495-497 Beacon was designed by architect Ernest N. Boyden and built in 1890 by Edward Lynch, mason, as a four unit apartment building, for real estate dealer Seth Russell Baker. It was the first of three contiguous buildings Seth Baker had built at the southwest corner of Beacon and Massachusetts Avenue. The other two buildings, also designed by Ernest Boyden, were built the next year at 491 Beacon (21-23 Massachusetts Avenue) and 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue, each a three unit apartment building and store.
Also in 1891, Seth Baker had three apartment houses built near the southeast corner of Beacon and Massachusetts Avenue, at 479–481–483 Beacon (483 Beacon was razed for construction of the Hotel Cambridge in 1898). They also were designed by Ernest Boyden.
Seth Baker is shown as the owner of 495-497 Beacon on the final building inspection report, dated October 9, 1890. On the report, the address is shown as 497 Beacon.
Seth Baker purchased the land for 495-497 Beacon, 491 Beacon (21-23 Massachusetts Avenue), and 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue in two transactions. On April 25, 1890, he purchased the corner lot, with a frontage of 44 feet on Beacon and 93 feet on Massachusetts Avenue, from Henry Lee, H. Hollis Hunnewell, and Augustus Lowell, and on May 3, 1890, he purchased the lot to the west, with a 28 foot frontage on Beacon, from Oscar L. Stillings. Oscar Stillings had purchased the lot on August 14, 1888, from Henry Lee and his partners.
All of the land originally had been part of a larger parcel that Henry Lee and his partners purchased on February 20, 1883, from a real estate investment trust formed by Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Frank W. Andrews. The parcel was one of several tracts of land the trust had purchased from the Boston Water Power Company on March 1, 1872.
In subdividing their land, Henry Lee and his partners had created two passageways to provide access and drainage to the alley: a four foot wide passageway at the rear of 499 Beacon and 501 Beacon, connecting with a six foot wide passageway extending south behind 29 Massachusetts Avenue. Unlike similar passageways elsewhere in the Back Bay (for example, at the rear of houses facing on the side streets), these passageways were not created as easements over the lots, but as separate open spaces “appurtenant to the granted premises” to which each property owner had access in common with the owners of the other the abutting properties.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 495-497 Beacon, and click here for further information on the land west of Massachusetts Avenue between the south side of Beacon and the north side of Commonwealth.
Seth Baker sold all three buildings as they were being completed: 495-497 Beacon in October of 1890, 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue in July of 1891, and 491 Beacon in October of 1891. The deeds included a three and one-half foot wide easement across the rear 495-497 Beacon and a six foot wide easement across the rear of 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue, connecting to the passageways leading to the alley.
In August and September of 1890, as 495-497 Beacon was approaching completion, real estate dealer Henry Wilson Savage advertised the new apartments. His September 25, 1890, advertisement in the Boston Globe described them as “new suites to let; one of the pleasantest locations in the city; magnificent views of Charles river and Beacon st.; 5 and 6 rooms, besides bath and large servants’ room, all open to outside light and air; 3 open fireplaces, marble halls, stairs and bathrooms; rents very reasonable; tenants can select wall paper and decorations…”.
On October 14, 1890, 495-497 Beacon was acquired from Seth Baker by wholesale clothing merchant Louis J. Elkan. He and his wife, Pauline (Crohn) Oppenheim Elkan, lived at 244 Newbury.
On December 28, 1894, Horace Fogg foreclosed on a mortgage given by Louis Elkan and sold 495-497 Beacon to attorney Godfrey Morse (born Maas). He was unmarried and lived with his brother and sister-in-law, Leopold and Georgiana Louisa (Ray) Morse, at 203 Commonwealth. He married in January of 1907 to Mrs. Janet (Jennie) (Rosenfeld) Conrad, the former wife of Sidney Smith Conrad; after their marriage, they lived at the Hotel Lenox at 61 Exeter.
In June of 1899, he acquired 499 Beacon.
Godfrey Morse died in June of 1911. 495-497 Beacon and 499 Beacon continued to be owned by his estate.
Jennie Morse married again in April of 1914 to Jacob Joseph Lowe (Lowenburg), a radiologist. He operated the Boston Dental X-Ray Laboratory, and developed and patented a device to use X-Ray technology for fitting shoes to feet. They lived at the Hotel Lenox.
On August 17, 1914, Godfrey Morse’s estate transferred 495-497 Beacon and 499 Beacon into Janet Lowe’s name.
On May 14, 1925, 495-497 Beacon and 499 Beacon were acquired from Janet Lowe by real estate dealer William N. Ambler.
The property changed hands and on January 10, 1927, 495-497 Beacon was acquired by real estate dealer James M. Burr.
On March 24, 1927, 495-497 Beacon was acquired from James Burr by Mrs. Marie Elise (Chayer) Bordeau, the former wife of Frank (Francois) Xavier Bordeau, who operated it as a lodging house. She lived at 103 Beacon, where she also operated a lodging house.
In April of 1934, Marie Bordeau applied for (and subsequently received) permission to install a fire escape on rear of the building. The current and proposed use of the property was shown as “lodgings and store.”
In August of 1936, she applied for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the front of 495-497 Beacon to add a storefront with an entrance at street level. The store address became 495 Beacon and the original entrance to the residential portion of the building became 497 Beacon.
In September of 1947, Marie Bordeau sold 103 Beacon and moved to 495-497 Beacon. She continued to live there and operate it as a lodging house until about 1949.
On June 15, 1949, 495-497 Beacon was purchased from Marie Bordeau by the Esplanade Café, Inc. The Esplanade Café was located in leased space at 23 Massachusetts Avenue and in space it owned at 25 Massachusetts Avenue.
In October of 1949, Louis Pappas, president and treasurer of the Esplanade Café, filed for (and subsequently received) permission to construct an addition at the rear of 25 Massachusetts Avenue, connecting with the rear wall of 495-497 Beacon.
By 1950, the Esplanade Café had terminated its lease at 23 Massachusetts Avenue and had opened its Zebra Lounge (with live entertainment) at 495-497 Beacon in the space previously occupied by Huntt’s Cafeteria. In November of 1950, when Louis Pappas applied to renew the Esplanade Café’s license to serve alcoholic beverages, the application indicated both 25 Massachusetts Avenue and 495 Beacon as the licensed premises (previous applications had indicated 23-25 Massachusetts Avenue).
In a 2001 post to the WBUR Alumni website, Don Hallock described the Zebra Lounge as “a rather ordinary, dimly lit, smoke-filled watering-hole” that, in the 1950s, “served as an after-work hangout for Boston University scholars and WGBH studio staff. Countless hours (and dollars) were spent there, discussing everything from sunburns, low pay and wild new project ideas, to the philosophical underpinnings of Michelangelo Antonioni’s early films.”
The Esplanade Café continued to be located at 25 Massachusetts Avenue and the Zebra Lounge at 495 Beacon until the mid- to late 1950s.
In March of 1959, 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue and 495-497 Beacon were purchased from Esplanade Café, Inc., by I. J. Kennedy, Inc.
In 1961, Kennedy Café, Inc., opened The Crossroads of Boston restaurant and bar at 495 Beacon and at 25 Massachusetts Avenue.
In December of 1961, 495-497 Beacon and 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue were acquired from I. J. Kennedy, Inc., by Edward J. Goodfellow. He and his wife, Mary Dorine (Jewers) Goodfellow, lived at 119 Commonwealth. He was the owner of the Colonial Lounge Bar at 981 Tremont in Roxbury.
In August of 1962, Edward Goodfellow filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 495-497 Beacon from four apartments and a restaurant into ten apartments and a restaurant.
By 1963, 25 Massachusetts Avenue had become the location of the Chung Sai Restaurant. The Crossroads continued to operate at 495 Beacon.
In December of 1966, Edward Goodfellow transferred the rear six feet of 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue (the rear yard over which the easement for access to the alley was located) to 495-497 Beacon. The transfer added 180 square feet to 495-497 Beacon (increasing the lot size from 2,232 sf to 2,412 sf, and reducing the lot size at 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue from 1,441 sf to 1,261 sf). The 6 foot wide strip was enclosed with a wall at the southern end, with a door in the wall to provide access to the passageway for 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue and 491 Beacon. The new lot lines were contained in a plan by William S. Crocker, Inc., surveyors, and filed with the Land Court on December 16, 1966.
In March of 1967, 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue was acquired from Edward Goodfellow by Bertha (Levitt/Leavitt) Miller, the widow of Max Miller. She lived at 491 Beacon, where she also operated the Miller Drug Company.
Edward Goodfellow continued to own 495-497 Beacon and, as part of the transaction, he agreed that the occupants of 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue would continue to have access to the passageways connecting to the alley through the existing door in the southern wall across the six foot wide area that had been transferred from 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue to 495-497 Beacon. He also agreed to construct a separate party wall, against the face of the existing western wall of 25-27 Massachusetts Avenue, along the 30 foot boundary between the two properties and entirely on 495-497 Beacon’s land.
In October of 1968, 495-497 Beacon was acquired from Edward Goodfellow by Dominic A. DeCandio.
The property changed hands and in March of 1979, was purchased by Michael W. Brodigan, trustee of the Clearwater Realty Trust.
In August of 2005, he transferred the property to himself and his wife, Karen (Leary) Brodigan, as individuals.
Also in August of 2005, 495-497 Beacon was acquired by the 495-497 Beacon Street LLC (John McGrail, manager of record).
On January 19, 2006, the 495-497 Beacon Street LLC converted 495-497 Beacon into ten residential condominiums and 1 commercial condominium, the 495-497 Beacon Street Condominium. The commercial condominium continued to be occupied by The Crossroads restaurant and bar.