454 Beacon was designed by Fehmer and Page, architects, and built in 1890 by Lyman D. Willcutt, mason, as the home of retired cotton manufacturer Francis Blake Rice and his wife, Sarah (Sallie) Blake (Austin) Rice. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated June 19, 1890, and on the final building inspection report, dated October 23, 1891.
Francis Rice purchased the land for 454 Beacon on May 10, 1890, from Henry Parker Quincy and Nathan Matthews, Jr. Henry Quincy and his wife, Mary (Adams) Quincy, lived at 452 Beacon, and Nathan Mathews, Jr., and his wife, Ellen Bacon (Sargent) Matthews, lived at 456 Beacon. Henry Quincy and Nathan Matthews, Jr., had purchased the lot on April 8, 1890, probably with the intent of ensuring that any house built on the land would be compatible with their already-constructed homes.
They purchased the land from Richard Cowell Dixey, a musician, and his wife, Ellen Sturgis (Tappan) Dixey, who had acquired it on March 15, 1887, from William Simes. When they purchased the lot, the Dixeys were living temporarily at 179 Commonwealth and may have been contemplating building their home at 454 Beacon. Instead, they moved to 44 Beacon. The lot at 454 Beacon originally was part of a parcel William Simes had purchased from the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation on March 15, 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 454 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.
454 Beacon was completed in 1891 and by the 1891-1892 winter season, Francis and Sarah (Austin) Rice had made it their home. They previously had lived at 208 Beacon.
The Rices continued to live at 454 Beacon during the 1904-1905 winter season, but moved thereafter to 63 Commonwealth.
On August 31, 1905, 454 Beacon was purchased from the Rices by Miss Fanny Young. She previously had lived at 302 Marlborough. She continued to live at 454 Beacon until her death in July of 1919.
454 Beacon was not listed in the 1920 and 1921 Blue Books.
On September 20, 1921, 454 Beacon was purchased from Fanny Young’s estate by William Emery Nickerson. He and his wife, Nellie R. (Partridge) Nickerson, made it their home. They previously had lived in Cambridge.
William Nickerson was an engineer and inventor. He was one of the founders of the Gillette Safety Razor Company and was the principal inventor of the machinery used to produce its first razors.
In October of 1921, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to build a garage and coal storage building at the rear of the property.
In January of 1929, he acquired 452 Beacon next door.
William Nickerson died in June of 1930. Nellie Nickerson continued to live at 454 Beacon. His estate continued to own 452 Beacon until December of 1934, when it was purchased by the Reconstruction Clinic and Hospital.
Nellie Nickerson died in May of 1937.
By 1938, 454 Beacon was the home of William Nickerson’s brother-in-law and sister, Harry Alba Smith and Alice Mary (Nickerson) Smith. They previously had lived in Somerville. He was a restaurant owner.
The property continued to be owned by William Nickerson’s estate until February 28, 1946, when it was purchased by Harry and Alice Smith.
Alice Smith died in March of 1949, and Harry Smith moved soon thereafter.
On December 6, 1949, 454 Beacon was purchased from Harry Smith by 454 Beacon Street, Inc. In January of 1950, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into nine apartments and a doctor’s office. In May of 1950, it amended the permit to increase the number of apartments from nine to ten (presumably eliminating the doctor’s office).
454 Beacon Street, Inc., continued to own 454 Beacon in 2017. It remained an apartment house.