242 Beacon was designed by Sturgis and Brigham, architects, and built in 1880 by Woodbury and Leighton, builders, for Thomas Dennie Boardman and his wife, Anna Fearing (Leeds) Boardman. They previously had lived at 245 Beacon. Thomas Boardman is shown as the owner on the original building permit application for 242 Beacon, dated April 30, 1880. They also maintained a home in Manchester.
T. Dennie Boardman was a leather merchant in his father’s firm until the late 1880s, when he became a real estate agent.
The Boardmans lived there until about 1883, when they moved next door to 244 Beacon (which they had built in 1882-1883).
By the 1883-1884 winter season, 242 Beacon was the home of Charles Porter Hemenway and his wife, Ellen Louise (Tileston) Hemenway. They previously had lived at 222 Beacon. They also maintained a home in Swampscott. Ellen L. Hemenway is shown as the owner of 242 Beacon on the 1883, 1888, and 1898 Bromley maps.
Charles Hemenway was a shipping merchant in the South American trade in the firm of Hemenway & Browne, established by his brother, Augustus Hemenway. Charles and Ellen Hemenway previously had lived in New York City. They returned to Boston after the death of Augustus Hemenway in 1876 and Charles Hemenway became managing partner of the firm. Augustus Hemenway’s wife, Mary, was the sister of Charles Hemenway’s wife, Ellen.
Eliza Hemenway married in April of 1899 to George Edward Cabot and they moved to 169 Marlborough.
Caroline Hemenway married in January of 1905 to Charles Wilson Taintor. After their marriage, they lived with Mrs. Hemenway at 242 Beacon during the 1905-1906 and 1906-1907 winter seasons, but moved thereafter to 304 Marlborough.
Ellen Hemenway died in December of 1914 and her daughter, Mary, died in March of 1915. 242 Beacon continued to be the home of Miss Clara Hemenway until her death in August of 1918. She is shown as the owner on the 1917 Bromley map.
By the 1920-1921 winter season, 242 Beacon was owned by investment banker George Cabot Lee, Jr. He previously had lived at 285 Beacon with his wife, Madeline (Jackson) Lee, who died in March of 1920. That same month, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel 242 Beacon, including expanding the attic floor by rebuilding the “front sloping roof … to get three new bed rooms” and making other interior changes. The remodeling was designed by architects Parker, Thomas, and Rice. Plans for the remodeling – including a front elevation, floor plans, and floor framing plans – are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN G-23).
George Lee and his three sons — George Cabot Lee, III, James Jackson Lee, and Nelson Borland Lee — moved there when the remodeling was completed. He also maintained a summer home in Westwood.
In July of 1926, George Lee married again, in Paris, to Gertrude Wildes (Cramer) Bartlett, the widow of Edwin R. Bartlett.
On July 16, 1926, 242 Beacon suffered a serious fire, causing the death of a carpenter working there at the time and seriously damaging the house and its contents. The library on the second floor was being remodeled and the Boston Globe’s article on the fire indicated that “it is thought that someone tossed a lighted cigarette into a can of paint remover, causing an explosion and flames a considerable distance on the second floor.” In August of 1926, George Lee filed for (and subsequently received) permission to repair the damage. The work is shown as completed in August of 1927.
By the summer of 1927, 242 Beacon was briefly owned by Gordon Abbott, who was the assessed owner in 1928. He and his wife, Katharine McLane (Tiffany) Abbott, lived at 240 Beacon. He was a banker with the Old Colony Trust Company, joining the company as a vice-president and retiring in the 1930s as chairman of the board.
On September 7, 1927, while they owned both houses, Gordon and Katharine Abbott joined with their neighbors at 236-238 Beacon and 244-246 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.
242 Beacon was not listed in the 1927 and 1928 Blue Books.
By mid-1928, it was owned by Walter Howard Gleason, an attorney and real estate dealer.
In the summer of 1928, 242 Beacon was purchased from Walter Gleason by Godfrey Lowell Cabot and his wife, Maria Buckminster (Moors) Cabot, as their home. The sale was reported by the Boston Globe on September 2, 1928. The Cabots also maintained a summer residence, The Oaks, in Beverly Farms.
Godfrey Cabot was a chemist and a major manufacturer of carbon black and gas. He also was a pioneer aviator, and in the 1920s and 1930s, was one of the leaders of Boston’s Watch and Ward Society which, among other things, sought to ban books which it considered immoral.
In September of 1928, Godfrey Cabot filed for (and subsequently received) permission to repair fire damage to the front and rear staircases.
In March of 1929, Godfrey Cabot applied for (and subsequently received) permission to construct a garage at the rear of the property. Plans for the garage, designed by architects Putnam and Cox, are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN P-61). It appears that the garage was never built.
Maria Cabot died in November of 1934. Godfrey Cabot continued to live at 242 Beacon, joined by his son-in-law and daughter, Ralph and Eleanor (Cabot) Bradley. Ralph Bradley was vice-president and treasurer of his father-in-law’s firm. They also maintained a summer residence in Beverly Farms.
Godfrey Cabot continued to live at 242 Beacon until his death in November of 1962. The house was shown as vacant in the 1963 City Directory.
By 1963, 242 Beacon was owned by Penwood Realty. In May of 1963, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house from a single-family dwelling into nine apartments. As part of the remodeling, it added a penthouse on top of the existing top floor, which had been expanded in 1920. In 1965, Penwood Realty applied for (and subsequently received) permission to create a new apartment on the penthouse level, increasing the number of units to ten. Plans for the remodeling, designed by architect Leon Furr, are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Collection (reference BIN R-250).
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 1973, 242 Beacon was owned by Nancy E. McCarthy and Nanette Plotkin, trustees, Godfrey Cabot Home Trust. In November of 1973, they converted the property into ten condominiums.
In December of 1995, the two units on the penthouse level were combined and the number of units was reduced to nine.