157 Beacon was designed by architect Abel C. Martin and built in 1860-1861, one of six contiguous houses (149-151-153-155-157-159 Beacon) built at the same time in a symmetrical pattern. The two houses on each end (149-151 Beacon and 157-159 Beacon) feature arched, extended entries and dormers with peaked roofs, and the two houses in the center (153-155 Beacon) have entries flush with the façade and originally had dormers with arched roofs (the dormer on 153 Beacon was remodeled sometime after 1942 to have a peaked roof matching the dormer on 151 Beacon).
149-159 Beacon were built on a parcel of land with a frontage of 125 feet purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on September 2, 1858, by George Goss and Norman Carmine Munson, the contractors responsible for filling the Commonwealth’s Back Bay lands. On the same day, the parcel was purchased from them by Peleg Whitman Chandler, Jonathan Amory Davis, and Henry Lee, Jr.
On July 5, 1860, the partners subdivided the property into six lots. Peleg Chandler bought 149 Beacon and Henry Lee and J. Amory Davis bought 157 Beacon; the other four lots were bought by individual buyers.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 157 Beacon, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Beacon and Alley 420, from Berkeley to Clarendon.
On August 2, 1860, Abel C. Martin filed a Notice of Intention to Build with the Board of Aldermen. The notice indicated plans to build at the corner of Beacon and Berkeley, on land owned by “P. W. Chandler and others.” Neither the number of houses to be built nor the dimensions were included in the notice; however, it appears likely that it comprised all six houses at 149-159 Beacon.
In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting indicates 149-159 Beacon were built by Bourne & Leavitt. Robert Tower Bourn (Bourne) and William Leavitt were house carpenters. They bought the lot at 159 Beacon on July 5, 1860, and sold it with the completed house on August 10, 1861. It appears likely that they built the house and, as indicated by Bunting, also built the other houses at 149-157 Beacon.
In November of 1861, real estate dealer Francis H. Jackson advertised in the Boston Evening Transcript, offering 157 Beacon “for sale or to let.”
By 1862, 157 Beacon was leased from Henry Lee, Jr., and J. Amory Davis by carriage manufacturer Thomas Goddard and his wife, Sarah (Farrie) Goddard. They previously had lived at 9 High. Thomas Goddard’s sister, Anna Blake Wilkins (Goddard) Campbell, the widow of restaurateur Abner R. Campbell, lived with them.
J. Amory Davis died in March of 1865, and on December 13, 1866, Thomas Goddard purchased 157 Beacon from Henry Lee, Jr., and J. Amory Davis’s estate.
Thomas Goddard died in February of 1894 and his sister died in August of 1895. Sarah Goddard continued to live at 157 Beacon until her death in November of 1906.
The house was not listed in the 1908 Blue Book.
In 1908, it was briefly the home of Charles Winslow’s brother-in-law and sister, John Jameson Cairnes and Amabel (Winslow) Cairnes. They previously had lived at 267 Clarendon. He was a prominent amateur tennis player. They had moved from 157 Beacon by the 1908-1909 winter season. In about 1911, they made Horton Priory in Kent, England, their home.
By the 1908-1909 winter season, 157 Beacon was the home of wool merchant William Farnsworth and his wife, Lucy Holman (Burgess) Farnsworth. They previously had lived in Dedham, where they continued to maintain a home. Their two children, Ellen Holman Farnsworth and Henry Weston Farnsworth, lived with them.
On January 24, 1910, Lucy Farnsworth bought 157 Beacon from Charles Winslow.
Ellen Farnsworth married in June of 1912 to Alfred Lee Loomis. After their marriage, they lived in Tuxedo Park, New York. Alfred Lee Loomis was an attorney and later would become an investment banker, physicist, and underwriter of scientific research. He established the Loomis Laboratory at Tuxedo Park and is credited with developing several navigational and radar systems.
Henry Weston Farnsworth was killed in France in September of 1915 while serving in the French Foreign Legion.
Lucy Farnsworth died in April of 1929. William Farnsworth continued to live at 157 Beacon until his death in October of 1932. 157 Beacon was inherited by their daughter, Ellen (Farnsworth) Loomis.
The house was not listed in the 1934 and 1935 Blue Books.
On May 18, 1935, 157 Beacon was purchased from Ellen Loomis by attorney Henry Isaac Lazarus and his wife, Leah Emeline (Van Wyke) Wade Lazarus. They previously had lived in an apartment at 33 Commonwealth.
In June of 1935, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a three-family dwelling. They subsequently rented the other units and ultimately operated it as a lodging house.
Henry Lazarus died in January of 1957. Leah Lazarus continued to live at 157 Beacon until about 1965.
On April 15, 1965, 157 Beacon was purchased from Leah Lazarus by Harvey Brockway Moore, a life insurance agent, and his wife, Elizabeth Jackson (Blakney) Moore, trustees of the Harvey B. Moore Realty Trust. They lived at 31 Lime.
They converted the property into five apartments.
On October 19, 1967, 157 Beacon was acquired from the Moores by Edward P. Jones, a stockbroker. He lived in one of the apartments.
On May 15, 1978, 157 Beacon was acquired from Edward P. Jones by Ralph H. Johnson.
On February 2, 1979, he converted the property into five condominium units, the 157 Beacon Street Condominium.
In May of 1979, Ralph Johnson applied to legalize the occupancy of the building as five units, noting that although it was zoned as a three-family dwelling, it contained five units (with a kitchen and bathroom in each) when he acquired it in 1978. He subsequently abandoned the application, and the occupancy was not legalized as five units until 2002.