315-317 Beacon were designed and built in 1871-1872 by Frederick B. Pope for speculative sale, two of fourteen contiguous houses (303-305-307-309-311-313-315-317-319-321-323-325-327-329 Beacon) he designed and built in the early 1870s.
311-313-315-317-319 Beacon are designed as a symmetrical composition. 311 Beacon and 319 Beacon are wider (on 24.5 foot lots) with bays (311 Beacon’s bay on the east side of the house and 319 Beacon’s bay on the west side). 313-315-317 Beacon are narrower (on 17 foot lots) each with an oriel window on the second floor. 313 Beacon and 317 Beacon have three dormers; the entrance to 313 Beacon is on the west, and the entrance to 317 Beacon is on the east. 315 Beacon forms the center of the composition, with a more elaborate mansard roof, set forward with a single, central double dormer window. The entrance to 315 Beacon has been removed – probably when it was combined with 317 Beacon in the early 1900s – but originally may have been centered on the façade.
311-313-315-317-319 Beacon were built on a 100 foot wide parcel of land originally sold by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at public auction on December 24, 1868. Dry goods merchant Eben Dyer Jordan, co-founder of the firm of Jordan, Marsh & Co., either was the successful bidder or acquired the right to purchase the land from the successful bidder.
On April 25, 1870, Eben Jordan entered into an agreement with Frederick Pope under which Frederick Pope agreed to build at 311-313 Beacon “two Connecticut freestone front dwelling houses, one house to be twenty-four feet six inches wide, and the other to be seventeen feet in width, and of the dimensions and arrangements described by plans and specifications signed this day.” In the same agreement, Eben Jordan agreed to sell Frederick Pope the remaining land, to the west of 311-313 Beacon, with a frontage of 58 feet six inches.
On October 17, 1870, the Commonwealth conveyed Eben D. Jordan the eastern 50 feet of land, and on October 25. 1870, he conveyed the western 8 feet six inches to Frederick Pope. Frederick Pope acquired the remaining 50 feet to the west directly from the Commonwealth as two 25 foot wide lots, on October 10, 1870, and October 27, 1870. Once the houses were built, Eben Jordan sold 311 and 313 Beacon, and Frederick Pope sold 313-315-317-319 Beacon.
On March 4, 1871, 315 Beacon was purchased from Frederick Pope by Jennette (Allen) Batcheller, the wife of Lucius Edwin Batcheller, a druggist. They previously had lived at 771 Tremont.
On May 7, 1878, the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company foreclosed on a mortgage it held that had been given by Frederick Pope and assumed by the Batchellers.
Jennette Batcheller died in June of 1878, and Lucius Edwin Batcheller moved soon thereafter to the Adams House hotel.
Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance continued to own 315 Beacon and lease it to others.
By the 1878-1879 winter season, 315 Beacon was the home of attorney William S. MacFarlane and his wife, Margaret Elizabeth (Russell) von Stralendorff MacFarlane. They previously had lived in Dorchester. They continued to live at 315 Beacon in 1880, but moved thereafter to New York.
The house was not listed in the 1881 and 1882 Blue Books.
During the 1882-1883 and 1883-1884 winter seasons, it was the home of Miss Elizabeth S. Owen. She previously lived in Roxbury.
On September 16, 1884, 313 Beacon was purchased from Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance by Elizabeth Mary (Clement) Smith, the wife of George Henry Smith, treasurer of the Union Carpet Lining Company. They previously had lived in Lincoln.
The Smiths lived at 315 Beacon during the 1884-1885 winter season, but moved thereafter to the Tremont House Hotel.
On April 23, 1885, 315 Beacon was purchased from Elizabeth Smith by Edwin Augustus Hills. He and his wife, Georgine Leonardina (Dorrepaal) Hills, made it their home. They previously had lived at 107 Mt. Vernon.
Edwin Hills was a dealer in plate and window glass.
They continued to live at 315 Beacon during the 1899-1900 winter season, after which they moved to 363 Beacon.
315 Beacon was not listed in the 1901 Blue Book.
During the 1901-1902 winter season, 315 Beacon was the home of cotton broker Philip Gardner and his wife, Virginia (Atkinson) Gardner. At the time of the 1900 US Census (soon after their marriage) they had lived in Brookline with his mother, Laura (Perkins) Gardner, the widow of Harrison Gardner. Philip and Virginia Gardner had moved to 321 Beacon by the 1902-1903 season.
On June 6, 1902, 315 Beacon was acquired by Mary Morton (Kimball) Kehew, the wife of William Browne Kehew, and her sister, Susan Day Kimball. The Kehews lived at 317 Beacon and on the same day Mary Kehew transferred a one-half undivided interest in that house to her sister, Susan.
Thereafter, 315 Beacon and 317 Beacon were consolidated as one residence, with the address of 317 Beacon. It probably was at this time that the entrance to 315 Beacon was removed.
On December 19, 1870, 317 Beacon was purchased from Frederick Pope by retired dry goods merchant Stephen R. Pearl. He and his wife, Annie E. (Smith) Marsh Pearl, made it their home. They previously had lived in Swampscott. They had married recently, his first wife, Martha A. (French) Pearl, having died in October of 1867, and her first husband, Benjamin Lloyd Marsh, co-founder of the firm of Jordan, Marsh & Co., having died in June of 1865.
Stephen Pearl died in April of 1876 and Annie Pearl moved soon thereafter to 11 Beacon.
On July 2, 1879, 317 Beacon was purchased from Annie Pearl and George H. Pearl (Stephen Pearl’s son by his first marriage) by Anna De Wolf (Lovett) Gibbs, the widow of merchant Franklin Gibbs. She was joined at 317 Beacon by her children, Anna De Wolf Gibbs and Bradford Gibbs, and her mother, Josephine (De Wolf) Lovett (the widow of Charles Walley Lovett). They previously had lived at 109 Beacon.
On August 29, 1884, 317 Beacon was purchased from Anna Gibbs by George H. Brooks. He and his wife, Sarah T. (Smith) Brooks, made it their home. Their son and daughter-in-law, George Chelson Brooks and Carrie L. (Story) Brooks lived with them.
George H. Brooks was a real estate investor, having formerly been a retail clothing merchant in Boston and then a wholesale liquor dealer in Cincinnati. George C. Brooks was a banker and stockbroker.
The Brookses lived at 317 Beacon while the Hotel Royal apartments were being built for George H. Brooks at 295-297 Beacon. They moved there when the building was completed.
On July 2, 1885, 317 Beacon was purchased from George H. Brooks by Mary Morton (Kimball) Kehew, the wife of William Browne Kehew. They previously had lived at 262 Beacon.
William Kehew was an oil merchant. Mary (Kimball) Kehew was active in numerous progressive causes in Boston. She was the first president of the Women’s Trade Union League, formed in 1903, and served as President of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union from 1892 to 1913.
On June 6, 1902, Mary (Kimball) Kehew transferred a one-half undivided interest in 317 Beacon to her sister, Susan Day Kimball. On the same day, Mary Kehew and Susan Day Kimball purchased 315 Beacon.
Thereafter, 315 Beacon and 317 Beacon were consolidated as one residence, with the address of 317 Beacon.
Susan Day Kimball moved to 315-317 Beacon, joining the Kehews. Hannah Parker Kimball, another sister, moved with her, Susan Day Kimball and Hannah Parker Kimball previously had lived at 325 Commonwealth with their mother, Susan Tillinghast (Morton) Kimball, the widow of Moses Day Kimball, until shortly after Mrs. Kimball’s death in March of 1900. Hannah Parker Kimball was a poet and active with Mary Kehew in the Women’s Trade Union League.
Susan Day Kimball married in September of 1906 to stockbroker and former Police Commissioner Robert F. Clark. After their marriage, they lived at his home at 9 Gloucester.
The Kehews continued to live at 315-317 Beacon during the 1906-1907 winter season, but moved thereafter to 29 Chestnut. Hannah Parker Kimball appears to have moved with them (it was the address she provided when she applied for a passport in November of 1912). In April of 1920, Hannah Kimball purchased and moved to 25 Marlborough.
On June 6, 1907, Mary (Kimball) Kehew transferred her one-half interest in 315-317 Beacon to Susan Day (Kimball) Clark. She and her husband moved there from 9 Gloucester.
Robert and Susan Clark continued to live there during the 1909-1910 winter season, but moved thereafter to Milton.
On March 11, 1912, 315-317 Beacon was purchased from Susan Day Clark by Charles Frederic Lyman. He and his wife, Isabella Ogden Reed (Macomber) Lyman, made it their home. They previously lived at 291 Marlborough.
C. Frederic Lyman was a stockbroker. He previously had been in partnership with John Appleton Burnham, III, in the firm of Lyman & Burnham, which manufactured automobiles ca. 1904-1905 and later dealt in automobile accessories.
In November of 1912, the Lymans applied applied for (and subsequently received) permission to build a garage at the rear of the property.
The Lymans continued to live at 315-317 Beacon in 1918, but by the 1918-1919 winter season, were temporarily living elsewhere and it was the home of Rodman Paul Snelling and his wife, Eva Burnham (de Tréville) Snelling. They previously had lived in Needham. He was treasurer of the Saco-Lowell Shops, makers of textile (cotton worsted and spun silk) machinery. By the 1919-1920 season, the Snellings had moved to 151 Commonwealth and 315-317 Beacon was once again the Lymans’ home.
The Lymans were living elsewhere again during the 1920-1921 and 1921-1922 winter seasons.
During the 1920-1921 season, 315-317 Beacon was the home of Horace Milton Houser and his wife, Julia Munson (Crouse) Houser. He was a retired manufacturer of farm implements from Akron, Ohio, where they had lived until early 1920. They also maintained a home in Marblehead.
The Housers had moved by the 1921-1922 winter season and 315-317 Beacon was the home of attorney William Henry Coolidge and his wife, May (Humphreys) Coolidge. Their primary residence was in Manchester.
By the 1922-1923 winter season, the Coolidges had moved and the Lymans were once again living at 315-317 Beacon. They moved soon thereafter to Dover.
On August 28, 1923, 315-317 Beacon was acquired from C. Frederic Lyman by real estate dealer Henry C. Brookings.
On June 6, 1924, the estate of C. Frederic Lyman’s mother, Anna Mason (Grant) Lyman, foreclosed on a mortgage it held on 315-317 Beacon (the mortgage originally had been given by C. Frederic Lyman and was assumed by Henry C. Brookings when he bought the property), and sold the property to Miss Florence B. La Moreaux and Mrs. Margaret (Vail) Fowler, the widow of Chester Dewey Fowler.
Miss La Moreaux and Mrs. Fowler lived at 315-317 Beacon and also operated the Old Colony School of Secretarial Training there. Both women previously had been affiliated with the Katharine Gibbs School. Florence La Moreaux had been director of the school at 247 Berkeley, where she also had lived, and Margaret Fowler had been a teacher at 151 Commonwealth where she also lived.
In 1929, the Old Colony School opened an annex at 345 Beacon, where it remained until about 1932.
Florence La Moreaux died in April of 1930 and Margaret Fowler died in October of 1931. The Old Colony School continued to be located at 315-317 Beacon.
On May 11, 1932, the State Street Trust Company foreclosed on a mortgage it held from C. Frederic Lyman (which had been assumed by the subsequently owners).
The school continued to be located at 315-317 Beacon until about 1933.
315-317 Beacon was not listed in the 1934 Blue Book.
By 1934, 315-317 Beacon was the home of Mrs. Margaret M. Thomson, who operated it as a lodging house. She previously had lived in Lowell. Margaret M. Thomson probably was Margaret M. (Noonan) Thomson, the former wife of Robert Waugh Thomson, general manager of the Butterfield Printing Company in Lowell. She continued to live at 315-317 Beacon until about 1937.
In January of 1938, 315-317 Beacon was acquired from the State Street Trust Company by Shirley Clifford Speed, a real estate dealer who converted many Back Bay houses into lodging houses and apartments.
By 1945, 315=317 Beacon was the home of Harry Ballsdon Bowl and his wife, Margaret E. (Burroughs) Bowl, who operated it as a lodging house. They previously had lived at 200 Bay State Road. He died in January of 1945 and she continued to live at 315-317 Beacon and operate it as a lodging house.
In September of 1946, Henry Siskind, an attorney, applied for permission to convert the property from a lodging house into a girls’ dormitory. He subsequently abandoned the application. In October of 1948, he acquired the property from Israel Feather.
Margaret Bowl continued to operate 315-317 Beacon as a lodging house until about 1953, when she moved to 332 Beacon. Several of her lodgers moved with her.
In February of 1954, 315-317 Beacon was acquired from Henry Siskind by Toba Esther Finn (Tresa E. (Finkelstein) Friedman), the former wife of Julian Friedman, and Dorothy Mahler. In April of 1955, Toba Finn acquired Dorothy Mahler’s interest.
Toba Finn previously had lived at 300 Commonwealth. After buying 315-317 Beacon, she made it her home and a restaurant specializing in organic and specially-prepared foods. A February 4, 1955, article in the Newport Daily News described her purchase and transformation of the property: “”A few months ago, she bought the 17-room house in which she is now living, cleaned it out single-handedly, moved in some of her prize antiques, and set it up as ‘Ambrosia House.'”
The article noted that “Commercially, it is located in one of the most unlikely places possible for a dining establishment — in a staid Beacon Street brownstone. You’d never find it if you didn’t know exactly that it is at number 317. … Once inside, you pass a large reception hall and a quaint ‘old Boston’ front parlor to get to the cozy dining room. Having seated you, Miss Finn will listen to your victual desires, then proceed to tell you what really should eat, backing her recommendations with the argument that you have atrocious eating habits and you’d better mend your eating ways. … ‘Eat food that is close to its natural source with as little as preparation as possible’ Miss Finn advises. … Miss Finn is firm in her opinion that if a person is going to enjoy good health and a sharp mind, he must have the highest quality blood. And for grade A blood, he must eat high quality, natural, organically grown food, she said.”
In March of 1955, Toba Finn filed for permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling and lodging house into a single-family dwelling and lodging house with catering and massage. The application was denied and her appeal to the Board of Appeal was dismissed.
She continued to live at 315-317 Beacon in 1959. In April of 1959, she acquired and moved to 163 Marlborough.
In April of 1959, 315-317 Beacon was acquired from Toba Finn by Ann R. Tillinghast, the wife of Robert Osborne Tillinghast. They lived in Lexington.
In April of 1962, she applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into a dormitory for Emerson College. It continued to be an Emerson College dormitory in 1963.
In October of 1971, 315-317 Beacon was acquired from Chamberlayne School and Chamberlayne Junior College by Emerson College, and it once again became an Emerson College dormitory. It remained an Emerson dormitory until the early 1980s.
315-317 Beacon changed hands and in August of 1983 was acquired by Dorothy F. Wirth, trustee of The Beacon Group Trust. The next month, she purchased 313 Beacon.
In July of 1983, prior to taking title to 315-317 Beacon, The Beacon Group filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 315-317 Beacon from a dormitory into twelve apartments. In August of 1983, it amended the permit application to include the addition of a second story to the ell at the rear of the property. The application was denied and The Beacon Group’s appeal of the denial was dismissed by the Board of Appeal.
In December of 1983, The Beacon Group filed for (and subsequently received) permission to reduce the number of units from twelve to eleven.
On December 28, 1983, Dorothy Wirth converted 313-315-317 Beacon into fifteen condominium units, the 313-317 Beacon Condominium, with four units in 313 Beacon (with a separate entrance) and eleven units at 315-317 Beacon (with an entrance at 317 Beacon).