236 Beacon and 238 Beacon were built ca. 1869, a symmetrical pair of houses.
Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay does not attribute 236-238 Beacon to a specific architect. However, a January 1, 1870, article in the Boston Daily Transcript Supplement, commenting on new buildings on Beacon Street, states “I & H. M. Harmon have built a fine brown-stone front four-story dwelling for J. H. Wolcott. Emerson & Fehmer furnished the plans.” From the date and the ownership, this would appear to be 238 Beacon (although the article identifies it as 146 Beacon, which was built in the early 1860s). The article does not mention 236 Beacon but it is likely that it was built at the same time and also designed by Emerson and Fehmer.
236 and 238 Beacon were combined into one building in 1914 and the façade was significantly remodeled in 1950-1951, designed by architect Saul E. Moffie.
236 Beacon was built ca. 1869 for John Fox Slater as the home of his son-in-law and daughter, Francis Bartlett and Marianna Hubbard (Slater) Bartlett, who had married in March of 1869.
John Fox Slater was a cotton manufacturer in Norwich, Connecticut. A noted philanthropist, in 1868 he gave $1 million to establish the John F. Slater Fund to support the education of the emancipated slaves.
Francis and Marianna Bartlett moved to 236 Beacon upon its completion in mid-1870. They previously had lived with his parents, Sidney and Caroline (Pratt) Bartlett, at 95 Beacon.
Francis Bartlett was a lawyer.
Marianna Bartlett died in January of 1873. M. H. Bartlett’s Heirs are shown as the owner on the 1883, 1888, 1898, and 1908 Bromley maps.
During the 1894-1895 winter season, he was living elsewhere and 236 Beacon was the home of stockbroker Guy Norman and his wife, Louisa (Palfrey) Norman. The previous season, they had lived at 254 Beacon. By 1897, the Normans had moved to 262 Beacon, and Francis Bartlett was living at 236 Beacon once again.
He continued to live there until his death in September of 1913.
238 Beacon was built ca. 1869 as the home of textile commission merchant Joshua Huntington Wolcott and his wife Harriet (Frothingham) Wolcott. They previously had lived at 48 Boylston. He is shown as the owner of 238 Beacon on the 1874 Hopkins map and the 1883 and 1888 Bromley maps.
Their son, Roger Wolcott, lived with them. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1874 and in September of 1874 married Edith Prescott. After their marriage, they first lived at 238 Beacon with his parents, but by 1877 were living at 22 Commonwealth. He was a lawyer and later would served as Governor of Massachusetts.
Joshua Wolcott died in January of 1891. Harriet Wolcott continued to live at 238 Beacon until her death in April of 1899. Joshua Wolcott’s Heirs are shown as the owners on the 1895 and 1898 Bromley maps.
In the fall of 1899, 238 Beacon was purchased from the Wolcott estate by wool commission merchant Lawrence Carteret Fenno and his wife, Pauline (Shaw) Fenno. The sale was reported by the Boston Globe on November 22, 1899. During the 1899-1900 winter season, they lived at 120 Beacon while their new home was being renovated. Pauline S. Fenno is shown as the owner of 238 Beacon on the 1908 Bromley map.
The Fennos also maintained a summer home at Beverly Farms until about 1910, when they built a new home in Rowley.
L. Carteret Fenno died in January of 1911. After his death, Pauline Fenno lived primarily in Rowley, frequently spending their summers in England. Their four daughters — Pauline Fenno, Florence Fenno, Marian Shaw Fenno, and Sarah Elizabeth Fenno — lived with her.
During the 1912-1913 winter season, 238 Beacon became the home of Pauline Fenno’s sister, Marian (Shaw) McKean, the former wife of Henry P. McKean. In November of 1914, she married again, to Malcolm Graeme Haughton, Jr., a cotton broker.
In August of 1914, Pauline Fenno had acquired 236 Beacon and combined the two houses, cutting through doors in the party wall to make it into a single-family residence. The Haughtons continued to live there through the winter season of 1916-1917. They also maintained a home at Prides Crossing.
In June of 1918, the Haughtons purchased and moved to 13 Commonwealth.
Thereafter, Pauline Fenno and her daughters resumed living at 236-238 Beacon during the winter seasons. They continued to live at Rowley in the summers and to travel to Europe frequently.
Marian Fenno married in December of 1925 to William Brown McIlvaine, Jr.; after their marriage, they moved to Chicago where he was an attorney. Florence Fenno married in December of 1930 to Clement M. Burnhome, a banker; after their marriage, they lived in an apartment at 101 Chestnut.
On September 7, 1927, Pauline Fenno joined with her neighbors at 240-246 Beacon in an agreement prohibiting for ten years (until January 1, 1938) any new building or structure behind their houses any taller than 26½ feet.
Pauline Fenno continued to live at 236-238 Beacon with her unmarried daughters, Pauline and Sarah Elizabeth, until about 1941. She is shown as owner of 236-238 Beacon on the 1917, 1928, and 1938 Bromley maps.
In December of 1941, Pauline Fenno applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 236-238 Beacon into offices and lodging for the Massachusetts Women’s Civilian Defense Corps.
By 1950, 236-238 Beacon was owned by architect Saul E. Moffie.
In December of 1950, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the property and convert it from a single-family dwelling into apartments, with ten units in each building.
Saul Moffie’s original plans for the remodeling, which he designed, included lowering the entrance to the basement level and modernizing the entry, eliminating the original balustraded portico above the former entranceand refacing the façade between the bays with brick up to the second story. The original brownstone would have remained on the bays and above the second floor, and the original slate mansard roof and fourth floor windows would have been retained. Architectural plans for this proposed remodeling — including elevations and floor plans — are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN R-119).
In June of 1951, he submitted amendments to the permit applications to reface the entire front and side façades with 12″ brick. As part of this change (but not mentioned in the amendments) he also replaced the mansard roof and window details to achieve a modernized façade.
By 1958, Saul Moffie had acquired 240 Beacon and in March of 1958, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to cut doors between 236-238 and 240 Beacon, combining the three buildings into one property. On the same day, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel 240 Beacon and convert it from a school into seven apartments.
By 1964, 236-240 Beacon was composed of 29 units.
In January of 1970, the Beacon Street Improvement Trust filed for permission to raze 236-238-240-242-244-246 Beacon Street and replace them with a 36 story steel framed and brick clad tower at the northwest corner of Beacon and Dartmouth. The building would have 133 units and a 135 car garage. A companion, 32-story building was proposed at the same time on the northeast corner of Beacon and Dartmouth, replacing 222-224-226-228-230-232-234 Beacon. The proposed twin-tower project met with strong opposition from residents and was abandoned after the City established height limits on all buildings in the residential portion of the Back Bay.
By 1972, 236-240 Beacon was owned by Property Development Associates, Inc. In August of 1972, they converted the property into 28 condominiums.