4 Charlesgate East (535 Beacon) is located on the SE corner of Beacon and Charlesgate East, with 531 Beacon to the east, 534 Beacon (1 Charlesgate East) to the north, across Beacon, and 10 Charlesgate East to the south.
4 Charlesgate East (535 Beacon) was designed by architect J. Pickering Putnam, and built in 1891 by Gibson & Knight, builders, as a seven story apartment hotel, The Charlesgate. The building had entrances on both Beacon and Charlesgate East and for many years 535 Beacon was the primary entrance.
The building was expanded in 1892 to include the former townhouse at 10 Charlesgate East, and again in 1907 to include the neighboring townhouse to the east at 459 Marlborough. It remained operated as one property – The Charlesgate, the Charlesgate Hotel, or Charlesgate Hall – until December of 1996, when the property was subdivided into two separate condominium buildings: the Charlesgate Condominium at 4 Charlesgate East (comprising the original Charlesgate building) and the Barnes Mansion Condominium at 10 Charlesgate East (comprising 10 Charlesgate East and 459 Marlborough).
The Charlesgate was financed by the architect, John Pickering Putnam, and members of his family: his mother, Harriet (Upham) Putnam, the widow of John Pickering Putnam, his sister, Sarah Gooll Putnam, and his brother-in-law and sister, Horace John Hayden and Harriet (Putnam) Hayden. Harriet (Upham) Putnam and Sarah Gooll Putnam, lived at 277 Dartmouth. The Haydens lived in New York City, where Horace Putnam was vice president of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad; prior to moving to New York, they had lived at 104 Marlborough. “J. Pickering Putnam and others” are shown as the owners on the original building permit, dated May 28, 1891.
J. Pickering Putnam purchased the land for The Charlesgate on January 27, 1891, from Augustus Lowell. It was the northern portion of parcel that Augustus Lowell had purchased on January 26, 1886, from a real estate investment trust formed by Francis W. Palfrey, Francis A. Osborn, and Grenville T. W. Braman, part of a tract of land the trust had purchased on June 1, 1880, from the Boston Water Power Company.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 4 Charlesgate East (535 Beacon), and click here for further information on the land west of Massachusetts Avenue between the south side of Beacon and the north side of Commonwealth.
A February 22, 1891, Boston Herald article on plans for The Charlesgate noted that the land on Charlesgate East and Charlesgate West, fronting on the Back Bay Park “or, perhaps more properly, the Fens,” had been slow to develop. It observed that the new building, “for the first time, will bring a number of people to the appreciation of the special beauty of this park frontage, resulting in a natural stimulation of values to the vacant lands in the immediate neighborhood.”
The article also indicated that The Charlesgate was being developed by a “syndicate” organized by real estate dealer J. Murray Howe. He does not appear to have had an ownership interest in the property, but probably was under contract to lease apartments in the building. It noted that the building would be finished in October, ”and, although the plans have only been completed, a number of the suites have already been engaged.”
In June of 1891, Chadwick & Stillings, the building contractors who owned 531 Beacon immediately to the east, filed suit to halt construction, alleging that the building encroached on their land. On June 19, 1891, the Boston Herald reported that the judge in the case found the building was built slightly over the boundary and ordered a payment of $10 to Chadwick & Stillings in restitution. Chadwick & Stilling’s request for an injunction stopping work on the project was denied. The article quoted the judge that “’At the front of the building … this encroachment is about a quarter of an inch. I doubt whether the encroachment continues back of the building. Moreover, in point of elevation, this encroachment does not exist above the foundation wall of granite.’”
As originally designed, The Charlesgate occupied an irregularly shaped lot with frontages of about 103 feet on Beacon and 105 feet on Charlesgate East. The April 4, 1891, edition of the American Architect and Building News commented on the building:
“The basement and first story will be constructed of Indiana limestone, the remainder of brick, with limestone trimmings. A picturesque effect is obtained by grouping the bays on the Charlesgate East front in pairs, and surmounting each pair with gables of brick work in the Queen Anne style, and by relieving these features against a high roof of green slate. The Beacon-Street front repeats the motif of the Park front in the form of the gables. The building is to be of slow-burning construction. All of the main partitions from basement to second story are of brick. … The main entrance halls and corridors will be built of fireproof materials, and the staircases will be built of marble on the entrance and basement floors. There will be four electric elevators, and the building will be lighted by electricity throughout. The ground plan of the ‘Charlesgate’ lot is peculiar in having a large open area in the rear for sun and air. Of some 14,000 square feet in the plot about 6,000, or over a third, is to be left open and laid out in grass-plots and flower-beds; while the building being of an L-shape, following the lines of the two streets, has practically at no point a depth of more than two rooms, and every rear room is allowed almost unlimited sunshine.”
The February 22, 1891, Boston Herald article noted that “another attractive feature of the construction is an ample dining hall for the exclusive use of the occupants of the building. This dining hall is not, as is common with almost all of our hotels and apartment buildings with restaurants, placed at the rear of the building, but will look out to the westward, through a series of broad windows, directly upon the ‘Fens,’ and, running through the southern wing, it will face easterly on the sunny area in the rear.”
The Charlesgate accepted both travelers and permanent guests. The emphasis, however, was on permanent guests and, unlike the Hotel Vendome and the Hotel Somerset, The Charlesgate did not have a ballroom nor other large rooms for public events.
Commenting on the apartments, the February 22, 1891, Herald article noted that “besides having a handsome interior finish and hardwood floors throughout, and all of the most complete modern appurtenances, electric light, etc., it is to have an unusually elaborate and scientific arrangement for ventilation and plumbing. ’The Charlesgate,’ which is to be the largest structure of its kind thus far undertaken in Boston, is to contain about 30 suites of apartments, ranging generally from six to eight rooms each, but with limited number of smaller suites. The rooms will be exceptionally large, and the greater suites will have kitchens, and will be otherwise arranged for housekeeping, with the alternative of using the general dining rooms, or of having meals served by the house caterer in the private dining rooms attached to the suites.”
The building was completed by late 1891, with residents taking up occupancy as early as January of 1892, and based on the 1893 Blue Book, it appears to have been fully occupied by the 1892-1893 winter season.
J. Pickering Putnam and his wife, Grace Cornelia (Stevens) Putnam lived at The Charlesgate from the time it was completed. They previously had lived at The Oxford (southeast corner of Exeter and Huntington).
On July 20, 1892, J. Pickering Putnam acquired the townhouse at 10 Charlesgate East (463 Marlborough) from Isabel Frances (Morris) Barnes, the wife of Thurlow Weed Barnes.
A July 21, 1892, Boston Herald article noted that there had been speculation about the house “for several months on account of the failure of its builder and owner to occupy it. … It is one of the finest dwelling houses in this whole section.” The article noted that The Charlesgate would remodel the building, “…carrying the Barnes house up to seven stories, with a front corresponding with the hotel. The two buildings will be connected, adding 13 new suites to the establishment. The beautiful music room in the Barnes house will be connected with the present restaurant of The Charlesgate, which it adjoins, and will be used for a private dining room.”
The September 17, 1892, edition of the American Architect and Building News noted that the property “is now being raised in height, giving about six additional suites to the hotel” (as compared with the thirteen suites reported by the Herald). As with the earlier structure, “the additional work will be of ‘slow burning’ construction,” which the article described in detail.
On November 26, 1892, J. Pickering Putnam transferred 4-10 Charlesgate East to a trust created to formalize the Putnam family’s investment in the property, with Horace Hayden as trustee. The trust recorded that Harriet (Upham) Putnam had advanced $30,000, Sarah Gooll Putnam had advanced $15,000, J. Pickering Putnam had advanced $100,000, and Horace Hayden had advanced $80,000 with the option of advancing an additional $20,000. The trust provided that, upon sale of the property, the amounts advanced by Harriet (Upham) Putnam and Sarah Gool Putnam were to be repaid with interest, then the amount advanced by Horace Hayden, and then the amount advanced by J. Pickering Putnam. Any surplus thereafter would be divided between Horace Hayden and J. Pickering Putnam, with the proportion determined by the amount advanced by Horace Hayden ($80,000 up to $100,000).
In August of 1897, Horace Hayden, as trustee, applied for (and subsequently received) permission to construct an addition in the back yard of 535 Beacon for an “electric lighting plant.” The permit application indicated the structure would be 20 feet by 20 feet, and 10 feet high. The addition was designed by J. Pickering Putnam.
This structure was followed by additional structures built in the rear area, and by 1908, the Bromley map shows virtually all of rear courtyard and garden had been filled.
Horace Hayden died in December of 1900, killed when he fell from the window of his home on West 76th Street in New York City. On May 22, 1901, J. Pickering Putnam, Harriet (Upham) Putnam, and Sarah Gooll Putnam concurred in the appointment of Harriet (Putnam) Hayden as his successor trustee.
On June 1, 1907, Harriet Hayden purchased the townhouse at 459 Marlborough, to the east of 10 Charlesgate East, which had remained a private residence. She converted it into five apartments which were leased in conjunction with The Charlesgate. It remained her separate property, however, owned by her as an individual, whereas 4-10 Charlesgate East were owned by her as trustee of the Putnam family trust.
Harriet (Upham) Putnam died in May of 1905 and Sarah Gooll Putnam died in October of 1912. J. Pickering Putnam and Grace (Stevens) Putnam continued to live at The Charlesgate.
In about 1912, Herbert Garfield Summers became manager of The Charlesgate. He and his wife, Fanny M. (Smith) Summers, lived in the hotel.
In June of 1915, Harriet Hayden filed for (and subsequently received) permission to replace a small window in the basement on the east side of 459 Marlborough under the “bay window nearest back” with “two larger windows with 16 inch brick pier between them.” The occupancy was indicated as five apartments. The remodeling was designed by J. Pickering Putnam.
In May of 1916, Harriet Hayden, as trustee, filed for (and subsequently received) permission to enlarge eight basement windows on the Marlborough façade of 10 Charlesgate East “so as to give more light in these rooms.” The remodeling was once again designed by her brother.
J. Pickering Putnam died in February of 1917. Grace Putnam continued to live at The Charlesgate until shortly before her death in April of 1948.
On July 30, 1923, 4-10 Charlesgate East were acquired from Harriet Hayden, as trustee of the Putnam trust, by Herbert G. Summers and Miss Mary Grosvenor Potter, an attorney in New York City. On the same day, they also acquired 459 Marlborough from Harriet Hayden, which she had continued to own in her own name.
Herbert Summers continued to manage the property, and he and his wife continued to live there. He also owned the Cliff House hotel in Scituate.
Herbert Summers died in February of 1937. Fanny Summers continued to live at the hotel and their son, Richard Norman Summers, assumed management of the property.
On August 13, 1947, The Charlesgate (comprising 4-10 Charlesgate and 459 Marlborough) was acquired by Boston University. In its August 1, 1947, article on the transaction, the Boston Globe commented that “stepping into the Charlesgate is like stepping back into the 1890s. The small, dimly-lit lobby with its Austrian marble and flowered slipcovers, is exactly the same as when the hotel opened… ‘There never has been a bar or a cocktail lounge in the Charlesgate,’ a member of the hotel staff said proudly last night. ‘Not one drop of liquor has ever been served by the management. And we have had no big parties or balls. It is a quiet, Boston-type hotel.'”
All of the residents of The Charlesgate were required to move by September 1, 1947, among them, Grace Putnam and Fanny Summers.
In July of 1947, Boston University applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into a dormitory for 400 female students, to be called Charlesgate Hall.
It remained a Boston University dormitory until the early 1970s.
On November 29, 1972, Charlesgate Hall (4-10 Charlesgate and 459 Marlborough) were acquired from Boston University by Anthony Wine and his wife, Shirley Jean (Smith) Wine, as trustees of the Charlesgate Realty Trust.
On August 28, 1973, the Chandler School Corporation purchased Charlesgate Hall from Anthony and Shirley Wine.
On June 13, 1975, the Wines foreclosed on a mortgage given by Chandler School Corporation when they purchased the buildings and took back possession of the property.
On October 1, 1975, Robert M. Mardirosian trustee of the D. A. M. Realty Trust, purchased Charlesgate Hall from Anthony and Shirley Wine.
On November 5, 1975, Robert Mardirosian transferred the property to Marcor Associates, Inc., of which he was the treasurer and Peter V. Corea was the president.
Although the legal occupancy remained a dormitory, Marcor Associates operated the property as a multiple dwelling, either apartments (as it was described in the city directories) or a lodging house, retaining the name Charlesgate Hall used by Boston University.
On November 21, 1979, Charlesgate Hall was purchased from Marcor Associates by Modern Continental Enterprises. It continued to operate the property as a multiple dwelling.
On June 22, 1981, Charlesgate Hall was purchased from Modern Continental Enterprises by Emerson College. It operated the property as a dormitory.
On September 29, 1995, Charlesgate Hall was purchased from Emerson College by 4 Charlesgate East LLP, organized by real estate developer Neil St. John Raymond.
In April of 1996, 4 Charlesgate East LLC applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a dormitory into 102 apartments.
In December of 1996, Charlesgate Realty LLC (successor to 4 Charlesgate East LLC) filed for (and subsequently received) permission to subdivide the property, creating one lot of approximately 12,259 sf at 4 Charlesgate East, equivalent to the original Charlesgate Hotel, with 57 units, and a second lot of approximately 7,339 sf at 10 Commonwealth, equivalent to the former houses at 10 Charlesgate East and 459 Marlborough, with 24 units. In January of 1998, Charlesgate Realty LLC amended its original permit to reduce the number of units at 4 Charlesgate East from 57 to 56 units.
On January 26, 1998, Charlesgate Realty LLC converted the two buildings into two separate condominiums: the Charlesgate Condominium at 4 Charlesgate East with 56 units, and the Barnes Mansion Condominium at 10 Charlesgate East with 24 units.