445 Beacon was built by Daniel Davies, a housewright and carpenter, one of four contiguous houses, three (443-445-447 Beacon) built in 1872-1873 and the fourth (449 Beacon) built in 1876. They were the first houses built on Beacon west of Hereford. The original building permit application for 443-445-447 Beacon no longer is available (and probably was destroyed in the November 9, 1872, Boston fire), but Daniel Davies & Son is shown as the owner of the three houses in the Boston Globe’s September 14, 1872, report on approval of the permits. Daniel Davies is shown as the owner and Daniel Davies & Son as the builder on the original building permit application for 449 Beacon, dated July 20, 1876.
In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting indicates that Charles Davis was the architect for 443-445-447-449 Beacon. There was no architect named Charles Davis listed in the Boston City Directories during this period, and Bunting probably was referring to Charles H. Davies, Daniel Davies’s son. He was in partnership with his father and, although not trained as an architect, may have designed the houses.
443-445-447-449 Beacon were built on part of a parcel of land that Daniel Davies purchased on June 20, 1866, from the Boston Water Power Company. The parcel included all of the land between Hereford and Parker Street. Parker Street was located on top of the Cross Dam and ran southwest at approximately a 45 degree angle, starting about 210 feet west of Hereford on the south side of Beacon. The street was 60 feet wide. All of the land to the west, between Parker Street and West Chester Park (Massachusetts Avenue), was purchased from the Boston Water Power Company on March 1, 1872, by a real estate investment trust (known as the Beacon Street Lands Trust) formed by Grenville Temple Winthrop Braman (who was Daniel Davies’s son-in-law), Henry Dwight Hyde, and Frank William Andrews. Parker Street between Beacon and Boylston was discontinued as a public thoroughfare in 1877, and Daniel Davies and Grenville T. W. Braman joined with the Beacon Street Lands Trust to acquire the roadway between Beacon and Commonwealth and the land beneath it.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 445 Beacon, and click here for further information on the land on the south side of Beacon between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue.
Daniel Davies and his wife, Amity Bacon (Hastings) Davies, made 445 Beacon their home. Their son, Charles Davies, a widower, lived with them. They all previously had lived at 131 Mt. Vernon. 447 Beacon became the home of the Davies’s son-in-law and daughter, Grenville Temple Winthrop Braman and Susan (Davies) Braman, and 443 Beacon became the home of Grenville Braman’s brother and sister-in-law, Jarvis Dwight Braman and Amelia Coverley (Finnegan) Braman. Grenville Braman had been treasurer of the Boston Water Power Company in the 1860s and was a trustee of the real estate investment group that purchased large tracts of the company’s Back Bay lands. Jarvis Braman was associated with his brother in various real estate ventures and served as president of the Boston Water Power Company from mid-1878 until his death in 1888.
Charles Davies remarried in June of 1874 to Ella J. Sanders. After their marriage, they moved to 27 Clifford Street.
Daniel and Amity Davies continued to lived at 445 Beacon until about 1877, when they moved to the newly-completed house he had built at 449 Beacon. He continued to own 445 Beacon.
In March of 1877, Daniel Davies offered 445 Beacon for sale, noting in his advertisement in the Boston Evening Transcript that the house was “built for the present occupant” with the parlor and dining room on the first floor, sixteen rooms, “perfect ventilation, and slate and tin roof,” and “drainage is entirely through iron pipes.”
Although the Transcript advertisement indicated that the house would be sold “at a very low price,” it did not sell. Daniel Davies offered it for sale at public auction on April 16, 1878, with the same description (except that the number of rooms was shown as fifteen rather than sixteen in the Boston Post auction notice by J. K. Porter & Co.). Again, it did not sell.
445 Beacon was not listed in the 1877-1879 Blue Books.
Daniel Davies died in June of 1878.
On May 7, 1879, 445 Beacon was again offered at public auction, with Wheatland & Bird (George Wheatland, Jr., and Lewis J. Bird) as auctioneers. On May 9, 1879, the Boston Post reported that the house, “built five years ago by Mr. Daniel Davies at a cost of $22,000, now assessed for $18,000, was offered for sale … but was withdrawn, because the highest bid was $12,000.”
On October 20, 1879, 445 Beacon was purchased from Daniel Davies’s estate by Anna Lathrop (Rodman) Snelling, the widow of coal deal Howard Snelling, who had died in May of 1879 at their home in Lincoln.
Anna Snelling lived at 445 Beacon through the 1882-1883 winter season, after which she traveled to Europe. She continued to own 445 Beacon and lease it to others.
By the 1883-1884 winter season, 445 Beacon was the home of hide broker William West and his wife, Emma F. (Adams) West. They previously had lived at the Hotel Hamilton at 260 Clarendon. They continued to live at 445 Beacon during the 1884-1885 season, but moved thereafter to 297 Marlborough.
During the 1885-1886 winter season, 445 Beacon was the home of Peter H. Du Vernet and his wife, Mary D. (Whittlesey) Du Vernet. They previously had lived at 557 Columbus. He was agent for the Cunard steamship line. In December of 1885, while they were living at 445 Beacon, their daughter, Mary A. Du Vernet married Francis R. Spalding, a morocco leather dealer. After their marriage, they lived in the Longwood district of Brookline. Peter Du Vernet died in February of 1886 and Mary Du Vernet moved soon thereafter.
By the 1886-1887 winter season, 445 Beacon was the home of Richard Briggs and his wife, Mary Frances (Towne) Briggs. They previously had lived at the Norfolk House hotel in Eliot Square in Roxbury. He was a dealer in crockery and glass. They continued to live at 445 Beacon during the 1889-1890 season, but moved thereafter and were living at the Hotel Vendôme by 1892.
445 Beacon was not listed in the 1891 and 1892 Blue Books.
On April 14, 1892, 445 Beacon was acquired from Anna Snelling by Augustus F. Arnold, a bookkeeper with the real estate conveyancing firm of Kern & McLoud. On April 23, 1892, he conveyed the property to Luther Moore Merrill, a building contractor.
On May 7, 1892, 445 Beacon was acquired from Luther Merrill by Mary Caroline (Sumner) Hardy, the wife of Alpheus Holmes Hardy. They previously had lived at 356 Marlborough. They also maintained a home in Bourne.
Alpheus Hardy was a retired East India and Mediterranean shipping merchant. He served as treasurer of Wellesley College from 1894 to 1914.
Alpheus Hardy died in December of 1917. Mary Hardy continued to live at 445 Beacon with their unmarried daughters, Susan White Hardy and Mary Caroline Hardy.
Susan White Hardy died in April of 1920 and Mary (Sumner) Hardy died in October of 1927. Mary Caroline Hardy continued to live at 445 Beacon during the 1927-1928 winter season, but moved thereafter. She was a decorator.
On March 31, 1930, Albert J. Benfield purchased 445 Beacon from Alpheus and Mary Hardy’s surviving children: Alpheus Sumner Hardy, Roger Sumner Hardy, Mary Caroline Hardy, and Eleanor (Hardy) Bunker Platt, the widow of Dennis M. Bunker and wife of Charles A. Platt.
Alfred Benfield was a mortgage broker. He and his wife, Cora R. Benfield, lived at The Stratford apartments at 31 Massachusetts Avenue.
By the 1929-1930 winter season, 445 Beacon was the home of Annie Jane (Trimble) Varney, the widow of John R. Varney, who operated it as a lodging house. She previously had lived at 390 Marlborough. She also operated a lodging house at 455 Beacon. She continued to live at 445 Beacon in 1931, but moved thereafter to 377 Marlborough.
445 Beacon continued to be owned by Albert Benfield and operated as a lodging house by various operators.
On September 6, 1940, 445 Beacon was acquired from Albert Benfield by Joseph Ethier Bradford (born Joseph Bradford Ethier) and his wife, Katherine (Halloran) Bradford, who continued to operate it as a lodging house. They previously had lived at 384-½ Washington.
On July 1, 1941, he transferred the property into his wife’s name, and on December 13, 1943, she transferred it back to him.
They continued to live there until his death in January of 1977.
In December of 1977, the estate of Joseph Bradford filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the property as four apartments, which it indicated was the existing condition. There was no record of the legal occupancy of the property, and the Assessing Department indicated it had been assessed as a lodging house.
On January 13, 1978, 445 Beacon was purchased from Joseph Bradford’s estate by Robert J. (Bob) Vila, a contractor and restoration specialist who, from 1979 to 1989, was host of the Public Television series “This Old House” about the renovation of vintage homes.
On August 17, 1978, he transferred the property to himself, Pamela Larsen, and Roberto Vila, and on the same day they converted the property into four condominium units, the 445 Beacon Street Condominium.