397 Beacon was designed by architect William G. Preston, one of two houses (397 Beacon and 1 Gloucester) built ca. 1870.
397 Beacon was built for Charles Wells Cook for speculative sale, and 1 Gloucester was built for his parents, Charles Edward Cook and Elizabeth (Wells) Cook, who made it their home. Charles Wells Cook was unmarried and lived with his parents. He previously had lived at the Norfolk House hotel, and his parents had lived at the United States Hotel.
Charles Wells Cook purchased the land for 397 Beacon on February 10, 1869, and his father purchased the land for 1 Gloucester on the same day, in both cases from a real estate investment trust formed by John Templeman Coolidge, Franklin Evans, and Charles Henry Parker. The land was part of a parcel purchased by the trust from the Boston Water Power Company on January 29, 1866. It subsequently had subdivided the property into lots, which it sold to investors and builders, who then frequently resold the lots to others. The two lots purchased by the Cooks originally had been sold to dry goods merchant Eben Dyer Jordan, co-founder of the firm of Jordan, Marsh & Co. He never took title to the property and released his right to purchase it to the Cooks.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 397 Beacon.
Charles Wells Cook was a dealer in paper hangings (wall paper) in association with his father. According to a November 12, 1916, article in the Boston Globe, entitled “Cambridge House of Mystery,” he previously was engaged in the East India shipping trade in association with his maternal grandfather, Charles Wells. Having received a windfall from insurance on the firm’s ships which were destroyed at the beginning of the Civil War (and which his family allowed him to keep), he left the firm and joined the US consular corps, serving in Jamaica and later in Calcutta. In Calcutta, he met and became engaged to an American girl. They planned to return to Boston to be married, but she died as they were preparing to leave, the victim of a cobra bite. He returned alone ca. 1867. In anticipation of his marriage, he had begun construction of a home in Cambridge. The article notes that “he did not stop work on it. Rather did he let it go on to completion to stand as a monument to the memory of her who had gone.” The house remained his property, vacant, until his death in August of 1916, when he disappeared and was believed to have jumped from the steamer Belfast on its way to Maine.
On December 1, 1871, 397 Beacon was purchased from Charles Wells Cook by Amos M. Leonard. He was a submaster at Lawrence School and lived at 18 Chapman. He appears never to have lived at 397 Beacon. In the deed, Charles Cook included a provision, intended to preserve the view from his parents’ home at 1 Gloucester, specifying that the house at 397 Beacon was “restricted to its present style of front and that no projections, bay windows, or other alterations of said front shall be allowed.”
On January 1, 1872, 397 Beacon was purchased from Amos Leonard by Edward Turner, as a trustee. He was a dealer in morocco leather. He and his wife, Emeline Farrington (Gay) Turner, lived in Quincy and appear never to have lived at 397 Beacon.
In the spring of 1872, 397 Beacon was offered for sale through real estate dealer Brice S. Evans. An advertisement in the May 18, 1872, Boston Globe described the property as “a splendid new House, finished in hard wood, built by William G. Preston, architect.”
On July 22, 1874, Warren Kendall Blodgett foreclosed on a mortgage given by Amos Leonard (and assumed by Edward Turner) and transferred the property into the name of his wife, Minervia (Minnie) Precinda (Paddock) Blodgett. He was a provisions merchant and railroad investor. They lived at 15 Allen.
By the 1877-1878 winter season, the Blodgetts had made 397 Beacon their home. They also maintained a home in Lincoln.
The Blodgetts’ five children lived with them: Warren Kendall Blodgett, Jr., Minnie Louise Blodgett, William Ashley Blodgett, Stephen Haskell Blodgett, and Edward Everett Blodgett.
William Blodgett, employed by a wholesale and retail crockery company, married in October of 1882 to Emma S. Garfield. After their marriage, they lived in Cambridge. Warren Blodgett, Jr., an attorney, married in November of 1882 to Mary Durant Priest, and they also settled in Cambridge.
Stephen Blodgett married in December of 1886 to Elizabeth Whiting Cummings. He was a medical student and, after their marriage, they lived in Cambridge. He later became a physician specializing in kidney diseases.
Minnie Louise Blodgett died in August of 1891.
Edward Blodgett, an attorney, married in November of 1891 to Mabel Louise Fuller. After their marriage, they lived in Brookline.
Warren and Minnie Blodgett continued to live at 397 Beacon until his death in March of 1894. Minnie Blodgett moved soon thereafter and the house was not listed in the 1895 and 1896 Blue Books. It continued to be owned by a trust established under Warren Blodgett’s will.
By the 1896-1897 winter season, it was the home of attorney Charles Hitchcock Tyler. His mother, Abby Little (Hitchcock) Tyler, the widow of Joseph How Tyler, lived with him. They previously had lived at 5 Mt. Vernon Place. They also maintained a home in Winchester.
By the 1901-1902 winter season, 397 Beacon was the home of Dr. Joseph Lincoln Goodale, a physician specializing in diseases of the throat, and his wife, Adelaide May (Evans) Goodale. He also maintained his medical offices at 397 Beacon. They previously had lived (and he had maintained his office) at 3 Fairfield.
They continued to live at 397 Beacon (and he to maintain his medical office there) during the 1905-1906 winter season, but moved thereafter to 258 Beacon.
During the 1906-1907 winter season, 397 Beacon was the home of George Augustus Cronin, an insurance adjuster, and his wife, Florence (Jones) Cronin. They previously had lived at the Hotel Lenox at 61 Exeter, and by the next season they were living at the Hotel Oxford (southeast corner of Exeter and Huntington).
By the 1907-1908 winter season, 397 Beacon was the home of Edwin Arthur Shuman and his wife, Mary A. (Keegan) Shuman. They previously had lived in an apartment at 362-366 Commonwealth. They also maintained a home on Marblehead Neck.
Edwin Shuman was president of the retail clothing store, Shuman & Company, founded by his father, Abraham Shuman.
The Shumans first leased the house and then purchased it from Warren K. Blodgett’s estate on November 30, 1909. The deed (which was conveyed through Geprge H. Stanton) was not recorded until March 29, 1910, and a March 31, 1910, Boston Globe news report on the purchase indicated that the Shumans would “thoroughly renovate the residence, making it one of the most up-to-date in that section.”
The Shumans continued to live at 397 Beacon until about 1941, when they moved to Marblehead shortly before his death in January of 1942.
On March 12, 1942, 397 Beacon was acquired from Edwin Shuman’s estate by real estate dealer Ray C. Johnson, who conveyed it on the same day to Regina M. O’Leary (Leary), the wife, of Walter Ross Ames. They appear to have separated at about this time. In 1941, they had lived at 14 Cumberland. Her mother, Gertrude Rose (Parent) O’Leary, the former wife of James Henry Leary, lived with her (she and her daughter appear to have taken the name O’Leary after she separated from James Leary). She also previously had lived at 14 Cumberland and operated a lodging house at 251 West Newton.
Regina O’Leary converted the property into a multiple dwelling, either apartments or a lodging house, with five residents (including herself) listed in the City Directories by 1944. She continued to live there until about 1945.
On July 2, 1945, 397 Beacon was acquired from Regina O’Leary by Gustav Munstedt, a tailor, and his wife, Hermine (Wenger) Munstedt. They previously had lived at 251 West Newton, where they had operated the lodging house previously operated by Gertrude O’Leary.
In September of 1947, Hermine Munstedt applied for (and subsequently received) permission to install fire escapes and make other egress and fire safety-related changes. The application indicated that the current and proposed use would be as eight apartments. The Munstedts continued to live at 397 Beacon in one of the apartments.
On January 6, 1965, 397 Beacon was purchased from the Munstedts by real estate dealer George P. Demeter, trustee of the Demeter Realty Trust.
In April of 1966, he was cited by the Building Department for failing to obtain a change in the legal occupancy from eight to ten apartments. In May of 1966, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to increase the number of units to ten, filing with his application affidavits that the building had been composed of ten units when he purchased it and, in fact, had been ten units from at least 1950.
On February 1, 1996, George Demeter transferred 397 Beacon to the Pierce Limited Partnership (of which he was the president). At the same time, he also transferred 1 Gloucester and 350 Beacon to the same limited partnership.
397 Beacon remained an apartment house in 2017.