336 Beacon was built in 1876 by Standish & Woodbury, masons and builders, for Franklin Waldo Smith and his wife, Laura Augusta (Bevan) Smith, on land Franklin Smith purchased on July 17, 1876, from the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation. They previously had lived at 449 Shawmut.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 336 Beacon, and click here for further information on the land on the north side of Beacon, including the Storrow Memorial Embankment on the Esplanade.
Franklin Smith is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated March 29, 1876, and on the final inspection report dated December 12, 1876. No architect is indicated on either document. The property was numbered 334 Beacon until about 1889.
Prior to the Civil War, Franklin W. Smith was a hardware merchant in partnership with his brother, Benjamin G. Smith. An active abolitionist, he helped to form the Republican party in Massachusetts and was an early supporter of Abraham Lincoln. He was an organizer of the YMCA in Boston and served as its first elected president in 1855.
The Smith brothers were significant military contractors and in 1863, he appeared before a US Senate Committee to testify about abuses and irregularities in the Navy’s purchasing practices. In January of 1864, a Senate Committee began investigating Naval contract fraud. Franklin Smith and his brother were arrested with the sanction of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, apparently to discredit their evidence, and were convicted by a Military Court Martial. President Lincoln annulled the conviction.
In the late 1870s, Franklin W. Smith served as president of the Board of Aid to Land Ownership, formed to aid workers who had lost their jobs in manufacturing due to the economic depression by helping them relocate to rural areas where they could own land and become farmers. He and other investors purchased a tract of land on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee for a model settlement, to be called “Plateau City.” Thomas Hughes, the noted English social reformer, became interested in the project and his London-based organization took ownership of the project, renaming the community “Rugby.”
During the 1881-1882 and 1882-1883 winter seasons, Franklin and Laura Smith traveled in Europe and 336 Beacon was the home of Mary (Vinton) Clark, the widow of Randolph Marshall Clark. Her principal residence was Glen Elsinore in Pomfret, Connecticut. Prior to her husband’s death in September of 1873, they had maintained a home at 76 Marlborough. She had moved from 336 Beacon by the 1883-1884 season; during the 1885-1886 season, she lived at 261 Clarendon.
In 1883, Franklin W. Smith built a winter home, Villa Zorayda, in St. Augustine, Florida, designed in the Moorish style of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, and built using poured concrete and crushed coquina shells.
The Smiths resumed living at 336 Beacon during the 1883-1884 winter season, but were living in Florida during the next two seasons.
During the 1884-1885 winter season, 336 Beacon was the home of banker and merchant Charles Whitney and his wife, Jessie Grant (Perkins) Whitney. They had lived at 181 Commonwealth during the previous season. They had moved by the 1885-1886 season; by the 1886-1887 season they were living at the Hotel Oxford (southeast corner of Exeter and Huntington), and by the 1887-1888 season were living at 265 Beacon.
During the 1885-1886 winter season, 336 Beacon was the home of David Snow, Jr., a former wholesale fish dealer. He was a widower and previously had lived in Andover. By the 1886-1887 season he had moved to the Hotel Vendôme, where he was living at the time of his death in February of 1888.
By the 1886-1887 winter season, the Smiths were living at 336 Beacon again. In 1887, he built the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, also designed in the Moorish style.
During the summer of 1888, 336 Beacon was the home of Lewis Augustus Roberts, a publisher and bookseller whose firm (Roberts Bros.) published Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women in 1868. He and his wife, Harriet Maud (Gardner) Roberts, had married in May of 1887 and then traveled to Europe. They had spent the 1887-1888 winter season at 44 Beacon. By the 1888-1889 winter season, they had moved to 317 Dartmouth.
The Smiths continued to live at 336 Beacon during the 1888-1889 winter season, but moved thereafter. By this time, he had devoted himself entirely to art and architecture, and in 1888-1889, he built Pompeia in Saratoga Springs, New York. A reproduction of the House of Pansa, the home of a wealthy citizen of Pompeii destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius, Franklin W. Smith described it in a promotional pamphlet as “a Grand Roman House, illustrating the art, architecture, mythology, manners, and customs of the Roman Empire.”
By the early 1890s, the Smiths were living in New York City. In 1891, he launched plans for construction of the “National Galleries of History and Art” in Washington DC, a massive project proposed to include multiple buildings on about 200 acres reproducing various classical forms. He promoted its development nationally over the next eight years. In 1898-1899, he built a “Hall of the Ancients” in Washington DC with numerous exhibits and a scale model of the entire project. In 1900, he presented a detailed petition to Congress, under the name Franklin Webster Smith, to secure the land for the project. No action was taken.
Franklin and Laura Smith separated in the 1890s, and she subsequently lived with their daughter, Nina Larré Duryea, in New York and France.
In 1906, Franklin Smith’s properties in St. Augustine, Saratoga Springs, and Washington DC were foreclosed. By 1910, he was living at 437 Shawmut in Boston with his sister, Mary Oakes (Smith) Loud, the widow of Andrew Jackson Loud. He died in October of 1911 in Brookfield, New Hampshire.
Franklin and Laura Smith had three children: Flagg (Frank) Bevan Smith (who died in infancy in September of 1861), George Stuart Smith, and Nina Larré Smith.
George Stuart Smith was editor of the Investors Financial Monitor in New York until his death in July of 1920. He never married.
Nina Larré Smith was born Laura Bevan Smith but took the name Nina Larré (or Larray) Smith by 1880 (she is called Laura in the 1865 Massachusetts State Census and Lilly in the 1870 US Census). She was born in August of 1864 in Cohasset but during her lifetime she altered her birth year to 1869 and then 1874, which date appears in numerous documents and articles about her. On July 13, 1884, the “Table Gossip” column in the Boston Globe reported that “the engagement is just announced of Miss Nina Smith, daughter of Mr. Franklin Smith of Beacon street, to Mr. Johnson, a wealthy young Englishman.” The marriage did not occur. In June of 1898 she married Chester Burnell Duryea, the son of Civil War General Hiram Duryea, a manufacturer of starch. They divorced in 1903 and she moved soon thereafter to Paris. In May of 1914, Chester Duryea murdered his father and was found to be insane. Nina Duryea was still living in Paris at the outbreak of World War I and organized the Duryea Relief Fund to aid French and Belgian refugees, receiving the Medaille d’Or des Estrangers from the French government. In 1917, composer Cole Porter was among those who worked with her in the relief effort. She also published articles, short stories, novels, and plays. While living in France, she had invented a lightweight interlining fabric that she called “Sona” but had not pursued it because of the war. In the 1920s she arranged for its manufacture and promoted its sale (she received a trademark for it in June of 1927). In the early 1940s, she invented a lightweight garment lined with newspaper for use as chest and back protection in hazardous situations. She maintained her summer home at The Old Mill in Stockbridge, where she died in November of 1951.
During the 1889-1890 winter season, 336 Beacon was the home of Alexander Hamilton Rice and his wife, Angerona (Angie) (Erickson) Powell Rice. They previously had lived at the Hotel Brunswick (southeast corner of Clarendon and Boylston). He was a paper manufacturer and dealer. He served as Mayor of Boston in 1856-1857, as a Member of Congress from 1859 to 1867, and as Governor of Massachusetts in 1876-1877. By 1892, the Rices were living at the Copley Square Hotel (northeast corner of Exeter and Huntington).
By the 1890-1891 winter season, 336 Beacon was home of Dr. Allen Melancthon Sumner, a physician, and his wife, Ellen Frances (Prescott) Sumner. He also maintained his medical offices there. They previously had lived (and he had maintained his offices) at 150 Commonwealth.
They continued to live at 336 Beacon during the 1894-1895 season. By the next season, they were living (and he maintained his offices) at 407 Marlboroiugh.
On July 25, 1895, 336 Beacon was purchased from Franklin W. Smith by Dr. George Julius Engelmann, a gynecologist. He and his wife, Loula (Henslee) Clark Engelmann, made it their home and he also maintained his offices there. They previously had lived in St. Louis. Loula Engelmann’s children by her first marriage — George Oliver Clark, John Dudley Clark, and Louise Clark — lived with them.
They continued to live at 336 Beacon during the 1898-1899 winter season, but moved thereafter to 208 Beacon.
On July 11, 1899, 336 Beacon was purchased from George Enghlemann by Maria A. (Westcott) Sleeper, the widow of Jacob Henry Sleeper, Jr. She previously had lived at 295 Marlborough.
Maria Sleeper’s three sons — Jacob Sleeper, III, Stephen Westcott Sleeper, and Henry Davis Sleeper — lived with her.
Jacob Sleeper served in the US Diplomatic Corps and maintained his Boston residence at 336 Beacon.
Stephen Sleeper was a real estate dealer. He married in June of 1911 to Eliza Harriet Cushing and by the 1912-1913 winter season they were living at 267 Beacon.
Henry Davis Sleeper was an antiquarian and interior designer. In 1907, he built a summer home, Beauport, on Eastern Point in Gloucester (declared a national historic landmark in 2003, it is one of Historic New England’s properties).
On August 29, 1907, Maria Sleeper transferred 336 Beacon to a trust for the benefit of her three sons.
Maria Sleeper and Henry Davis Sleeper continued to live at 336 Beacon during the 1910-1911 winter season, but moved thereafter to the Hotel Vendome.
During the 1911-1912 and 1912-1913 winter seasons, 336 Beacon was the home of Alfred Ivins Croll, a yarn dealer and real estate investor, and his wife, Sarah Helen Merrill (Knowles) Croll. Their daughter, Helen Pauline (called Pauline) Croll, lived with them. They previously had lived at the Hotel Cambridge at 483 Beacon, and before that at 410 Beacon. They also maintained a home, Sunnybank, in Manchester, Massachusetts. By the 1913-1914 season, they had moved to 324 Beacon.
During the 1913-1914 winter season, 336 Beacon was the home of attorney William Henry Coolidge and his wife, May (Humphreys) Coolidge. They also maintained a home at Blynman Farm in Magnolia, which was their primary residence. By the 1914-1915 winter season, they had moved to 170 Beacon.
During the 1914-1915 winter season, 336 Beacon was the home of attorney William Richards Sears and his wife, Martha Susan (Jolliffe) Sears. Earlier in 1914, they had made their home in Cohasset. By mid-1915, they had purchased 179 Beacon, where they moved after remodeling the interior.
During the 1915-1916 winter season, 336 Beacon was the home of Maria Sleeper’s son and daughter-in-law, Stephen and Eliza (Cushing) Sleeper. They most recently had lived at 12 West Cedar.
By the 1916-1917 winter season, Stephen and Eliza Sleeper had moved to 465 Beacon and Maria Sleeper was once again living at 336 Beacon. She died in July of 1917.
By the 1917-1918 winter season, Stephen and Eliza Sleeper had moved back to 336 Beacon. They continued to live there in 1919, but then moved temporarily to 225 Beacon.
During the 1919-1920 winter season, 336 Beacon was the home of Sullivan Warren Sturgis, a teacher in Groton, and his wife, Edith (Barnes) Sturgis. They moved soon thereafter, and by the 1920-1921 season, it was once again Stephen and Eliza Sleeper’s home.
By the 1921-1922 winter season, they were joined at 336 Beacon by Miss Edith Russell Chesebrough. She continued to live there during the 1923-1924 season, but moved thereafter to 128 Chestnut.
Stephen Sleeper’s brother, Jacob Sleeper, continued to use 336 Beacon as his Boston residence. He was unmarried and died in March of 1930.
On May 5, 1930 Stephen Sleeper acquired 336 Beacon from the trust established by his mother. He and his wife continued to live there for part of the year until about 1935. They also maintained a home, Black Bess, on Eastern Point in Gloucester. During the 1931-1932 and 1932-1933 winter seasons, they lived in an apartment at 192 Commonwealth, and during the 1933-1934 and 1934-1935 winter seasons they lived at the Hotel Sheraton at 91 Bay State Road.
336 Beacon was not listed in the 1936 and 1937 Blue Books, and was shown as vacant in the 1935-1942 City Directories.
In August of 1942, Massachusetts Hospital Life filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house. As part of the application, it requested permission to cut doors in the party wall on the first and third floors, connecting the building with 334 Beacon, owned by Margherita (Ercolani) Grilli, the wife of Silvestro (Silvio) Grilli.
On September 14, 1942, 336 Beacon was acquired by Margherita Grilli’s nephew, Luca J. P. Fioravanti (the son of Louis (Luigi) Fioravanti and Rosina (Ercolani) Fioravanti).
That same month, Margherita Grilli filed a companion application seeking permission to cut doors between the two houses. This proposal, probably designed to provide egress for both houses, apparently was abandoned. The relevant portion of the application for 336 Beacon was crossed out and “provide connecting balconies with 338 Beacon on 3rd and 4th floor rear” inserted in its place; Margherita Grilli’s application for 334 Beacon was abandoned.
In July of 1951, Margherita Grilli (presumably on behalf of her nephew) filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 336 Beacon from a lodging house into nine apartments.
On November 21, 1955, Margherita Grilli (as trustee of the Three Thirty Four Trust) acquired 336 Beacon from Luca Fioravanti, and on May 28, 1958, she transferred 334 Beacon and 336 Beacon to herself as trustee of the Grilli Realty Trust.
Margherita Grilli died in December of 1960 in Rome.
On June 15, 1962, Margherita Grilli’s nephews, Aldo Fioravanti and Luca J. P. Fioravanti, as successor trustees of the Grilli Realty Trust, transferred 334 Beacon and 336 Beacon to themselves as trustees of the Grilli Investment Trust. In May of 1967, the Grilli Investment Trust also acquired 338 Beacon.
Among the residents at 336 Beacon in the mid-1960s was Jack Landau, an Emmy award winning television producer. On March 16, 1967, he was found murdered in his apartment.
On January 14, 1980, 334-336-338 Beacon were purchased from the Grilli Investment Trust by the 334-338 Beacon Street Associates Limited Partnership (Harold Brown, general partner).
On June 30, 1980, 334-338 Beacon Street Associates converted the property into 33 condominium units, the Beacon on the Charles Condominium, with fourteen units at 334 Beacon (thirteen in the main building and one “carriage house” unit in the ell at the rear), ten units at 336 Beacon, and nine units at 338 Beacon.
In September of 1992, the Beacon on the Charles Condominium Association filed for (and subsequently received) permission to consolidate 334 Beacon and 336 Beacon into one property. 338 Beacon, while part of the same condominium development, remained a separate property.