426 Beacon was designed by Julius A. Schweinfurth, architect, and built in 1904-1905 by McNeil Brothers, carpenters, one of two contiguous houses (424-426 Beacon) built for Ralph Blake Williams and his sister, Ruth (Williams) Sears, the wife of Dr. George Gray Sears.
Ralph Williams purchased the 54 foot lot for 424-426 Beacon on May 31, 1904, from Frank W. Crocker. It was part of a 113 foot 6 inch parcel running east from the corner of Beacon and Hereford that Frank Crocker had purchased on behalf of his employer, Edwin Carlton Swift, co-founder of the meat packing firm of Swift & Co., who had considered building a home on it. Frank Crocker purchased the land from Oliver Ames through three transactions on March 31, 1896, August 9, 1897, and June 30, 1898. The June 30, 1898, deed included the corner lot at 428 Beacon and six inches of where 426 Beacon later would be built. It included language limiting the depth of any building built on the lot to no more than 87 feet from front to back, not including bay windows.
Oliver Ames had purchased the 113 foot 6 inch parcel through series of purchases between November of 1893 and September of 1896. The eastern 81 feet of the land originally was part of a 330 foot parcel purchased by George Higginson on January 14, 1884, from the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation; the western 32 feet 6 inches had been purchased from the corporation by M. Woolsey Borland on December 7, 1882.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 426 Beacon, and click here for further information on the land on the north side of Beacon, including the Storrow Memorial Embankment on the Esplanade.
On June 21, 1904, Ralph Williams transferred the eastern 25 feet of the 54 foot lot to his sister, Ruth Sears, and retained the western 29 foot lot. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application for 424 Beacon, and she is shown as the owner on the application for 426 Beacon. Both applications were dated August 1, 1904.
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).
While the two houses were being built, Ralph Williams and the Searses lived temporarily at 462 Beacon with Ralph Williams’s and Ruth Sears’s mother, Alice (Weld) Williams, the widow of merchant Thomas Blake Williams.
The houses were completed by the 1905-1906 winter season. George and Ruth Sears moved to 426 Beacon, and Ralph Williams and Alice Williams moved to 424 Beacon. The Searses also maintained a home in Cohasset.
George Sears was a physician and professor of clinical medicine at Harvard Medical School. He maintained his medical offices at 426 Beacon. He also served as chief of the medical staff at Boston City Hospital, where he was instrumental in the founding of the Thorndike laboratory for medical research.
On October 24, 1916, Ruth Sears joined with the owners of 416-424 Beacon in an agreement to “impose a uniform restriction on their estates which will prevent the erection of any building or other structure in the rear of any of the said estates which will further materially obstruct the light, air and prospect now enjoyed.” The agreement specified that, prior to January 1, 1937, no building more than one story high could be built north of a line 92 feet north of the building line established by City of Boston for Beacon Street (the building line required a 20 foot setback from the north side of Beacon).
On September 8, 1925, Ruth Sears joined with the owners of 420-424 Beacon and the vacant lot at 428 Beacon in an agreement to modify the 1916 restrictions on buildings in the rear of their properties, agreeing that no building more than one story high could be built north of a line 87 feet north of the building line established by City of Boston for Beacon Street (increasing by 5 feet the restricted area at the rear of the houses, and making it consistent with the earlier restriction applicable to 426-428 Beacon contained in the June 30, 1898, dead). The agreement specified that the right to erect and maintain one story stables in the rear of the houses remained in effect and that these structures could be used as garages for not more than two automobiles. Unlike the 1916 agreement, no expiration date for the restrictions was set.
The updated agreement may have been prompted by plans to build an apartment house on the vacant lot at 428 Beacon. The agreement specified that the main entrance of any apartment building constructed at 428 Beacon would be on Hereford Street and that there would be no more than one apartment per floor except on the first floor, where two there could be two apartments. The apartment house was never built and 428 Beacon remained a vacant lot.
On June 30, 1926, Ruth Sears transferred 426 Beacon to her husband.
Ruth Sears died in October of 1929. George Sears continued to live at 426 Beacon with their two daughters, Ruth Sears, an archeologist, and Esther Sears, a teacher.
Ruth Sears married in 1934 to Dr. Richard Chute, a urologist, and moved to 350 Marlborough. Esther Sears died in May of 1935, having fallen from her third floor bedroom window, apparently while sleepwalking.
On July 28, 1941, 426 Beacon was purchased from Ruth (Sears) Chute by real estate dealers Warren-Stevens, Inc.
On December 31, 1941, 426 Beacon was acquired from Warren-Stevens, Inc., by Earl Glendon Weston and his wife, Helen G. (Clarke) Weston. He was superintendent of the Farragut Building at 126 Massachusetts Avenue. They previously had been lodgers at 337 Marlborough and before that had lived in an apartment at the Farragut Building.
In April of 1942, Earl Weston applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 426 Beacon from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house.
The Westons continued to live at 426 Beacon and operate it as lodging house until about 1944, when they moved back to an apartment at the Farragut Building, where he continued to be the superintendent.
On November 15, 1944, 426 Beacon was acquired from the Westons by the Charles Management Corporation (Christos K. Patsades, treasurer).
On October 1, 1945, 426 Beacon was purchased from the Charles Management Corporation by James Bernard Regan and his wife, Susan (Susanna) M. Cassidy Regan, who continued to operate it as a lodging house. They lived at 424 Beacon, where they also operated a lodging house.
James Regan owned “Regan’s Rooms,” a lodging 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 (opposite the Shubert Theatre) and then the Hotel Hollis at 247 Tremont.
On June 14, 1950, 426 Beacon was purchased from the Regans by Anna Louise (Day) Hicks. In August of 1950, she filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into two apartments and a lodging house.
Louise Day Hicks was a real estate investor and operator of lodging houses. She and her husband, John Edward Hicks, an engineer, lived in South Boston. She later would become a well-known Boston politician. She was elected to the Boston School Committee in 1961 and was an outspoken opponent of using busing to integrate Boston’s schools. In 1967, she was an unsuccessful candidate for Mayor, but in 1969 was elected to the City Council. In 1970, she was elected to the US Congress, but was defeated for re-election in 1972. She was reelected to the City Council in 1973 and 1975, but then lost two successive bids in 1977 and 1981.
On July 31, 1959, 426 Beacon was purchased from Louise Day Hicks by George Irwin Rohrbough, president of the Chandler School for Women, located at 448 Beacon. He also owned 424 Beacon and the vacant lot at 428 Beacon.
In August of 1959, Chandler School applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 426 Beacon from a lodging house into school classrooms, and on the same day, 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.
On October 28, 1959, George Rohrbough transferred 426 Beacon to Chandler School.
In June of 1961, Chandler School 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.
In August of 1967, George Rohrbough acquired 420 Beacon. Chandler School used the first floor as a library and rented the apartments on the upper floors.
In May of 1971, Chandler School, as the seller under the purchase and sale agreement with the College, applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 426 Beacon from school classrooms into a college with accessory laboratories. Similar applications for 422 and 424 Beacon were submitted and subsequently approved. The College continued to use 420 Beacon as a library and to rent the apartments on the upper floors.
In July of 1976, it changed its name to the New England College of Optometry.
In May of 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 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 College continued to own the vacant lot at 428 Beacon, which it used for parking, and on June 17, 2013, it entered into an easement agreement with the Church of Scientology (owners of 448 Beacon) with respect to the use of Hereford Street between Beacon and Back Streets (that portion of Hereford being a private way). The agreement specified the exclusive right of the owners of 428 Beacon, to park vehicles on the eastern side of the street and the exclusive right of the owners of 448 Beacon to park vehicles on the western side of the street (in the late 19th Century, when it developed its land on the north side of Beacon, the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation retained the land between 428 Beacon and 448 Beacon as a privately owned extension of Hereford Street, 40 feet in width; the City of Boston did not designate the extension as a public street and when the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation ceased to exist, the property was subject to common law principles regarding abandoned property (codified in 1971 in the derelict fee statute) and the eastern half of the private way became the property of the owners 428 Beacon and the western half became the property of the owners of 448 Beacon).
The New England College of Optometry continued to be located there in 2017.