271 Beacon was designed by Peabody and Stearns, architects, and built ca. 1876 for merchant, cotton manufacturer, and real estate developer Charles William Freeland, probably for speculative sale, one of six contiguous houses built in the same style: 271-273-275-277 Beacon built ca. 1876 and 279-281 Beacon built in 1881. 271-277 Beacon, which were built first, form a symmetrical group, with the bays of 271-273 Beacon on the west side of each house, and the bays of 275-277 Beacon on the east side of each house. Both 279-281 Beacon have bays on the east side of the house.
The original building permit for 271 Beacon has not been located. The building permits for 273 and 275-277 Beacon, which were built at the same time, do not indicate the name of the architect. However, the permits for 279-281 Beacon, built for Charles W. Freeland in 1881, state that Peabody and Stearns was the architect of these houses, and it is reasonable to assume the earlier four – which are of the same design — also may have been designed by them (in his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting indicates that all six houses were designed by Peabody and Stearns; he also states that they were built for G. W. Freeland, but the permits for 273, 275, 277, 279, and 281 Beacon confirm that the developer was Charles W. Freeland).
271 Beacon was not listed in the 1876-1881 Blue Books nor does it appear to be listed in the 1880 US Census.
By the 1881-1882 winter season, it was the home of wool merchant Lemuel Cushing Kimball and his wife Addie (Hall) Kimball. They previously had lived at 44 Newbury. He is shown as the owner on the 1883, 1888, 1898, 1908, 1917, and 1928 Bromley maps.
On February 21,1909, the house was damaged by fire. Addie Kimball was rescued from her second floor bedroom by the fire department.
During the 1913-1914 and 1914-1915 winter seasons, the Kimballs were living at the Hotel Victoria at 273 Dartmouth, and 271 Beacon was not listed in the Blue Books. They had moved back to 271 Beacon by the 1915-1916 season
Addie Kimball died in January of 1916. Lemuel Kimball and their youngest son, Clarence Blake Kimball, continued to live at 271 Beacon. At the time of the 1920 US Census, Clarence Kimball was an automobile salesman.
Lemuel and Clarence Kimball continued to live at 271 Beacon in 1924. In March of 1924, Lemuel Kimball married again, to May Bliss Dickinson, a nurse, author, and leader of efforts to promote better health among girls. After their marriage, they lived at the Hotel Lenox at 61 Exeter and then moved to an apartment at 180 Commonwealth. Clarence Kimball moved from 271 Beacon at about the same time, and the house was not listed in the 1926-1928 Blue Books.
During the 1928-1929 winter season, 271 Beacon was the home of Dr. Bertha Lulu (Cameron) Guild, a homeopathic physician, the former wife of Chester Guild. She previously had lived at 317 Marlborough.
In late 1929, 271 Beacon was purchased from Lemuel Cushing Kimball by Edward J. Ball, a real estate dealer, and his wife, Ethel G. (Carmichael) Ball. The sale was reported by the Boston Globe on December 22, 1929. He also owned 275 Beacon and, by 1930, 277 Beacon.
In December of 1929, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into apartments. The application did not indicate the number of units. In his filing, he indicated that the prior use had been as a lodging house.
The house was shown as vacant in the 1930 Boston City Directory.
By 1932, William H. Brown had purchased 271 Beacon. In February of 1932, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to make minor renovations of the interior. His application indicated that the current and proposed occupancy was four apartments.
The property changed hands and by 1952 was owned by Rebessa (Bessie) Emelyn (Taylor) Elsoffer. the widow of Mortimer Elsoffer. In an affidavit dated June 4, 1953, she stated that the house contained nine apartments at the time she purchased it (two on the basement, first, and second floors, one on the third floor, and two on the fourth floor). She lived in one of the apartments until about 1955.
The property changed hands and in September of 1955 was purchased by Rose Rochelle (Goldberg) Levin Glazer, the former wife of Reuben Levin and of Max L. Glazer. She was a pianist and entertainer who performed under (and legally changed her name to) Rose Rochelle. She owned 273 Beacon, where she lived in one of the apartments.
In June of 1957, Rose Rochelle filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy of 271 Beacon as nine apartments.
In July of 1957, 271 Beacon was acquired from Rose Rochelle by John J. Beaubien.
The property changed hands and in July of 1964 was acquired by John V. Kunigenas. In May of 1966, he was cited for illegally using the property as a dormitory under a lease with Emerson College. He subsequently vacated the building and returned it to its use as a nine unit apartment house.
In June of 1979, the 271 Beacon Realty Corp. purchased 271 Beacon from John Kunigenas. In October of 1979, they converted the property into nine condominiums.