261 Beacon was designed by Blaikie and Blaikie, architects, and built in 1889 for mason and builder Peter Graffam, one of three contiguous apartment buildings (330 Dartmouth, 259 Beacon, and 261 Beacon) built in 1889-1890. He and his wife, Alice S. (Tufts) Graffam, lived in Malden.
Peter Graffam is shown as the owner and builder of 259 Beacon and 261 Beacon on the on the original building permit applications, dated December 13, 1888, and on the final building inspection reports dated December 30, 1889. He is also shown as the owner and builder of 330 Dartmouth on the final building inspection report, dated December 16, 1890 (the original permit application has not been located).
259-261 Beacon were built first, completed in 1889, and known as The Grosvenor; 330 Dartmouth was completed in 1890 and known as The Graffam. Over the years, the three buildings changed hands frequently, sometimes being held by one owner and sometimes being held by different owners. All three were converted into condominiums: 330 Dartmouth in 1979, 259 Beacon in 1984, and 261 Beacon in 1983.
Peter Graffam purchased the land for all three buildings, with a 105 foot frontage on Beacon, on October 25, 1888, from dry goods merchant Eben Dyer Jordan, co-founder of the firm of Jordan, Marsh & Company, who had purchased it one week earlier, on October 19, 1888, from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He and his wife, Julia M. (Clark) Jordan, lived at 46 Beacon.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 261 Beacon, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Beacon and Alley 418, from Dartmouth to Exeter.
On June 8, 1889, the Boston Globe reported on 259-261 Beacon, which were expected to be completed on October 1. “P. Graffam, owner and builder, is erecting upon three lots of land on the southerly side of Beacon street, just west of Dartmouth street corner, a large and costly stone and brick apartment house, to contain 18 suites, with eight rooms and bathroom to each. … Upon every story will be three swell fronts, the first and second stories being of Longmeadow stone, split finish, with a wide hammered belt course, finely chiselled in ornamental carving, the succeeding four floors being of face brick, with Longmeadow freestone trimmings. There are to be two entrances, the main one being arched and elaborately carved. The structure will be fire-proof, heated by steam, furnished with electric lights, plate-glass windows, speaking tubes, and all modern conveniences. The finish will be in oak, cherry and pine. There will be two freight elevators.”
Peter Graffam sold all three buildings between 1889 and 1891. As built, there were open passageways between each building about 7 feet wide running from the alley north about 30 feet to an open courtyard about 11 feet wide and extending about 25 feet to the north. When the buildings were sold, the deeds established easements to ensure that these areas would remain open for the benefit of both properties.
On April 16, 1890, 261 Beacon was purchased from Peter Graffam by attorney Linus Mason Child. He and his wife, Ada (Abbie) M. (Cummings) Wilson Child, had lived in an apartment at 259 Beacon during the 1889-1890 winter season (he had purchased 259 Beacon from Peter Graffam in December of 1889 and sold it the same day). By the 1890-1891 season, they were living in an apartment at 330 Dartmouth.
On October 21, 1890, 261 Beacon was acquired from Linus Child by Edward Henry Davies. He and his wife, Susan W. (Bridge) Davies, lived in Portland, Maine, where he was president of the Portland Gas Light Company.
On July 11, 1898, 261 Beacon was acquired from Edward Davies by James F. Wilkinson of Newton.
The property subsequently changed hands and on May 1, 1900, was acquired by a trust established under the will of Frederick Lothrop Ames for the benefit of his daughter, Helen Angier (Ames) Hooper, the wife of Robert Chamblet Hooper. The Hoopers lived at 448 Beacon. The trust had acquired 330 Dartmouth and 259 Beacon in April of 1900.
Helen (Ames) Hooper died in February of 1907, and on September 22, 1909, the properties were transferred to Philip Dexter as guardian for her only child, Helen A. Hooper, a minor.
In December of 1909, all three buildings were acquired by real estate dealer Frederick Augustus Whitwell. He and his wife, Mary Crowninshield (Silsbee) Whitwell, lived at 113 Marlborough. He died in July of 1912 and his estate sold the buildings to real estate dealer Loren D. Towle.
The properties changed hands and in May of 1924 were sold to three separate owners. They all changed hands again, with 259 Beacon and 261 Beacon acquired by real estate dealer James M. Burr. By December of 1924, all three properties were owned by real estate dealer George F. Welch. On December 10, 1926, they were acquired from him by real estate dealer William J. Stober.
William J. Stober retained 330 Dartmouth and sold 259 Beacon and 261 Beacon on December 23, 1926, to Anna Teresa (Connors) Demara, the wife of Napoleon L. Demara. They lived in Lawrence, where he was a theatre owner.
By 1928, Dr. Francis Minot Rackemann, a physician, had leased space at 261 Beacon for his offices. He and his wife, Dorothy (Mandell) Rackemann, lived at 263 Beacon. In December of 1928, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel 261 Beacon and cut a door through to 263 Beacon, connecting his home with his office. He continued to maintain his office there until the early 1950s, when he moved it to 266 Beacon.
On August 17, 1936, the Milford Savings Bank foreclosed on its mortgage on 261 Beacon to James M. Burr, which had been assumed by the Demaras, and took possession of the property. In June of 1936, the Boston Penny Savings Bank had foreclosed on its mortgage on 259 Beacon to George Welch, also assumed by the Demaras, and had taken possession of that property.
259 Beacon and 261 Beacon remained under separate ownership from that time.
The Milford Savings Bank continued to own 261 Beacon until November of 1941. It subsequently changed hands, remaining five apartments and a medical office.
On January 6, 1944, 261 Beacon was acquired by Irving Greenblatt, and on February 3, 1944, he conveyed it to Beacon Apartments, Inc., of which he was the treasurer.
In September of 1948, Beacon Apartments, Inc. applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from five apartments and a doctor’s office into fifteen apartments and a medical office.
On October 31, 1950, Beacon Apartments, Inc., transferred the property back to Irving Greenblatt.
On February 28, 1952, 261 Beacon was acquired from Irving Greenblatt by the Stanley Investment Corporation. In June of 1955, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to change the occupancy from fifteen apartments and a medical office to eighteen apartments.
The property subsequently changed hands and on April 7, 1982, was purchased by Rupert R. Gildenhuys and Federico Castellucci, trustees of the Gildenhuys Trust. In July of 1981, Rupert R. Gildenhuys, as trustee of the Ross Trust, had acquired 259 Beacon.
On October 27, 1983, the Gildenhuys Trust converted 261 Beacon into sixteen condominium units. The 261 Beacon Street Condominium.