501 Beacon was designed by Snell and Gregerson, architects, and built in 1888-1889 by Neal & Preble, builders, for stockbroker Francis Vose Parker and his wife, Mary (Codman) Parker. They previously had lived at 72 Chestnut. He is shown as the owner of 501 Beacon on the original building permit application, dated July 25, 1888, and on the final building inspection report, dated April 12, 1889; Mary Parker is shown as the owner on the 1895, 1898, 1908, and 1912 Bromley maps.
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 Mrs. 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. They had moved by the next season and were living in Groton by 1895.
During the 1894-1895 winter season, 501 Beacon was the home of John Caswell and his wife, Gertrude (Robbins) Caswell. They had married in September of 1894 and 501 Beacon probably was their first home together. John Caswell was a real estate broker and would become a noted big game hunter. They had moved by 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 travelling. 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.
In the spring of 1903, Francis and Mary Parker traveled to the Bahamas, where Francis Parker died in March of 1903. Their daughter, Gertrude Codman Parker, had come with them; 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, where they lived until 1910, when they retired to England (Gertrude (Parker) Carter is credited with designing the 1905 “Olive Blossom” one penny stamp for Barbados).
During the 1903-1904 winter season, 501 Beacon was the home of Annie S. (Sawyer) Stetson, the widow of Charles Pierce Stetson. Her 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 elsewhere for several seasons, probably traveling abroad, and 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 her mother died late the next year.
Although she was deceased, Mary Parker continued to be shown as the owner of 501 Beacon on the 1917 Bromley map.
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 summer residence, 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 soon 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 summer 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.
By the 1917-1918 winter season, 501 Beacon was the home of Dr. Thomas J. O’Brien. He previously had lived in Roxbury. He is shown as the owner of 501 Beacon on the 1928 Bromley map.
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.
On August 14, 1935, 501 Beacon was damaged by fire. Francis O’Brien moved soon thereafter.
By the fall of 1935, 501 Beacon was owned 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. He is shown as the owner on the 1938 Bromley map.
In 1942, 501 Beacon was acquired by Harry P. Abromson. 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 apartments.”
The property changed hands, remaining a nine-unit apartment house, and March of 1984 was purchased by Ronald F. Cahaly, trustee of the Bridge Realty Trust.
In April of 1984, he converted 501 Beacon into nine condominiums.