491 Beacon (21-23 Massachusetts) is located on the SW corner of Beacon and Massachusetts Avenue, with 483 Beacon to the east, across Mass. Ave., 495-497 Beacon to the west, 7-9 Massachusetts/504 Beacon to the north, across Beacon, and 25-27 Massachusetts to the south.
491 Beacon (21-23 Massachusetts Avenue) was designed by architect Ernest N. Boyden and built in 1891 by John Hurley, builder, as a three-family building and store. It was built for real estate dealer Seth Russell Baker, one of three contiguous multi-unit buildings he had built at the southwest corner of Beacon and Massachusetts Avenue: 21-23 Massachusetts Avenue, 491 Beacon (25-27 Massachusetts Avenue), and 495-497 Beacon.
At about the same time, Ernest Boyden designed two multi-family dwellings for Seth Baker at 479-481 Beacon, and probably a third at 483 Beacon (razed for construction of the Hotel Cambridge in about 1898).
Seth Baker is shown as the owner of 491 Beacon on the original building permit application, dated February 28, 1891. On the application, the address is shown as 491-495 Beacon, corner 470 West Chester Park (West Chester Park was renamed Massachusetts Avenue on March 1, 1894).
By 1895, 491 Beacon was owned by retail clothing merchant and banker Abraham Shuman, who is shown as the owner on the 1895, 1898, 1908, and 1917 Bromley maps.
Abraham Shuman and his wife, Hettie (Lang) Shuman, lived at 60 Vernon in Roxbury. After her death in June of 1904, he moved to 90 Commonwealth. He died in June of 1918.
By 1898, an additional (fifth) story had been added to the 23 Massachusetts Avenue portion of the building and to 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue.
After Abraham Shuman’s death, 491 Beacon changed hands and in 1925 was acquired by Max Samuel Miller and his wife, Bertha (Levitt/Leavitt) Miller. He was a druggist, doing business as the Miller Drug Company, and maintained a retail store in the building at 21-23 Massachusetts Avenue, at the Beacon Street corner. The Millers lived in one of the apartments at 491 Beacon; they previously had lived in Cambridge. Bertha Miller is shown as the owner of 491 Beacon on the 1928 and 1938 Bromley maps.
In June of 1957, Max Miller filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy of 491 Beacon as four apartments and one store, indicating that the “building has been used as a store and 4 family as long as around 15 years to my knowledge.”
Max Miller died in September of 1964. Bertha Miller continued to live at 491 Beacon in apartment 1. The Miller Drug Company continued to operate at 21-23 Massachusetts Avenue, managed by the Millers’ son, Eugene M. Miller. He and his wife, Susan (Lement) Miller, lived in apartment 2 at 491 Beacon.
By the 1970s, and probably from significantly before, the Miller family also owned 25-27 Massachusetts.
Bertha Miller died in the early 1970s. The Miller Drug Company closed at about the same time and the Eugene Millers moved elsewhere.
In May of 1979, David G. Ricupero purchased 491 Beacon and 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue from the Millers’ three sons: Eugene, Sidney, and James Miller.
In March of 1981, David Ricupero filed for permission to combined 491 Beacon and 25-27 Massachusetts into one property, with the address to be 491 Beacon and the combined occupancy to be eleven apartments, a retail store, and a restaurant, which he indicated was the existing occupancy. He subsequently abandoned the permit.
In August of 1982, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy of 491 Beacon as seven apartments, a retail store, and a restaurant.
491 Beacon remained a residential and commercial building in 2014.