172 Beacon Street was designed by Bigelow and Wadsworth, architects, and built in 1927-1928 by the F. J. Van Etten Company, general contractors, as a ten story (plus basement), ten-unit apartment building, built for the 172 Beacon Street Trust.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 172 Beacon, and click here for further information on the land on the north side of Beacon, including the Storrow Memorial Embankment on the Esplanade.
The building was originally proposed in 1925 as the Madison Apartments, to be designed by architect Charles R. Greco. It was described in detail in an October 17, 1925, Boston Globe article when the American Bond and Mortgage announced issuance of mortgage bonds to finance the project. The article noted that the “the location is surrounded by exclusive homes of this old aristocratic section. Madison Apartments, as the structure will be known, will be worthy of this location.”
“Constructed of the highest type concrete frame, brick, and limestone, the building will be divided into apartments of eight rooms each, consisting of living-room, dining-room, three master bedrooms, two maids’ rooms, kitchen, two master bathrooms and one maid’s bathroom. There will also be one four-room apartment consisting of living-room, dining-room, kitchen, maid’s room, maid’s bathroom, and one master bathroom, as well as an apartment consisting of living-room, kitchenette, and bathroom. The rooms of all apartments will be large, with special provisions for maximum light and natural air ventilation. The modern plan of the building is particularly noticeable in the provision for wood burning fireplaces in all living-rooms and mechanical refrigeration in all apartments, with a completely equipped laundry for the use of tenants in the basement of the building.”
A drawing of the building as planned appeared in Achievements of New England Architects and Engineers, published in 1927 by Lewis J. Hewitt.
The two existing townhouses at 172 and 174 Beacon were razed, but the project did not go forward and on January 19, 1928, The Madison, Inc., sold the land to real estate dealer Richard DeBlois Boardman (of the offices of the T. Dennie Boardman company), as trustee of the 172 Beacon Street Trust.
The building subsequently constructed was designed by architects Bigelow and Wadsworth and was substantially different in design from the previous plan by Charles Greco. It was described by the Boston Globe in its January 29, 1928, article reporting the sale of the lots: “The new building will be 10 stories, and will be constructed on the 100 percent cooperative basis, and contains every modern improvement. There will be two entrances on Beacon st. with an additional entrance on Back st. It will have a large open court on Beacon st., and will cover the entire lot in the rear. The plans are by Bigelow & Wadsworth, the general contractors being the F. J. Van Etten Company. The sale of the land was through the office of T. Dennie Boardman, who will also have charge of the new building.”
Bigelow and Wadsworth’s plans for the building — including elevations, floor plans, foundation and roof plans, and framing plans — are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston City Archives (reference BIN N-24).
The original building permit application was filed on November 3, 1927. The permit was denied because of lack of egress and ventilation, but was granted on appeal by the Board of Appeal on November 11, 1927.
On June 28, 1935, 172 Beacon was acquired from the 172 Beacon Street Trust.by One Seventy Two Beacon Street, Inc. On October 15, 1947, it was acquired from them by the 172 Beacon Corporation.
The building replaced two townhouses at 172 and 174 Beacon.
172 Beacon (Demolished)
172 Beacon was built ca. 1861 as the home of Richard Sullivan Fay, Jr., and his wife, Elizabeth Francis (Bowditch) Fay. They previously had lived at 10 Pemberton Square.
Elizabeth Fay purchased the land on which 172 Beacon was built on December 5, 1860, shipping merchant and real estate investor John Lowell Gardner, who had purchased it on June 7, 1860, from the Boston and Roxbury Mill Company. John L. Gardner and his wife, Catharine Elizabeth (Peabody) Gardner lived at 7 Beacon, and would build a new home at 182 Beacon in the mid-1860s.
In the Appendix to his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting indicates that 172 Beacon was one of three contiguous houses (172-174-176 Beacon) built for East India shipping merchant Robert C. Mackay. Based on the deeds, this is incorrect. Robert Mackay owned the land where 174-176 Beacon were built, but not the lot where 172 Beacon was built.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 172 Beacon (Demolished).
Richard Fay was treasurer of the Middlesex Manufacturing Company of Lowell, which owned and operated woolen mills.
By 1865, the Fays were joined at 172 Beacon by Franklin Gordon Dexter and his wife, Susan (Amory) Dexter. They previously had lived at 48 Charles. He was a shipping merchant. By 1868, they had moved to 9 Marlborough.
Richard Fay died in March of 1882. Elizabeth Fay continued to live at 172 Beacon with their only child, Dudley Bowditch Fay, who had graduated from Harvard in 1881. He married in October of 1882 to Katherine Gray and they moved to 227 Beacon.
Elizabeth (Bowditch) Fay married again in July of 1891 to Gardiner Greene Hammond, a widower. Prior to their marriage, his primary residence was Walnut Grove in Waterford, Connecticut. After their marriage, they lived at 172 Beacon. They also maintained a home in Milton and continued to maintain his home in Waterford.
Gardiner Greene Hammond died in March of 1903. Elizabeth Hammond continued to live at 172 Beacon until her death in May of 1924.
On November 13, 1924, 172 Beacon was purchased from the estate of Elizabeth (Bowditch) Fay Hammond by real estate dealer William N. Ambler. The property subsequently changed hands and on May 14, 1925, was acquired by Agnes M. Roche. On the same day, she also acquired 174 Beacon. Agnes Roche appears to have been employed by a civil engineering firm in Cambridge. The two lots were subsequently surveyed and combined, and on December 23, 1925, they were transferred to The Madison, Inc. Both houses were razed soon thereafter
174 Beacon (Demolished)
174 Beacon was built in 1860-1861 by Ebenezer Johnson, mason, one of two contiguous houses (174-176 Beacon) built for Robert Caldwell Mackay and his wife, Charlotte Langdon (Lodge) Mackay. They were originally numbered 138 Beacon and 139 Beacon, but were re-numbered as 174 Beacon and 176 Beacon ca. 1862 when homes were built on the south side of the street.
Robert Mackay purchased the land on which 174-176 Beacon were built on June 7, 1860, from the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation. On July 3, 1860, he transferred the land for 174 Beacon to William Mackay.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 174 (Demolished).
On July 16, 1860, Ebenezer Johnson filed with the Board of Aldermen a Notice of Intention to build at 174-176 Beacon. Construction probably started soon thereafter.
Robert and Charlotte (Lodge) Mackay lived at 176 Beacon with their unmarried son, George Henry Mackay. Their older son, William Mackay, and his wife, Susan Haslett (McKim) Mackay, lived at 174 Beacon. They all previously had lived at 127 Tremont.
Robert Mackay was a shipping merchant in the East India trade. William Mackay and George Mackay were partners in their father’s firm.
William and Susan Mackay lived at 174 Beacon until about 1865, when they moved to New York City.
Samuel Rodman was retired from the whaling business in New Bedford. He and his wife, Emma (Motley) Rodman, lived at 33 Charles in 1865. They do not appear to have moved to 174 Beacon for several years and probably were traveling abroad.
During the 1866-1867 winter season, 174 Beacon was the home of Massachusetts Governor Alexander Hamilton Bullock and his wife, Eliza (Hazard) Bullock. They previously had lived at the Tremont House hotel, and had resumed living there by the next season. Their primary residence was in Worcester.
By 1870, 174 Beacon was the home of Francis L. Lee and his wife, Sarah Mary Ann (Wilson) Lee. In 1869, they had lived in Newton.
Francis Lee was a landscape architect and had served as Colonel of the 41st Massachusetts Infantry in the Civil War. They also maintained homes in Chestnut Hill and in Westport, New York. By 1872, they had moved to 254 Beacon.
During the 1878-1879 winter season, the Rodmans were living elsewhere and 174 Beacon was the home of retired merchant William Gardiner Prescott and his wife, Josephine Augusta (Peabody) Prescott. The Prescotts also maintained a home in Pepperell, Massachusetts. They had lived at 188 Beacon in 1878. By 1880, they had moved to 286 Beacon, and the Rodmans were living at 174 Beacon again.
During the 1883-1884 and 1884-1885 winter seasons, the Rodmans were again living elsewhere.
174 Beacon was not listed in the 1884 Blue Book and, although the Rodmans offered it for lease (real estate dealers William C. Codman and James G. Freeman advertising its availability in the Boston Daily Advertiser in September of 1883), it may not have been occupied.
During the 1884-1885 season, it was the home of jeweller and bank president Abraham Orlando Bigelow and his wife Olivia A. (Dodd) Bigelow. Their primary residence was in Jamaica Plain. They had moved to 318 Beacon by the next season.
By the 1885-1886 season, the Rodmans again were living at 174 Beacon. Emma (Motley) Rodman died in October of 1889. Samuel Rodman continued to live at 174 Beacon with their unmarried daughter, Emma. They also maintained a home in Nahant.
Samuel Rodman died in June of 1906. Emma Rodman continued to live at 174 Beacon until about 1924, but had moved to 68 Beacon by 1925.
On August 12, 1924, 174 Beacon was acquired from Emma Rodman by attorney and real estate dealer Walter Howard Gleason. He and his wife, wife, Mabel W. (Robertson) Gleason, lived at 183 Beacon.
On February 16, 1925, 174 Beacon was acquired from Walter Gleason by real estate dealer William N. Ambler. The property subsequently changed hands and on May 14, 1925, was acquired by Agnes M. Roche. On the same day, she also acquired 174 Beacon. Agnes Roche appears to have been employed by a civil engineering firm in Cambridge. The two lots were subsequently surveyed and combined, and on December 23, 1925, they were transferred to The Madison, Inc. Both houses were razed soon thereafter.