450 Beacon was designed by Shaw and Hunnewell, architects, and built in 1895-1896 by McNeil Brothers, carpenters, as the home of wholesale wool merchant Edward Nicoll Fenno and his wife, Ellen Marion (Bradlee) Fenno. Edward Fenno is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated May 14, 1895, and on the final building inspection report, dated July 9, 1896.
Blueprints for 450 Beacon – floor plans and framing plans for the first and second floors, and elevations of the party walls — are bound with the final building inspection report located in the Boston City Archives (volume 77, page 58).
Ellen Fenno purchased the land for 450 Beacon on March 1, 1895, from Annie Hardon (Burr) Farlow, the wife of Dr. John Woodford Farlow. They lived at 234 Clarendon. She had purchased the lot on May 14, 1891, from Frederick Lothop Ames, who also owned 448 Beacon, the home of his son-in-law and daughter, Robert Chamblet Hooper and Helen Angier (Ames) Hooper.
Frederick Ames had purchased the land from William Simes on December 13, 1889. It was the eastern 25 feet of a 77 foot wide lot William Simes had purchased from the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation on March 15, 1886, plus a one foot wide strip to the east that he had purchased from Frederick Ames on May 16, 1888 (on the same day, they entered into a party wall agreement with respect to any wall that would be built on the boundary between 448 Beacon and 450 Beacon). The one foot strip was part of a 56 foot lot that Frederick Ames had purchased on March 1, 1888, from William G. Saltonstall, who had purchased the land from the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation on February 10, 1886.
The deeds from the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation for the land between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue included language specifying that only dwellings and associated outbuildings (including stables) could be built on the land and that the buildings were to be set back 20 feet from Beacon. The deeds for the land between 460 Beacon and Massachusetts Avenue were entered into in the early 1890s and also included restrictions limiting to one story any building in the rear north of a line 90 feet from Beacon. The deeds for the land between Hereford and 458 Beacon, which were from 1886, did not include language limiting buildings in the rear. As a result, the owners of the land at 448-458 Beacon entered into individual agreements to limit the depth of the houses that were built on their land and restrict the height of outbuildings in the rear to one story. On August 2, 1909, all of the owners of the property on the north side of Beacon between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue (other than the Mt. Vernon Church) entered into an agreement to “continue for twenty years longer [to December 31, 1929] the existing freedom from irregular building and obstruction of view which they now enjoy from the rear portion of their houses.” On December 30, 1929, the owners of 448-480 Beacon extended this agreement to expire on December 31, 1939.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 450 Beacon, including additional information on the deeds and agreements limiting buildings in the rear of the lot, and click here for further information on the land on the north side of Beacon, including the Storrow Memorial Embankment on the Esplanade.
By the 1896-1897 winter season, Edward and Ellen Fenno had made 450 Beacon their home. They previously had lived at 96 Mt. Vernon. They also maintained a home in Falmouth.
In October of 1909, Hezekiah B. Fenno applied for (and subsequently received) permission to build an automobile garage at the rear of 450 Beacon. This probably was an incorrect reference to the Fennos’ son, Henry Bradlee Fenno.
Marion Fenno married in March of 1924 to Arthur Wellington Bell, a former investment banker in Pittsburgh who later would become an author. After their marriage, they lived at 450 Beacon with the Fennos during the 1925-1926 and 1927-1927 winter seasons, but moved soon thereafter to 104 Marlborough.
Ellen Fenno died in 1930 and Edward Fenno died in October of 1931.
After their parents’ deaths, Henry and Edward Fenno continued to live at 450 Beacon. Edward Fenno married in June of 1940 and they moved to 298 Marlborough. By 1941, Henry Fenno had moved to 351 Marlborough.
On August 20, 1940, 450 Beacon was acquired from Ellen Fenno’s estate by 450 Beacon Street, Inc., and became the fraternity house of the MIT chapter of Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. It previously had been located at 71 Bay State Road (as Phi Beta Delta).
In January of 1943, 450 Beacon Street, Inc., applied for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as a fraternity clubhouse and dormitory.
450 Beacon remained the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity in 2017.