241 Beacon was built ca. 1868 for real estate dealer Henry Whitwell, for speculative sale, one of six contiguous houses (241-243-245-247-249-251 Beacon), designed as three matching and symmetrical pairs of houses.
By 1868, 241 Beacon was the home of Francis Winthrop Palfrey and his wife, Louisa C. (Bartlett) Palfrey.
Francis Palfrey was an attorney and registrar in bankruptcy. He had served in the Civil War and was injured at Antietam, and was brevetted a Brigadier General in 1865. He founded the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts and wrote a book on the Antietam and Fredericksburg campaigns.
By 1869, the Palfreys had moved to 202 Beacon.
By 1870, 241 Beacon was the home of attorney Charles Henry Fiske and his wife, Cornelia Frothingham (Robbins) Fiske. They had married in June of 1868 and lived briefly at 36 Commonwealth with his mother, Hannah Rogers (Bradford) Fiske, the widow of Augustus Henry Fiske, before making 241 Beacon their home.
By 1874, 241 Beacon was the home of Eben Rollins Morse and his wife, Marion R. (Steedman) Morse. They had been married in May of 1873, and 241 Beacon probably was their first home together. He is shown as the owner on the 1874 Hopkins map.
E. Rollins Morse was a banker and stockbroker, in partnership with his brother, Charles J. Morse.
In 1881, 241 Beacon was purchased by Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, the widow of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. She is shown as the owner on the 1883, 1888, 1898, and 1908 Bromley maps.
Julia Ward Howe was a noted author and poet, probably best known for writing the lyrics to The Battle Hymn of the Republic. She also was an active abolitionist and, following the Civil War, became a leader in the Woman’s Suffrage movement. Her husband, a physician by training, had been the founding administrator of the Perkins Institute for the Blind and was also a leader in the abolitionist and public education movements.
She continued to live at 241 Beacon during the 1884-1885 winter season, but then moved temporarily to 5 Park, and 241 Beacon became the home of William Larrabee Bonney and his wife, Caroline Emma (Jones) Bonney, and their daughter, Avonia Bonney. William Bonney was employed by Jordan, Marsh & Company; Avonia Bonney was an opera singer, actress, and music teacher. By the 1886-1887 winter season, William and Caroline Bonney had moved to 4 Otis Place, and Avonia Bonney had moved to 5 Otis Place.
By the 1886-1887 winter season, Julia Ward Howe had returned to 241 Beacon.
During the 1888-1889 winter season, she was joined there by her son and daughter-in-law, Henry Marion Howe and Fannie (Gay) Howe. He was a metallurgist and lecturer on metallurgy at MIT. They continued to live with Mrs. Howe in 1890, but had moved to 287 Marlborough by the 1890-1891 winter season.
By 1891, she had been joined by her son-in-law and daughter, John Elliott and Maud (Howe) Elliott. They continued to live with her until about 1895. John Elliott was an artist and muralist who painted the Triumph of Time ceiling at the Boston Public Library. In 1916, Maud Elliott and her sister, Laura Richards, wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning biography of their mother.
Julia Ward Howe continued to live at 241 Beacon until her death in October of 1910.
By the 1911-1912 winter season, it was the home of banker Thomas Motley, Jr., and his wife, Margaret (Fay) Motley. They previously had lived at 247 Beacon. Thomas Motley is shown as the owner of 241 Beacon on the 1912 and 1917 Bromley maps. They continued to live there in 1924, but had moved to Hyde Park by 1925.
By 1925, 241 Beacon was the home of wool merchant Sidney Albert Eisemann and his wife, Helen English (Muhlfelder) Eisemann. They also maintained a summer home in Manchester. By 1927, they had moved to 371 Beacon.
In mid-1926, Barklie McKee Henry and his wife, Barbara (Whitney) Henry, purchased 241 Beacon from Thomas Motley. The sale was reported by the Boston Globe on August 3, 1926. Barklie Henry is shown as the owner of 241 Beacon on the 1928 Bromley map. They also maintained a home in Manchester.
Barklie Henry had authored a novel, Deceit, in 1924 (the year of his graduation from Harvard) and was managing editor of the Youth’s Companion for the Atlantic Monthly.
241 Beacon was not listed in the 1929 and 1930 Blue Books.
By 1931, 241 Beacon was the home of Miss Sally Fairchild and her unmarried brother, Gordon Fairchild, a stock and bond broker. They had lived at 391 Beacon in 1930. She is shown as the owner of 241 Beacon on the 1938 Bromley map.
John Singer Sargent was a friend of Sally and Gordon Fairchild’s parents, Charles and Elizabeth (Nelson) Fairchild. He made several paintings of Sally Fairchild and at least one of Gordon Fairchild as a child.
In 1933 and 1934, Sally Fairchild spent the winter season in Europe and 241 Beacon was the winter home of insurance broker Herbert Bramwell Shaw and his wife, Frances (Fairchild) Shaw. Frances Shaw was Sally Fairchild’s niece, the daughter of John Cummings Fairchild. By 1935, the Shaws had moved to 9 Hereford.
Sally Fairchild continued to live at 241 Beacon until about 1945, when she moved to 1 Sentry Hill Place.
By 1946, 241 Beacon was owned by Mrs. Dorothy Thurlow (Moore) Burgoyne, the former wife of Frederick Walter Burgoyne. She previously had lived at 193 Beacon. She operated 241 Beacon as a lodging house, although it appears no change in legal occupancy was ever sought or approved.
In July of 1987, Stephen Cohen, trustee of the 241 Beacon Street Realty Trust, purchased 241 Beacon from Dorothy Burgoyne. In November of 1987, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house into five apartments. On the application, he indicated that the current legal use was as a single-family dwelling, but that it had been a lodging house with nine units for 37 years (since 1950).
In September of 1989, he converted the house into five condominiums.