296 Beacon is being built in 2015-2016 by the Holland Construction Company for the Oliver Realty Limited Partnership, a six-story, nine unit apartment building designed by architect Constantine L. Tsomides.
The new building replaces an earlier apartment house, built in 1951, which, in turn, replaced the original townhouse, built ca. 1870 for Oliver Wendell Holmes.
The 1951 building was demolished in the fall of 1951, and the new building is designed in a manner sympathetic with the design of the original townhouse and the overall streetscape.
296 Beacon (Demolished)
The apartment house at 296 Beacon demolished in 2015 was designed by architects Herman L. Feer and William E. Nast, and built in 1951 as a seven unit apartment building It was probably built for the Thomas & Eliot Investment Corporation (Thomas Spiro, president), which owned the building in that year.
Architectural plans for the building — including front and rear elevations, floor plans, floor framing plans, and a plot plan — are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN R-124).
In March of 1976, 296 Beacon was acquired from the Thomas & Eliot Investment Corporation by real estate investor and broker George P. Demeter. In February of 1996, he transferred the property to the Oliver Realty Limited Partnership, located at 163 Newbury, the same address as his real estate business. 296 Beacon remained an apartment building in 2014.
On March 26, 2014, 298 Beacon, the abutting building to the west, was seriously damaged by a fire caused by welding at 296 Beacon. 296 Beacon also was damaged by the fire.
In October of 2014, the Oliver Realty LP filed for (and subsequently received) permission to demolish the existing building at 296 Beacon and replace it with a new six story building with nine apartments. Demolition of the building was completed in the fall of 2015.
When it was built in 1951, 296 Beacon replaced an earlier townhouse at the same address.
296 Beacon (Demolished)
The original townhouse at 296 Beacon was built ca. 1870 for Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and his wife, Amelia Lee (Jackson) Holmes. They previously had lived at 164 Charles. He is shown as the owner of 296 Beacon on the 1874 Hopkins map and the 1883, 1888, and 1890 Bromley maps.
Oliver Wendell Holmes was a physician and professor of anatomy and physiology at Harvard Medical School. He was a prolific and internationally recognized poet, essayist, dramatist, and novelist, best known, however, for his Autocrat at the Breakfast Table.
The Holmeses’ three children lived with them at 164 Charles and probably at 296 Beacon: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Amelia Holmes, and Edward Jackson Holmes.
Amelia Holmes married in May of 1871 to Turner Sargent (born John Turner Welles Sargent), a clergyman, and they moved to 59 Beacon. Edward Jackson Holmes married in October of 1871 to Henrietta Goddard Wigglesworth, and they moved to 85 Marlborough. He was a lawyer and between 1869 and 1871 served as private secretary to US Senator Charles Sumner. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., married in June of 1872 to Fannie Bowditch Dixwell and they moved to 10 Beacon. He was a lawyer and later would become a Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court and then the US Supreme Court.
Amelia Sargent moved back to 296 Beacon during the 1887-1888 winter season; her husband, Turner Sargent, had died in February of 1877 and she had continued to live at 59 Beacon until she moved back to live with her parents.
Amelia Lee Holmes died in February of 1888. Dr. Holmes continued to live at 296 Beacon. His daughter, Amelia, continued to live with him until her death in April of 1889.
By the 1889-1890 winter season, Dr. Holmes had been joined at 296 Beacon by his son and daughter-in-law, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Fannie Holmes. They had lived at 9 Chestnut during the previous season.
After his father’s death, Justice Holmes and his wife continued to live at 296 Beacon until 1902, when he was appointed to the US Supreme Court by President Theodore Roosevelt. They moved to Washington DC and, by 1904, 296 Beacon had become the home of his nephew, attorney Edward Jackson Holmes, Jr., and his wife, Mary Stacy (Beaman) Holmes. Edward and Mary Holmes previously had lived at 245 Beacon. They also maintained a summer home in Manchester.
By 1930, Edward Holmes had acquired 294 Beacon and in April of 1930, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to combine the two houses into one property, as a two-family dwelling with one family in each of the former separate houses. The remodeling was designed by architects Kilham, Hopkins, and Greeley.
Plans for the remodeling — including elevations, floor plans, and framing plans — are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN B-9).
Edward and Mary Holmes lived at 296 Beacon and appear to have leased 294 Beacon to others.
Edward and Mary Holmes continued to live at 296 Beacon until about 1941. In August of 1941, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to separate 294 and 296 Beacon into two houses, with each remaining a single-family dwelling. The decision to separate the houses appears to have coincided with the Holmeses’ decision to move from 296 Beacon, which was shown as vacant in the 1942-1946 City Directories. By 1945, the Holmeses were living in Topsfield.
296 Beacon was demolished in 1945. A September 30, 1945, advertisement in the Boston Globe by the Central Building Wrecking Company advertised “296 Beacon St. Boston For Sale on Premises: Oak, Maple and Parquet flooring, beautiful paneling and bookcases, select stair railings and balustrades, doors, windows, furnace and piping, and other building materials of every description.”