27 Hereford was designed by Alfred S. Bither, architect, and built in 1879 by Goldthwait & Chapin, masons, for building contractor Samuel Tarbell Ames, one of four contiguous houses (364 Marlborough and 27-29-31 Hereford). He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated March 27, 1879. Samuel Ames built the houses for wire and cable manufacturer Charles Anthony Morss, for speculative sale. He and his wife, Mary Elizabeth (Wells) Morss, lived at 323 Marlborough.
In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting attributes 364 Marlborough, 27-29-31 Hereford, 435 Beacon, 7-9-11 Hereford, and 216-218 Commonwealth – all built in 1879 – to R. S. Bither. This is a misreading of the handwriting on the permit applications. It is clearly written as “A. S. Bither” on several of the permit applications, and is less legible on several others. There was no R. S. Bither listed in the Boston City Directories at any time in the 1870s or 1880s, whereas Alfred S. Bither was a practicing architect there from 1870 to 1880.
Charles Morss purchased the land for 364 Marlborough and 27-29-31 Hereford on March 6, 1879, from Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Henry M. Whitney, trustees of a real estate investment trust that had purchased several parcels of land on March 1, 1872, from the Boston Water Power Company.
After the houses were completed, Charles Morss sold them to individual purchasers. In the deeds for 27-29-31 Hereford, he included an easement establishing a three foot six inch wide passageway across the rear of 29-31 Hereford to provide access to the alley for all three houses.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 27 Hereford, and click here for further information on the land on the south side of Marlborough between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue.
On October 15, 1879, 27 Hereford was purchased from Charles Morss by Elizabeth Jane (Honniker) Preston, the wife of attorney James Willard Preston. They previously had lived at 70 Chandler.
Living with them were their adult unmarried children: Willard Preston, George W. Preston, and Caroline Preston. George Preston was a ship broker and commission merchant, and Willard Preston was a bookkeeper, probably with his brother’s firm.
Also living with them were Elizabeth Preston’s sister, Mary Anne Honniker, and James Preston’s nephew, Andrew A Yonge, the son of Andrew and Caroline (Preston) Yonge. Andrew Yonge was a clerk, probably with George Preston’s firm.
On May 1, 1882, 27 Hereford was acquired from Elizabeth Preston by Henry Melville Whitney. He and his wife, Margaret Foster (Green) Whitney, lived in Brookline. He was agent for the Metropolitan Steamship Company, and later would become its president and would found the West End Street Railway Company.
The Prestons continued to live at 27 Hereford during the 1886-1887 season. By 1887, James Preston had become treasurer of the MacFarlane Machine and Manufacturing Company, manufacturers of spiral wood working machinery, and they had moved to Brookline.
On January 6, 1887, 27 Hereford was purchased from Henry Whitney by Frances Maria (Swett) Newell, widow of James Montgomery Newell. Her sisters, Ellen L. Swett and Eliza G. Swett, lived with her. They all continued to live there during the 1889-1890 winter season, but moved thereafter.
On October 9, 1889, 27 Hereford was acquired from Frances Newell by Dr. Richard Manning Hodges, a physician and professor of surgery at Harvard. He and his wife, Frances Gardner (White) Hodges, lived at 408 Beacon.
Dr. Hodges purchased 27 Hereford to be the home of his daughter, Ellen Gardner Hodges, and her future husband, Robert Shaw Sturgis. They married in April in 1890.
Robert Shaw Sturgis was a trustee and managed the financial affairs of his step-brother, George Santayana, the noted author and philosopher.
Richard Hodges died in February of 1896. In his will, he left the residue of his estate, including 27 Hereford, to his wife, Frances, as trustee for her own benefit during her lifetime and then to be divided between his two surviving children, Ellen (Hodges) Sturgis and Winthrop Taylor Hodges. Frances Hodges died in March of 1898.
Robert and Ellen Sturgis continued to live at 27 Hereford during the 1900-1901 winter season, but moved thereafter to a new home they had built at 133 Bay State Road.
27 Hereford was not listed in the 1902 and 1903 Blue Books.
On May 14, 1903, 27 Hereford was purchased from Ellen (Hodges) Sturgis and Winthrop T. Sturgis by Priscilla (MacPhail) Crowninshield, the wife of naval architect Bowdoin Bradlee Crowninshield. They previously had lived at the New Hotel Bellevue at 19-21-23 Beacon. They also maintained a home in Marblehead. They continued to live at 27 Hereford during the 1907-1908 winter season, but then made Marblehead their sole residence.
On April 8, 1908, 27 Hereford was acquired from Priscilla Crowninshield by Alice Lavinia (Campbell) Bosson, the wife of Albert Davis Bosson. They previously had lived in Ipswich.
Albert Bosson was a lawyer and served as Mayor of Chelsea in 1891. He subsequently was named a judge of the Police Court (later the District Court) of Chelsea.
They continued to live at 27 Hereford until his death in April of 1926.
The house was not listed in the 1927 Blue Book.
On February 1, 1927, 27 Hereford was acquired from Alice Bosson by Miss Clara Louise Erickson. She was a legal secretary and lived at 27 Bay Drive in Dorchester with her parents, August Erickson and Hannah (Anderson) Erickson.
By the 1927-1928 winter season, 27 Hereford was the home of Adriaan Martin De Groot, a portrait and landscape painter. He continued to live there during the next season, but moved thereafter. By April of 1930, at the time of the US Census enumeration, he was living in a hotel in Manhattan.
27 Hereford was not listed in the 1930 Blue Book.
On July 24, 1930, 27 Hereford was acquired from Clara Erickson by Annie (Judson) Hannigan, the wife of John E. Hannigan. They previously had lived at 34-1/2 Beacon.
John Hannigan was a lawyer and law professor at Boston University and Boston College. Annie Judson Hannigan was a journalist and had served as president of the New England Woman’s Press Association in 1923.
In September of 1931, Clara Erickson married the Hannigans’ son, John Judson Cabot (called Judson) Hannigan. He was a lawyer in his father’s firm and later would become an official of the Economic Cooperation Administration. After their marriage, they lived in Belmont until about 1939, when they joined his parents at 27 Hereford.
Annie Hannigan died in January of 1942. She died intestate, and 27 Hereford was inherited by the Hannigans’ two children, Judson Cabot Hanninghan and Edwina Judson (called Patrice) (Hannigan) Pulver, the wife of F. Frank Pulver. On November 18, 1943, they transferred the property to John Hannigan.
John Hannigan continued to live at 27 Hereford. Judson and Clara Hannigan lived with him until about 1944, after which they made their home in Kittery, Maine.
John Hannigan continued to live at 27 Hereford until about 1945, when he moved to the Boston City Club at 14 Somerset. In the late 1940s, he was a leader of the Beacon Hill residents group opposing construction of an underground garage at the Boston Common. According to his New York Times obituary, he suffered a stroke while serving in this capacity which led to his death in February of 1949.
On February 1, 1945, 27 Hereford was acquired from John Hannigan by Edgar Humphrey Cobb and his wife, Katharine V. (Denny) Cobb. He was a lumber merchant. They continued to live there until about 1950.
On January 10, 1950, 27 Hereford was purchased from the Cobbs by Grace S. (Baxter) Frederick Dawes, as trustee of the Baxter Trust. She was the wife of William Mills Dawes, an accountant. They lived at 325 Commonwealth.
On February 1, 1950, 27 Hereford was acquired from Grace Dawes by Donald E. Breckenridge and his wife, Joyce (Cook) Breckenridge. They previously had lived at 262 Newbury, which also was the location of his business, Breckenridge Inc., which sold kitchen cabinets and equipment. They continued to live at 27 Hereford until his death in June of 1957.
On October 31, 1957, 27 Hereford was purchased from Joyce Breckenridge by James Cushing Bayley and his wife, Janet (Carr) Bayley. They previously had lived in an apartment at 199 Marlborough.
James Bayley was an attorney. He served as a Boston City Councilor from 1944 to 1947, and as a member of the State House of Representatives from 1949 to 1958.
The Bayleys continued to live at 27 Hereford until his death in January of 1979. They also maintained a home in Swampscott.
On September 10, 1980, 27 Hereford was purchased from Janet Bayley by John C. Becker and his wife, Georgiana E. Becker. In May of 1984, they filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a two-family dwelling.
On April 14, 1994, 27 Hereford was purchased from the Beckers by Dr. Herbert Y. Kressel, a physician and professor of radiology, and his wife, Shirley Kressel, a landscape architect and urban designer.
On December 20, 2004, the Kressels entered into a “Preservation Restriction Agreement” with the National Architectural Trust for the purpose of ensuring the preservation of 27 Hereford’s exterior.
The property changed hands. It remained a two-family dwelling in 2017.