478 Beacon was designed by William Y. Peters, architect, and built in 1892-1893 by W. A. & H. A. Root Co. (William A. Root, Jr., and Henry A. Root), masons, as the home of investment banker and stockbroker Philip Van Rensselaer Ely and his wife, Marian Glyde (Bigelow) Horton Ely. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated October 28, 1892.
Marian Ely purchased the land for 478 Beacon on January 9, 1892, from the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation.
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 478 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 1893-1894 winter season, Philip and Marian Ely had made 478 Beacon their home. They previously had lived 341 Beacon. They had moved from 478 Beacon by the next season, and by the 1895-1896 season were living at 333 Beacon.
On October 1, 1894, 478 Beacon was acquired from Marian Ely by textile mill owner William Amory. He was twice widowed and lived at 478 Beacon with his daughter, Anna Sears Amory. They also maintained a home, Seven Oaks, at Weymouth Fore River in Braintree. They previously had lived in New York City, where his second wife (who was Anna Sears Amory’s mother), Jeanne Philomene (Guichard) Amory, had died in April of 1894. He and his first wife, Ellen (Brewer) Amory, had lived at 140 Beacon, where she had died in January of 1873.
In July of 1896, he married again, to Louise Annette Gaudelet. She was a former music teacher and had been private secretary to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes up until his death in October of 1894. After their marriage, they lived at 478 Beacon, and Anna Sears Amory moved to 7 Fairfield.
In late 1897, he purchased land in Dublin, New Hampshire, and built a new second home, which they first occupied in the summer of 1899.
On December 29, 1902, he transferred 478 Beacon into his wife’s name.
William and Louise Amory continued to live at 478 Beacon during the 1901-1902 winter season, but moved thereafter to 407 Commonwealth.
On December 29, 1902, 478 Beacon was purchased from Louise Amory by attorney William Orison Underwood. He and his wife, Bessie Knight (Shoemaker) Underwood, made it their home. They previously had lived at the Hotel Somerset. They continued to live at 478 Beacon during the 1906-1907 winter season, but moved thereafter to 53 Beacon.
On May 15, 1907, 478 Beacon was acquired from W. Orison Underwood by James Ripley Hooper, a dry good merchant and banker. He and his wife, Gertrude Fellowes (Williams) Hooper, made it their home. They previously had lived at 303 Beacon. They also maintained a home in Hull until about 1932.
The Hoopers’ four unmarried children lived with them: Adeline Denny Hooper, James Ripley Hooper, Jr., Roger Fellowes Hooper, and Gertrude Hooper. Their eldest daughter, Ethel Gertrude (Hooper) Grew and her husband, Henry Sturgis Grew, II, lived at 254 Marlborough.
James Hooper, Jr., a wool merchant, married in April of 1914 to Katharine Leighton Amory of 279 Beacon. After their marriage, they lived at 41 Pilgrim.
Roger Hooper, an attorney, married in October of 1914 to Justine Van Rensselaer Barber of New York. After their marriage, they lived at 403 Marlborough.
In July of 1929, W. E. Cooper (probably James Hooper’s agent) applied for (and subsequently received) permission to build a penthouse addition.
James Hooper died in October of 1934. Gertrude Hooper continued to live at 478 Beacon with their unmarried daughters, Adeline and Gertrude, until about 1949.
On April 25, 1949, 478 Beacon was acquired from James Hooper’s estate by real estate dealer Thomas J. Diab. In May of 1949, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into nine apartments.
On February 5, 1951, 478 Beacon was acquired from Thomas Diab by Dr. Norris B. Flanagan, a psychiatrist, and his wife, Helen M. (Garrity) Flanagan. The lived in Squantum, Massachusetts.
In December of 1953, the Flanagans applied for (and subsequently received) permission to change the legal occupancy from nine apartments into eleven apartments and one doctor’s office, legalizing what they indicated as being the current conditions (the doctor’s office was in the front on the first floor, and his residence in the rear on the first floor).
The property changed hands and on February 27, 1959, was acquired by Pietro Belluschi. He and his wife, Helen (Hemmila) Belluschi, lived at 1 Fairfield.
Pietro Belluschi was an architect and, from 1951 to 1965, was Dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning. In 1956, he designed the First Lutheran Church at 299 Berkeley.
On May 6, 1963, 478 Beacon was acquired from Pietro Belluschi by Dr. George J. Colantino, a physician, and his wife, Edith E. (Fitzgerald) Colantino. They lived at 404 Beacon.
On June 23, 1977, the Gardner Savings Bank foreclosed on its mortgage to George and Edith Colantino and sold 478 Beacon to Alvin L. Lipsky. In October of 1977, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from eleven apartments and one doctor’s office to twelve apartments.
The property changed hands and on January 11, 1979, was purchased by Neal Gold and Irvin H. Kooris, trustees of the 478 Beacon Street Trust.
In July of 1979, they converted the property into twelve condominium units, the 478 Beacon Street Condominium, with eleven units in the main building and one in the carriage house at the rear.
In March of 1980, a condominium owner applied for (and subsequently received) permission to combine apartments five and seven, connecting them with a staircase, and reducing the number of units from twelve to eleven.
In April of 1980, a condominium owner applied for (and subsequently received) permission to extend the fifth floor penthouse in the front and add a greenhouse in the rear.
On May 8, 2013, the condominium owners amended the condominium master deed to reduce the number of units from twelve to eleven, reflecting the consolidation of units five and seven in 1980.