424 Beacon was designed by Julius A. Schweinfurth, architect, and built in 1904-1905 by McNeil Brothers, builders, one of two contiguous houses (424-426 Beacon) built at the same time.
Architectural plans of 424-426 Beacon — including elevations, piling plans, floor plans, and framing plans — are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN A-83).
424 Beacon was built as the home of Ralph Blake Williams, a real estate trustee, and 426 Beacon was built for Dr. George Gray Sears and his wife, Ruth (Williams) Sears, the sister of Ralph Blake Williams.
While the two houses were being built, Ralph Williams and Dr. and Mrs. Sears lived temporarily at 462 Beacon with Ralph Williams’s and Ruth Sears’s mother, Alice (Weld) Williams, the widow of merchant Thomas Blake Williams.
When houses were completed, probably in late 1905, Ralph Williams and his mother moved to 424 Beacon and the Sears moved to 426 Beacon. Ralph Williams is shown as the owner of 424 Beacon on the 1908 and 1917 Bromley maps.
In September of 1906, Ralph Williams married Susan Jackson. After their marriage, they lived at 31 Gloucester for several years, but by 1910, they were living at 424 Beacon once again, with his mother. They also maintained a home in Dover.
Ralph and Susan Williams continued to live at 424 Beacon during the 1915-1916 winter season, but moved thereafter to 356 Beacon. Alice Williams continued to live at 424 Beacon.
In the early 1920s, Ralph and Susan Williams rejoined his mother at 424 Beacon. They had lived at 20 Hereford in 1920.
Ralph Williams died in March of 1923, and Susan Williams moved soon thereafter to 459 Beacon.
Alice Williams continued to live at 424 Beacon until her death in February of 1926.
In the spring of 1927, Fred Holdsworth and Robert D. Farrington purchased 424 Beacon from the estate of Ralph B. Williams. The transaction was reported in the Boston Globe on April 3, 1927.
By 1928, it was the home of George A. Bell and his wife, Alice (Bailey) Bell. Alice B. Bell is shown as the owner on the 1928 Bromley map and was the assessed owner through 1937. Based on the 1929-1939 Lists of Residents, it appears that they operated 424 Beacon as a lodging house.
George Bell had been a box manufacturer in Illinois and Missouri; he and his wife moved to Boston after he retired in the mid-1920s.
George Bell died in May of 1937.
Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company is shown as the owner on the 1938 Bromley map and was the assessed owner through 1941.
By 1940, 424 Beacon was the home of Mrs. Martha (Poirier) Freund (called Martha Poirier), the former wife of William J. Freund, who operated it as a lodging house (on May 21, 1939, the Estate of Lester Leland wrote the Zoning Board on behalf of Mrs. Leland, who lived at 422 Beacon, indicating that a sign welcoming “transients” had been posted at 424 Beacon). In the mid-1930s she had lived in Wakefield, where she operated the Wakefield Arms.
Martha Poirier continued to live at 424 Beacon in 1941.
By 1942, 424 Beacon was the home of James Bernard Regan and his wife, Susanna M. Josephine (McNamara) Cassidy Regan. They operated it as a lodging house. James A. Cassidy, Susanna Regan’s son by her first marriage to John T. Cassidy, lived with them. They all previously had lived at 30 Welles in Dorchester.
James Regan owned “Regan’s Rooms,” a rooming house at 327 Tremont. During World War I and the early 1920s, he had been a proprietor of the New Richwood Hotel at 254 Tremont (across from the Shubert Theatre) and then the Hotel Hollis at 247 Tremont.
James Cassidy was the assessed owner of 424 Beacon from 1942 through 1945, after which James B. Regan et al were the assessed owners.
By 1956, 424 Beacon was owned by George Irwin Rohrbough, president of the Chandler School for Women, located at 448 and 452 Beacon. In July of 1956, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 424 Beacon from a lodging house into a school for use by the Chandler School.
By 1959, the Chandler School had acquired 426 Beacon and in August of 1959, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to cut doors in the party wall between 424 and 426 Beacon to facilitate the use of both buildings by the school.
By 1962, Chandler School had acquired 422 Beacon and in May of 1962, George Rohrbough applied for (and subsequently received) permission to cut doors in the party wall between 422 and 424 Beacon to facilitate the school’s use of both buildings.
By 1968, Chandler School had also acquired 420 Beacon.
In May of 1971, George Rohrbough, as the seller under the purchase and sale agreement with the College, applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 424 Beacon from a school into a college with a machine shop and accessory laboratories. Similar applications for 422 and 426 Beacon were submitted and subsequently approved.
In 1983, the College acquired 418 Beacon, which it used as a dormitory.
In April of 1992, the College applied for (and subsequently received) permission to
consolidate 422 and 424 Beacon into one property, with the address of 424 Beacon.
In August of 1996, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to consolidate 420 Beacon, 424 Beacon, and 426 Beacon into one property, with the address of 424 Beacon. 420 Beacon was used for the library, classrooms, and other college facilities.
In August of 1997, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 418 Beacon and a separate former stable at the rear from a dormitory into classrooms and other college functions.
In October of 2006, the College applied for (and subsequently received) permission to consolidate 418 Beacon into one property with 424 Beacon, making a single property composed of 418-420-422-424-426 Beacon, with the address of 424 Beacon.
The New England College of Optometry continued to be located there in 2014.