granted by the Board.
That same month, real estate dealer John Jeffries, Jr., offered 131-133 Beacon for sale. In a September 19, 1860, advertisement in the Boston Evening Transcript he noted that the houses were to be completed about November 15, that “the two lower stories are finished in hard wood,” and that they included “hard wood stairs, best of marble mantels, water and gas carried all over the house, plenty of bath room and other conveniences” and that “they can be painted to suite [sic] the taste of the purchaser if sold soon.”
On November 21, 1860, after completing the houses at 131-133 Beacon, Samuel Perkins purchased the land from William Goddard and T. Bigelow Lawrence. He and his wife, Isabella Anderson (Drayton) Perkins, lived at 119 Harrison.
On October 9, 1861, 131 Beacon was purchased from Samuel Perkins by Rev. Christopher Toppan Thayer, a Unitarian minister. He and his wife, Augusta (Brewster) Thayer, made it their home.
Christopher Thayer died in June of 1880. In his will, he left all of his property to his wife.
Augusta Thayer continued to live at 131 Beacon, joined in 1883 by her nephew, William Brewster, the son of her brother-in-law and sister, Oliver Brewster and Anna Maria (Jarves) Brewster. He had graduated form Harvard in 1881, after which he had traveled abroad, returning to study law in the offices of Judge Josiah G. Abbott. He subsequently became a trustee and manager of trust properties.
By the 1888-1889 winter season, William Brewster had been joined at 131 Beacon by his widowed mother, Anna Maria (Jarves) Brewster. They also maintained homes in Newport and in Ryde on the Isle of Wight.
During the 1898-1899 winter season, William Brewster and Anna Brewster were living elsewhere, probably traveling abroad, and 131 Beacon was the home of John Murray Brown and his wife, Caroline Lane (Lamson) Brown. He was a publisher with his family’s firm, Little, Brown & Co. Their usual residence was in Belmont and they had leased 131 Beacon to introduce their daughter, Alice Munroe Brown, into society. Miss Brown had returned that summer from Europe, where she had been studying. The Browns leased 311 Beacon for the 1899-1900 season.
William Brewster and his mother were listed at 131 Beacon in the 1899 and 1900 Blue Books. However, he was traveling in Europe during both the 1899-1900 and 1900-1901 winter seasons. Anna Brewster may have been living at 131 Beacon, but by mid-1900 she was again in Europe and died in July of 1900 at their home in Ryde on the Isle of Wight.
William Brewster returned to the United States in mid-1901. He continued to travel frequently, maintaining his Boston home at 131 Beacon until 1909. By 1910, he had moved to 302 Marlborough by 1910.
131 Beacon was not listed in the 1910 Blue Book.
In May of 1910, at the time of the 1910 US Census, 131 Beacon was the home of chemical manufacturer William Ross Warren and his wife, Helen (Van Voast) Warren. They had lived at 187 Bay State Road in 1909.
On July 25, 1910, 131 Beacon was acquired from William Brewster by Olivia Lee (Endicott) Hutchins, the wife of retired wool broker John Hurd Hutchins. They previously had lived at 262 Beacon.
J. Hurd Hutchins died in April of 1930. Olivia Hutchins continued to live at 131 Beacon. Their son, John, lived with her. In the mid-1930s, they were joined by her sister, Mabel Endicott, and their mother, Mary Elizabeth (Chapman) Endicott, widow of insurance broker George Munroe Endicott.
She continued to live at 131 Beacon in 1942, but had moved to an apartment at 250 Beacon by 1943.
By 1943, 131 Beacon was the home of Albert H. Houghton, a real estate broker, and his wife, Emeline Washburn (Ewell) Houghton. They previously had lived in Brighton. He died in March of 1943. Emeline Houghton continued to live at 131 Beacon in 1944, operating it as a lodging house. By 1945, she and several of her lodgers had moved to 2 Marlborough, which had been acquired by S. Clifford Speed in April of 1944.
On August 15, 1944, 131 Beacon was acquired from S. Clifford Speed by Elizabeth Krauss and her sister, Catherine (Krauss) Flanagan, the wife of Francis Ford Flanagan. Elizabeth Krauss lived at 141 Beacon and operated lodging houses there and at 115 Beacon. Catherine Flanagan and her husband lived at 139 Beacon where they also operated a lodging house.
In October of 1946, they applied to convert 131 Beacon from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house, legalizing its current use. Their application was denied. In January of 1947, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to install a fire escape on the rear of the house, required to meet egress requirements for a lodging house. After installing fire escapes, in March of 1948, they again applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into a lodging house.
On July 1, 1959, 131 Beacon was acquired from Elizabeth Krauss and Catherine Flanagan by August Anderson Calen, Jr., and his wife, Elsa Cecelia (Dahlstrom) Calen. They lived at 447 Brookline Avenue and operated 131 Beacon as a lodging house.
On August 15, 1960, 131 Beacon was acquired from the Calens by Myron Cornelius Fisher, Jr., director of corporate development for Fisher Junior College (founded by his father, Myron C. Fisher, Sr., and his uncle, Edmund H. Fisher). He and his wife, Catherine B. (Schaefer) Fisher lived in Lexington.
On July 6, 1961, 131 Beacon was acquired from Myron Fisher by Fisher College.
In September of 1961, the college applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into a dormitory for the school.
In November of 1968, Fisher College acquired 133 Beacon, where it maintained a dormitory and dining room.
In March of 1975, the college applied for permission to convert 131 Beacon from a dormitory into classrooms, noting that the number of students who resided in dormitories had declined. At the same time, it also sought to convert 133 Beacon into classrooms and a dining room. The applications were denied and Board of Appeal refused to grant the college’s appeal.
131 Beacon remained a Fisher College dormitory in 2015.