159 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 159 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 the next year. It appears likely that they built the house and, as indicated by Bunting, also built the other houses at 149-157 Beacon.
159 Beacon was purchased from Robert Bourn and William Leavitt on August 10, 1861, by Frederick Augustus Whitwell. He and his wife, Mary Crowninshield (Silsbee) Whitwell, made it their home. They had married in June of 1861 and 159 Beacon probably was their first home together. He previously had lived at 79 Beacon with his parents, Samuel and Sophia (Story) Whitwell, and his unmarried siblings: Henry, Sophia Louisa, and Samuel Horatio Whitwell. By 1865, they all had moved to 161 Beacon, next door to Frederick and Mary Whitwell.
Frederick Whitwell was an importer of woolens and later a real estate broker and investor in partnership with his brothers, Henry and S. Horatio Whitwell.
Frederick and Mary Whitwell continued to live at 159 Beacon until about 1868, when they moved to a new house they had built at 239 Beacon.
On May 7, 1868, 159 Beacon was purchased from Frederick Whitwell by Mary Ann (Binney) Binney Hayward, the widow of Amos Binney and of Dr. George Hayward. Her first husband (also her first cousin) was a merchant and real estate dealer. A physician by training, he was a recognized natural scientist and a founder of the Boston Society of Natural History. He died in 1847 and Mary Ann Binney married again in November of 1856 to George Hayward, a widower. He was a surgeon and, in 1846, was the first physician to use ether in a surgical operation. Prior to his death in 1863, George and Mary Ann Hayward lived at 16 Pemberton Square, where she continued to live in 1866.7 In October of 1867, she purchased 21 Marlborough, where she probably lived briefly before purchasing and moving to 159 Beacon.
By 1870, Mary Ann Hayward had been joined at 159 Beacon by Martha Mansfield (Shepard) Silsbee, the widow of Salem merchant John Boardman Silsbee, and their children: Emily Fairfax Silsbee, Arthur Boardman Silsbee, Martha Silsbee, and Thomas Silsbee.
In June of 1871, Emily Silsbee married to dry goods and textile merchant Amory Appleton Lawrence. After their marriage, they lived in the Longwood district of Brookline and at 77 Beacon, and then at 59 Commonwealth.
By 1872, Martha Silsbee and her unmarried children had moved to 256 Beacon. Mary Ann Hayward continued to live at 159 Beacon during the 1877-1878 winter season, but had moved thereafter to 1949 Washington. She continued to own 159 Beacon and lease it to others.
During the 1877-1878 winter season, 159 Beacon was the Boston home of John Wooldredge and his wife, Emily (Dunbar) Wooldredge. They had lived at 224 Beacon during the previous season. Their primary residence was in Lynn, where he was a shoe manufacturer. He also was president of the Eastern Railroad and First National Bank of Lynn.
During the 1878-1879 winter season, 159 Beacon was the home of Rev. Leighton Parks and his wife, Margarite Alden (Haven) Parks. They had married in August of 1878 and 159 Beacon probably was their first home together. That same month, he had accepted the rectorship of Emmanuel Church on Newbury, where he would continue to serve until 1904. By the 1879-1880 winter season they had moved to 293 Marlborough.
159 Beacon was not listed in the 1879-1880 Blue Books.
In 1880, 159 Beacon was the home of Anna Huntington (Lyman) Mason, the widow of Rev. Charles Mason. She previously had lived at 231 Beacon. She had moved by the end of the year, and by the 1881-1882 season was living at 202 Beacon.
159 Beacon was not listed in the 1881-1883 Blue Books.
On April 5, 1883, 159 Beacon was acquired from Mary Hayward by Francis Cabot Lowell. He and his wife, Cornelia Prime (Baylies) Lowell, made it their home. They previously had lived at 80 Marlborough.
Francis Lowell was an attorney. He served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1895 until 1898, when he was appointed to the US District Court by President William McKinley.
In June of 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt stayed at 159 Beacon while attending the Harvard commencement (Judge Lowell and the Vice President had become friends while at Harvard). Three months later, President McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt became President. In 1905, he appointed Francis Lowell a judge of the US Court of Appeals for the First District.
On March 28, 1922, 159 Beacon was purchased from the estate of Cornelia Lowell by Susan Edith (Waterbury) Weld, the widow of Stephen Minot Weld, Jr. She previously had lived in Dedham. She also maintained a home in Wareham, which Stephen Weld had built in the mid-1880s.
Stephen Weld had served in the Civil War from 1861 to 1865, rising to the rank of Colonel and, upon discharge, was brevetted a brigadier general. After the war, he became a cotton and wool broker, and served as treasurer of the Elliott Felting Mills. He died in March of 1920.
In about 1947, Susan Weld was joined at 159 Beacon by Mary Frances (Blodgett) Nye, the widow of Theodore Herbert Nye. She previously had lived in Springfield, where her husband, a wholesale provisions dealer, had died in April of 1924.
By 1948, Susan Weld and Mary Nye had moved to 121 Marlborough.
On February 28, 1948, 159 Beacon was acquired from Susan Weld by John Francis Nangle, a purchasing agent, and his wife, Jane Frances (Potter) Nangle. They previously had lived in Brookline. They continued to live at 159 Beacon until his death in April of 1981. After his death, Jane Nangle probably continued to live there, but at the time of her death in April of 1988, she was a resident of Newburyport.
On February 26, 1990, 159 Beacon was acquired from Jane Nangle’s estate by Dr. Sidney Levitsky, a cardiothoracic surgeon, and his wife, Dr. Lynne (Lipton) Levitsky, a pediatric endocrinologist. They continued to live there until 2004.
The house subsequently changed hands. It remained a single-family dwelling in 2021.