501 Beacon was designed by Snell and Gregerson, architects, and built in 1888-1889 by Neal & Preble, masons, for stockbroker Francis Vose Parker and his wife, Mary (Codman) Parker. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated July 25, 1888, and on the final building inspection report, dated April 12, 1889.
Mary Parker purchased the land for 501 Beacon on June 15, 1887, from Henry Lee, H. Hollis Hunnewell, and Augustus Lowell, part of a larger parcel they had 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 several tracts of land the trust had purchased from the Boston Water Power Company on March 1, 1872.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 501 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.
During the early 1890s, the Parkers were living elsewhere — possibly in California where Francis Parker “made two journeys” according to his Harvard Class Report (he attended Harvard with the Class of 1868 but left before graduating).
During the 1892-1893 winter season, 501 Beacon was the home of Mary (Hasbrouck) Sutton, widow of General Eben Sutton, owner of textile mills in North Andover, and their daughter, Eliza (Lila) (Sutton) Young, the widow of Harvard professor Ernest Young. They had moved by the next season to 484 Beacon.
During the 1893-1894 winter season, 501 Beacon was the home of William Fisher Wharton and his wife, Susan C. (Lay) Wharton. He was an attorney and had served as Assistant Secretary of State in the Benjamin Harrison Administration. In mid-1894, he purchased a home in Groton, The Elms, which they subsequently made their home.
During the 1894-1895 winter season, 501 Beacon was the home of John Caswell and his wife, Gertrude (Robbins) Caswell. They also maintained a home, Round Plain Farm, in Pride’s Crossing. They had married in September of 1894 and 501 Beacon probably was their first home together. John Caswell was a real estate investor, and would become a noted big game hunter and gun expert. They moved to 228 Beacon for the 1895-1896 season.
By the 1895-1896 winter season, the Parkers were living at 501 Beacon once again. They were joined by Mary Parker’s mother, Anna Gertrude (Day) Codman. She previously had lived at the Hotel Vendôme. Her husband, Captain John Codman, probably was traveling. He was a sea captain and author of sea-related books (occasionally writing under the name Captain Ringbolt). He was living with the Parkers and Mrs. Codman at 501 Beacon at the time of his death in April of 1900. According to a “Table Gossip” report on his funeral in the Boston Globe, “he had made his home in recent years in New York, from which he went about two months ago to Lakewood, N. J., to escape the rigors of winter weather.”
In 1901, the Parkers built a home on Marblehead Neck.
In the spring of 1903, Francis and Mary Parker traveled to the Bahamas, where Francis Parker died in March of 1903.
The Parkers’ daughter, Gertrude Codman Parker, had come with them to the Bahamas. She met Sir Gilbert Thomas Carter, the British Governor of the Bahamas, and they married in August of 1903. In 1904, he was named Governor of Barbados, serving until 1910 when he retired and they moved to England. Gertrude (Parker) Carter is credited with designing the 1905 “Olive Blossom” one penny stamp for Barbados. In 1919, he changed his name to Thomas Gilbert-Carter. In about 1920, they returned to Barbados, where they lived at Ilaro Court, designed by Gertrude Gilbert-Carter. He died in January of 1927 and she continued to live in Barbados.
During the 1903-1904 winter season, 501 Beacon was the home of Annie S. (Sawyer) Stetson, the widow of Charles Pierce Stetson. Their son, Charles Stetson, probably lived with her; he had graduated from Harvard Law School in 1903 and was beginning practice in Boston. They had moved to 439 Marlborough by the 1904-1905 season.
By the 1904-1905 winter season, Mary Parker and her mother were living at 501 Beacon once again. They continued to live there during the 1906-1907 season, after which they lived in Barbados with Gilbert and Gertrude Carter for several seasons.
By the 1907-1908 winter season, 501 Beacon again become the home of Annie (Sawyer) Stetson and her son, Charles. They had lived at 360 Marlborough during the previous season. They continued to live at 501 Beacon during the 1909-1910 season, but moved thereafter to 19 Brimmer.
From the 1903-1904 winter season through 1907-1908 seasons, 501 Beacon also was once again the Boston home of John and Gertrude (Robbins) Caswell, who had lived there during the 1894-1895 season. They were listed at 501 Beacon in the Social Registers but not in the Blue Books and probably either lived there for only a portion of the season or shared the house with Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Codman (and with Mrs. Stetson and her son when Mrs. Parker and her mother were wintering in Barbados). During the 1908-1909 and 1909-1910 seasons Caswells were living in an apartment at The Empire at 333 Commonwealth, and then spent the next season at 44 Commonwealth with her sister, Phyllis Robbins.
501 Beacon once again became the home of Charles Stetson and his mother, Annie (Sawyer) Stetson. They had lived at 360 Marlborough during the previous season. They continued to live at 501 Beacon during the 1909-1910 season, but moved thereafter to 19 Brimmer.
Mary Parker resumed living at 501 Beacon during the 1910-1911 season and continued to live there during the 1911-1912 season. She moved thereafter, probably to Torquay, England, where she had purchased a house to be close to her son-in-law and daughter. Anna Codman lived there with her. Mary Parker died in Torquay in October of 1913 and Mrs. Codman died late the next year. 501 Beacon was inherited by Gertrude (Parker) Carter.
By the 1912-1913 winter season, 501 Beacon was the home of Frederick Holbrook and his wife, Grace (Cabot) Holbrook. They previously had lived in an apartment at 330 Dartmouth. The Holbrooks also maintained a home, Naulakha, in Dummerston (Brattleboro) Vermont. It had been built by Rudyard Kipling and was his home for a number of years.
Frederick Holbrook was a civil engineer. His engineering and construction firm, Holbrook, Cabot & Rollins, specialized in bridges, dams, and dry docks, and were the contractors for construction of the Charles River Bridge and the Charles River Basin dam and lock.
The Holbrooks continued to live at 501 Beacon during the 1915-1916 winter season, but moved thereafter when he was made vice president of the American International Corporation, in charge of the corporation’s affairs in Russia. The Holbrooks continued to maintain their residence in Brattleboro and a Boston residence at The Tudor (northwest corner of Beacon and Joy).
501 Beacon was not listed in the 1917 Blue Book.
On July 5, 1917, 501 Beacon was purchased from Gertrude (Parker) Carter by Dr. Thomas J. O’Brien. He previously had lived in Roxbury.
Thomas O’Brien was a physician and professor at Tufts Medical School. He maintained his medical office at 501 Beacon. A widower, his four children – Margaret, Edmond T., Francis R., and Richard – lived with him. His parents, Edmond and Ellen M. (Hennessey) O’Brien, also lived with him.
Margaret O’Brien married in 1928 to Philip M. Dillon, an engineer, and they moved to Albany, New York. Edmond O’Brien died in January of 1929 and Ellen O’Brien died in 1930. Richard O’Brien moved from 501 Beacon in the early 1930s (he was living in Adams, Massachusetts, in 1935).
Thomas O’Brien continued to live at 501 Beacon with his sons, Edmond (a lawyer) and Francis (a physician), until his death in February of 1935. Edmond O’Brien moved soon thereafter to Hanover. Francis O’Brien continued to live at 501 Beacon.
In March and April of 1935, Francis O’Brien acquired his three siblings’ interests in the property.
On August 14, 1935, 501 Beacon was damaged by fire. Francis O’Brien moved soon thereafter.
On October 15, 1935, 501 Beacon was acquired from Francis O’Brien by real estate dealer Wallace Raymond Marden. In October of 1935, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into seven apartments. He and his wife, Marjorie L. (Maclary) Marden, lived in Hingham and he maintained his office at 501 Beacon.
On October 23, 1940, he transferred the property to himself as trustee of the Investment Realty Trust.
On December 28, 1942, 501 Beacon was acquired from Wallace Marden by Harry P. Abromson, his brother, Onne Abromson, and their brother-in-law, Louis Lissack, husband of Rose Molly (Abromson) Lissack.
On May 1, 1946, Harry Abromson and Louis Lissack acquired Onne Abromson’s interest and Harry Abromson then acquired Louis Lissack’s interest. Harry Abromson was president of the Pioneer Mutual Insurance Company; he and his wife, Sarah (Franklin) Abromson, lived in Roxbury and later in Brookline.
Also on May 1, 1946, Harry Abromson transferred the property into his and his wife’s name.
In December of 1954, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as nine apartments, indicating that “I purchased this property in 1942 as a 9 apartment building and then occupied by 9 tenants.”
Sarah Abromson died in January of 1953.
On February 23, 1956, 501 Beacon was acquired from Louis Steinberg and Jack Kosow by Harry H. Kahn.
On May 28, 1957, 501 Beacon was acquired from Harry Kahn by Alfred M. Agress and his wife, Gertrude (Weiner) Agress, as trustees of the BADA Realty Trust. On January 11, 1987, the Agresses’ two sons, Bruce M. Agress and David M. Agress, released their interests as beneficiaries of the BADA Realty Trust to their parents.
On August 23, 1983, 501 Beacon was purchased from Alfred and Gertrude Agress by Michael C. Stone, trustee of the 501 Beacon Street Realty Trust.
On March 14, 1984, 501 Beacon was purchased from Michael Stone by Ronald F. Cahaly, trustee of the Bridge Realty Trust.
On April 30, 1984, Ronald Cahaly converted 501 Beacon into nine condominium units, the 501 Beacon Street Condominium.