139 Beacon was built in 1860-1861, one of two contiguous houses (139-141 Beacon) designed by architect Gridley J. F. Bryant as a symmetrical pair with 141 Beacon two feet wider than 139 Beacon.
Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay does not attribute 139-141 Beacon to a specific architect, and Roger Reed’s Building Victorian Boston does not include them among Gridley Bryant’s work. However, a September 24, 1860, Boston Post article reported that they were under construction, “will be finished in a plain but substantial manner,” and were designed by Gridley J. F. Bryant.
It appears likely that 139 Beacon was built by Ebenezer Johnson, a mason and builder, who built 141 Beacon. On September 3, 1860, he joined with land owners and builders of the houses under construction at 131-137 Beacon and 141-147 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.
139 Beacon was built for George Phineas Upham, for speculative sale. George Upham was a wholesale dry goods merchant and sales agent for several cotton mills; he and his wife, Sarah (Sprague) Upham, lived at 122 Beacon.
George Upham purchased the land for 139 Beacon on January 25, 1860, from John Lowell Gardner, a shipping merchant and real estate investor. He and his wife, Catharine Elizabeth (Peabody) Gardner, lived at 7 Beacon, and would build a new home at 182 Beacon in the mid-1860s. The lot was part of a larger parcel John L. Gardner had purchased on September 15, 1859, from William W. Goddard and T. Bigelow Lawrence. That parcel was part of a tract of land that William Goddard and T. Bigelow Lawrence had purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on August 1, 1857, that 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 139 Beacon, and click here for further information about the land on the south side of Beacon from Arlington to Berkeley, north of Alley 421.
After it was completed, 139 Beacon became the home of wine merchant and auctioneer William Church Otis and his wife, Margaret (Sigourney) Otis. They previously had lived at the Tremont House hotel. They also maintained a home in Nahant.
139 Beacon was purchased from George Upham on December 10, 1860, by Henry Sigourney and Joel Richards, trustees for Margaret (Sigourney) Otis under a trust established at the time of her marriage in May of 1855.
The Otises continued to live at 139 Beacon during the 1885-1886 winter season, They spent the 1886-1887 winter at the Hotel Vendome, and then moved to the Hotel Oxford (southeast corner of Exeter and Huntington), where they were living at the time of his death in March of 1889.
In January of 1887, the Otises offered 139 Beacon for sale through real estate dealers Meredith & Nelson. The house did not sell, and on May 19, 1887, they offered it for sale at public auction by Samuel Hatch & Co, auctioneers.
The successful bidder was Dr. William Aloysius Dunn, who took title to the property on May 25, 1887, from Margaret (Sigourney) Otis’s trustees.
William Dunn was a physician and surgeon. He also was a lay leader of the Catholic church and one of the founders of the Young Men’s Catholic Association. In 1909, he received the Order of Gregory the Great from Pope Pius X.
Dr. Dunn lived and maintained his offices at 60 Chambers. After acquiring 139 Beacon, he leased it to others.
By the 1887-1888 winter season, 139 Beacon was the home of attorney Causten Browne and his wife, Katharine Eveleth (Maynadier) Browne. They previously had lived at 196 Beacon. They continued to live at 139 Beacon during the 1890-1891 season, but moved thereafter to the Hotel Vendome.
During the 1891-1892 winter season, 139 Beacon was the home of Mrs. Mary (Vinton) Clark, the widow of Randolph Marshall Clark, who had been treasurer of the Boston Elastic Fabric Company. She had lived at 27 Commonwealth during the previous season. She also maintained a home, Glen Elsinore, in Pomfret, Connecticut. She had moved from 139 Beacon by the 1892-1893 season. and by the 1895-1896 season was living at 265 Commonwealth.
By the 1892-1893 winter season, 139 Beacon was the home of Dr. George Franklin Harding, a physician, and his wife, Elizabeth Simpson (Clarke) Harding. Mary Alice F. Clarke, Elizabeth Harding’s sister, lived with them. They continued to live there during the 1895-1896 season, but had moved to Brookline by 1897.
By the 1896-1897 winter season, 139 Beacon had become Dr. William Dunn’s home and office. He also rented lodgings and medical offices to others. He retired from practice in 1899 and traveled extensively, living at 139 Beacon as a lodger when in Boston.
By 1899, William F. Sharp (born Frederick William Sharp) and his wife, and Annie V. (Taylor) Sharp, lived at 139 Beacon and operated the lodging house for Dr. Dunn. They previously had lived at 658 Tremont. William Sharp died or they separated in about 1905. Annie Sharp continued to live at 139 Beacon until about 1907, when she moved to Cambridge.
Among the lodgers at 139 Beacon from about 1899 were were Dr. Timothy Joseph Reardon, a physician specializing in the nose and throat, and Dr. John Taylor Bottomley, a surgeon. They both also maintained their offices there. They previously had lived and maintained their offices at 4 Marlborough. Timothy Reardon continued to live at 139 Beacon until about 1902, when he moved to 76 Commonwealth. John Bottomley continued to live at 139 Beacon until his marriage in June of 1908 to Mary Agnes Kenney, after which they moved to 165 Beacon.
Also among the longer-term lodgers at 139 Beacon was Ralph Sylvester Bartlett, an attorney and genealogist, who lived there from 1899. He previously had been a lodger at 2 Commonwealth. He continued to live at 139 Beacon until about 1925, when he moved to 108 Mt. Vernon.
By 1910. 139 Beacon was the home of Mrs. Laura Louise (Simmons) Davies, the widow of John L. Davies, who continued to operate it as a lodging house. She was a nurse.
Laura Davies continued to live at 139 Beacon and operate it as a lodging house.
Among the lodgers at this time was Hans Ebell, a pianist, composer, and music teacher, who lived at 139 Beacon from 1918 until about 1924, when he moved to Watertown.
On July 2, 1924, Laura Davies acquired 139 Beacon from William Dunn’s estate.
In July of 1938, she applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house, legalizing the condition that had existed for many years. On the same day, Edmund Codman filed to convert 141 Beacon into a lodging house. They each also filed to erect fire balconies between the two houses.
By 1939, William Cornell, an insurance salesman, and his wife, Gertrude Dake (Lane) Cornell, operated the lodging houses at 139 and 141 Beacon. They lived at 139 Beacon in 1939 but had moved to 141 Beacon by 1940.
On February 20, 1941, 139 Beacon was acquired from Laura Davies by Francis Ford Flanagan and Catherine Krauss. He was an electrician and she was a saleswoman and fitter at Filene’s department store; she had been a lodger at 139 Beacon since the mid-1930s.
Francis Flanagan and Catherine Krauss married in 1942, and on June 16, 1942, Francis Flanagan transferred 139 Beacon into her name.
After their marriage, they lived at 139 Beacon and continued to operate it as a lodging house. Laura Davies continued to live there until her death in August of 1944.
Catherine Flanagan’s sister. Elizabeth Krauss, lived at 141 Beacon where she operated a lodging house. Elizabeth Krauss also owned 115 Beacon, which she converted into a lodging house in the early 1940s.
In August of 1944, Catherine Flanagan and Elizabeth Krauss acquired 131 Beacon which they operated as a lodging house until July of 1959, when they sold it.
Francis Flanagan died in December of 1948. Catherine Flanagan continued to live and operate a lodging house at 139 Beacon until her death in February of 1970.
After her death, 139 Beacon was inherited by her sister, Marie (Krauss) Majane, the wife of Joseph Majane, of Pleasantville, New Jersey. On September 8, 1972, she transferred the property to Elizabeth Krauss.
On October 30, 1997, 139-141 Beacon were purchased from the Elizabeth Krauss 1997 Revocable Trust by Fisher College. At the same time, the college also purchased 115 Beacon from another trust established for the benefit of Elizabeth Krauss.
In December of 1999, Fisher College filed to change the legal occupancy of both 139 Beacon and 141 Beacon from lodging houses to twelve apartments each. The applications were approved but were abandoned, and both properties continued to be operated as lodging houses.
Fisher College continued to operate 139 Beacon as a lodging house in 2015.
The property was assessed as a four-to-six family dwelling in 2021.