4-5 Arlington were built in 1860-1861, two of four houses (4-5-6-7 Arlington) built at about the same time.
The land on which 4-5-6-7 Arlington were built was originally part of a larger parcel purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on September 2, 1858, by George Goss and Norman Carmine Munson, who were the contractors responsible for filling the Commonwealth’s Back Bay lands. On the same day as they purchased the land, Goss and Munson sold it to a consortium of Peleg W. Chandler, J. Amory Davis, and Henry Lee, Jr. They, in turn, subdivided the eastern portion of the parcel into four lots at 4-5-6-7 Arlington. In April of 1860, they sold the lot at 7 Arlington to William Richards Lawrence, and in May of 1860, they sold the lot at 4 Arlington to Henry Atkins.
Click here for indices to the deeds for 4 Arlington and 5 Arlington, and click here for further information about the land on the north side of Marlborough from Arlington to Berkeley, south of Alley 421.
On May 17, 1860, Peleg Chandler and his partners entered into an agreement with William Carpenter, a carpenter, and Horace Jenkins, a mason, under which Carpenter and Jenkins agreed to build houses at 5 and 6 Arlington and, upon their completion, the partners agreed to sell Carpenter and Jenkins the land at a specified price. On May 18, 1860, William Lawrence and Henry Atkins entered into a separate agreement with Carpenter and Jenkins governing the design and construction of all four houses. On June 9, 1860, William Carpenter and Henry Jenkins filed a Notice of Intention with the Board of Aldermen to build at 4-5-6 Arlington. On September 26, 1860, Seth Simmons, a carpenter and builder, bought the lot at 5 Arlington from the partners (with the consent of Carpenter and Jenkins) and may have taken charge of building the house there.
The Notice of Intention filed by William Carpenter and Henry Jenkins did not include the land owned by William Lawrence at 7 Arlington. It was begun slightly later and it may have been built by a different builder. An August 7, 1861, article in the Boston Traveller describing 4-5-6 Arlington indicated that “another building is soon to be erected and attached to this block, making the corner of Arlington and Marlborough streets, by Dr. William R. Lawrence.”
The original owners wanted to ensure that their new homes would be harmonious in design, both with each other and with the other houses being built nearby. The property already was subject to restrictions contained in the deeds from the Commonwealth, but the owners added further stipulations in their May 1860 agreement, among them that “the front of said houses shall be of free stone and the height not less than three stories” and “the top of the cornice of main houses shall be fifty four feet high above sidewalk in Arlington Street, or as high as that of Geo. O. Hovey’s house Number 100 Beacon Street” and “the cornice and roof of all the houses shall be uniform, and shall conform to a plan to be hereinafter agreed upon.” 4-5-6-7 Arlington were being built contemporaneously with the other houses on Arlington, and 100 Beacon was the closest completed house that could serve as a model of design.
4-5-6 Arlington were completed in mid-1861, and 7 Arlington was completed in late 1861 or in 1862. Consistent with the agreement among the owners, they were designed as a single symmetrical composition, with the end houses (4 Arlington and 7 Arlington) on wider lots and set slightly forward and more elaborate in design than the two middle houses (5-6 Arlington). The composition complemented similar pavilion-style French Academic designs at 1-2-3 Arlington and 8-9-10-11 Arlington. As originally built, there was a four foot wide passageway at the rear of 4, 5, and 6 Arlington, running parallel with Arlington, to provide access to the alley for all four houses.
The facades of 4-5 Arlington have been significantly remodeled (in 1925-1926, when the two buildings were combined, and again in 1993-1994) and the mansard roofs removed. 6-7 Arlington were demolished in 1929 and replaced with a ten-story apartment building and clubrooms for the Junior League.
4 Arlington was built in 1860-1861 as the home of Henry Atkins, a grocer and importer of wines and spirits, and his wife, Elizabeth Cummings (Gay) Atkins. He purchased the land for the house on May 17, 1860. They previously had lived at 10 Bedford.
Henry Atkins died in December of 1870.
In his will, Henry Atkins left 4 Arlington and a number of other properties to his four children, one-fourth interest each to his sons, Henry Holly Atkins and John Eliot Atkins, and one-fourth each in trust for his daughters, Sarah Jane (Atkins) Playle, the wife of John Playle, and Elizabeth C. Atkins. Henry H. Atkins and John E. Atkins both were wine importers with their father’s firm.
Elizabeth (Gay) Atkins continued to live at 4 Arlington with her unmarried children, Henry H. Atkins and Elizabeth Atkins, until her death in July of 1872.
After their mother’s death, Henry H. Atkins and probably Elizabeth Atkins moved to the Hotel Vendôme. Elizabeth Atkins married in October of 1873 to Charles Gustavus Lundell, a dealer in Swedish iron, and they moved to 235 Beacon.
In the fall of 1872, the Atkins family offered 4 Arlington for sale. A September 18, 1872, Boston Journal advertisement by real estate dealer John Jeffries, Jr., described the property as “finished throughout in the most elegant and substantial manner, besides the usual comforts and conveniences found in such houses there is a splendid billiard room and bowling alley.”
On October 3, 1872, the family sold the furniture and fixtures at auction, including, according to the October 2, 1872, Boston Traveller advertisement by auctioneer Samuel Hatch & Co., the “superior furniture, elegant silk drapery curtains, large French plate mirrors, rich dining and cut glass ware, oil paintings and engravings, rosewood billiard table, &tc.”
The house was not purchased and continued to be offered for sale. It may have remained vacant for several years.
4 Arlington remained in the Atkins family and was leased to others.
During the 1877-1878 winter season, it was the home of John Evart De Witt and his wife, Naomi (Hawley) De Witt. They also maintained a home in Portland, Maine. He was president of the Union Mutual Life Insurance Company of Maine. The De Witts moved to 290 Marlborough by 1879.
By the 1882-1883 winter season, it was the home of John Smith Allan and his wife Adelaide Stuart (Gault) Allan. They previously had lived at 57 Beacon. He was head of the Boston offices of the Allan Steamship Line, a Canadian and Scottish firm founded by his father, Andrew Allan, and his uncle, Sir Hugh Allan.
They continued to live there during the 1884-1885 winter season, joined by his brother and sister-in-law, Hugh Andrew Allan and Margaret (Rae) Allan. Hugh and Margaret Allan had married in 1884 and probably came to Boston from Montreal soon thereafter.
On October 6, 1886, the Atkins family leased 4 Arlington to Elias R. Hunnewell for “dwelling house purposes and for the display and sale of fine furniture and works of art.” The ten year lease specified that there would be no signs or advertising on the exterior of the building.
Elias R. Hunnewell was proprietor of Doe, Hunnewell & Co., manufacturers and dealers in furniture. The company previously had been located at 577-579 Washington, where it had both manufactured and sold its furniture. In September of 1886, Elias Hunnewell had sublet the Washington Street property to Col. M. C. Clark, who subsequently remodeled it into a hotel. Doe, Hunnewell & Co. moved its manufacturing the South End and its display and sales room to 4 Arlington.
In an interview with the Boston Globe on October 17, 1886, he explained that the primary reasons for the move were because much of his clientele lived in the neighborhood and because there was “not sufficient carriage room on Washington street. A majority of our purchasers are ladies. They drive down town shopping and pull up their vehicles before the door of our store. If they are inside but a very brief interval there is a blockade in the street necessitating the driver to go on, and causing the prospective purchaser much annoyance.”
On the same day, in an interview with the Boston Herald, Henry Atkins explained that “Mr. Hunnewell intends to live there himself, and may perhaps have some friends reside in the house with him, and the lower part of the house will be used by him for the display and sale of fine furniture and works of art.” He also noted that “the house will have no signs whatsoever on it, and no outward indications of a business place except a door plate, so that to all outward appearances it will be nothing but a dwelling house furnished in splendid style.”
The lease was the first instance of a mercantile enterprise being located in the residential portion of the Back Bay (which, at that time, included Newbury), and the residents expressed deep concern about the effect on the neighborhood. In articles on October 16 and October 17, 1886 – headlined “Invaded: Trade Makes a Break on the Back Bay” and “Usurped by Trade” – the Boston Globe published interviews with residents who expressed their concern that “it is the entering wedge” and that “it will not be many years before Commonwealth avenue will be dotted with business firms of the higher order, just as Fifth avenue is in New York.” Some residents questioned whether the commercial use was permitted under the restrictions contained in the Commonwealth’s original deeds for the land. However, as pointed out by the Boston Journal in its October 16, 1886, report on the matter, while the deeds for most of the land in the Back Bay prohibited its use for mechanical or manufacturing purposes, only the deeds for land on Commonwealth Avenue also prohibited use of the land for “mercantile” purposes such as a furniture store.
As provided by the lease, 4 Arlington became a lodging house and the retail store of Doe, Hunnewell & Company. Contrary to Henry Atkins’s expectations, however, Elias Hunnewell (who was unmarried) does not appear to have made it his home, but rather lived at various hotels until the 1893-1894 winter season, when he became a lodger at 126 Commonwealth. Also contrary to Henry Atkins’s comments (and the terms of the lease), a September 28, 1889, “Here in Boston” column in the Boston Post noted that “within a few days …, although no signboards appear, a dazzling display of large gilt letters placed together certify from separate stories that the house is occupied for the sale of ‘furniture and draperies,’ and so on. Thus the first modest brass plates inserted so neatly in the door columns, though still remaining, tell the story that they have been too unobtrusive, and have not brought sufficient patronage to the seat of custom.”
Elias Hunnewell died in July of 1895. He left his entire estate to J. Murray Quinby, a salesman with Doe, Hunnewell & Co., whom he also named as his executor. At the time of his death, they lived in an apartment at the Hotel Royal at 295 Beacon. By 1896, Doe, Hunnewell & Co. had moved to 361 Boylston.
From 1896, 4 Arlington was the home of John C. S. Parcher, a ladies’ tailor. He also maintained his shop there. He died in June of 1903 on the train returning from New York City, where he had been visiting his friend, Frank A. Bicknell, an artist, to whom he left his entire estate. In its obituary, the Boston Herald obituary commented that John C. S. Parcher was believed to be the first American gentleman to engage in the profession of ‘ladies’ tailor.'”
By the 1904-1905 winter season, 4 Arlington had become a lodging house.
Among the longer-term residents were Dr. Harry Homer Germain, a physician who also maintained his office there, and his wife, Alice Maude (Heaton) Germain. They previously had been lodgers at 4 Marlborough. They continued to live at 4 Arlington during the 1905-1906 season, but moved thereafter to 416 Marlborough.
In about 1908, 4 Arlington became McClintock’s School for Girls, operated by Miss Mary Law McClintock. A native of Newberry County, South Carolina, she had served as head of the Department of English at the University of Florida from 1896 to 1901, and later as a principal of Mount Ida College in Newton. The school continued to be located at 4 Arlington (with an additional location at 135 Beacon by 1922) until her death in January of 1925.
On June 1, 1925, real estate dealer Edward J. Ball purchased 4 Arlington from Henry H. Atkins’s estate, John E. Atkins’s estate, and Massachusetts General Hospital and Children’s Hospital (the hospitals being beneficiaries under John E. Atkins’s will).
On June 30, 1925, 4 Arlington was acquired from Edward Ball by Harry Francis Estabrook. He had owned 5 Arlington since 1916 and operated an Oriental rug shop at that location. He subsequently combined the buildings with the address of 5 Arlington.
5 Arlington was built in 1860-1861 on a lot purchased on September 28, 1860, by Seth Simmons. He was a carpenter and builder, and probably built the house (although it may have been built by William Carpenter and Horace Jenkins, with whom the former owners of the land — Peleg W. Chandler, J. Amory Davis, and Henry Lee, Jr. — previously had contracted to build houses at 5 and 6 Arlington). Seth Simmons and his wife, Betsey G. (Miller) Simmons, lived in Brighton.
On March 1, 1862, John Chandler, a dry goods merchant, purchased 5 Arlington from Seth Simmons. He and his wife, Anna (Perkins) Chandler, were the first residents of the house. They previously had lived at the Revere House hotel.
John Chandler died in November of 1875 and Anna Chandler died in May of 1876.
On August 8, 1876, Patrick Jackson and Nathan Chandler, the guardians of John and Anna Chandler’s minor children, John and Anna Chandler, sold 5 Arlington at public auction to Harriett Ann (Allen) Porter, the wife of Dr. Charles Burnham Porter. They previously had lived at 103 Boylston.
Charles Porter was a physician and surgeon. He served as a demonstrator in anatomy at Harvard Medical School under Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and later was professor of clinical surgery at Harvard.
Charles Porter died in May of 1909. Harriett Porter continued to live at 5 Arlington, joined in about 1913 by her daughter, Edith, the wife of Dr. Percy Musgrave (who was a physician in the army). In about 1915, they moved to 209 Bay State Road.
On October 13, 1915, Harriett Porter sold 5 Arlington to real estate dealer William J. Stober, who transferred it five days later to attorney and real estate trustee Leslie Clark Wead. He and his wife, Kate Haswell (Whitcomb) Wead, lived at 3 Fairfield.
On July 27, 1916, Harry Francis Estabrook purchased 5 Arlington. He was a dealer in Oriental rugs, doing business as Richard Smart Oriental Rug Works.
In August of 1916, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the house into a store on the street level and apartments above, including installing a new store front. The remodeling was designed by architect Frederick Whitcomb Wead, the son of Leslie and Kate Wead, who lived with his parents at 3 Fairfield. Plans for the remodeling are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston City Archives (reference BIN H-33).
Harry Estabrook had acquired 4 Arlington in June of 1925 and in July of 1925, he filed applications to combine and significantly remodel both buildings, with the principal address being 5 Arlington. The permits were initially denied by the Building Department and his appeal was rejected by the Board of Appeal. However, in October of 1925, the Board of Appeal reconsidered and granted the petition.
In its decision, the Board described the approved work as follows: “Appellant states that he will cut down that portion of the building formerly known as 4 Arlington St. to five stories, put on a flat roof, make the cellar, first story, and second story floors of first-class construction, leave that portion of the building formerly known as 5 Arlington St. at six stories but make the cellar and first floor of first-class construction.”
As a part of this remodeling the entrances to the two buildings were consolidated into one entrance with the combined building having the address of 5 Arlington. The remodeling was designed by architect George Nelson Meserve. Plans for the remodeling — including elevations and floor plans — are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston City Archives (reference BIN N-9).
By 1928, Five Arlington Street, Inc., was the assessed owner of 4-5 Arlington, and in May of 1930, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the buildings to equalize ground level floors of the two buildings, noting “at present there are two levels, one level approximately six feet higher than the other.”
Harry Estabrook remained the owner of 4-5 Arlington and in the fall of 1931, the Institution for Savings in Roxbury and Its Vicinity foreclosed on its August 24, 1925, mortgage to him. On November 19, 1931, it offered the property for sale at public auction and subsequently took possession of the property.
In July of 1932, the bank applied for permission to change the occupancy to allow a restaurant to be located in the former space used for retail, noting that the space was currently vacant but was “formerly a gift shop and prior to that a shop for the sale and repairing of rugs.” The application was subsequently abandoned.
On February 1, 1935, 4-5 Arlington was acquired by Alfred W.Douglass and Carleton Hunneman, trustees of the Limechest Real Estate Trust. They continued to own the property until January of 1946, when it once again became the property of the Institution for Savings in Roxbury.
4-5 Arlington continued to be occupied by retail space on the ground level and apartments above. By the early 1940s, the store space was occupied by Traynor’s Florist. It closed in about 1947.
On January 4, 1946, 4-5 Arlington was acquired by Carleton Hunneman, Edward L. Francis, Robert Livermore, Jr., and Edward E. Wendell as trustees of The Five Trust.
In June of 1955, The Five Trust applied for (and subsequently received) permission to change the occupancy from an office and store on the first floor and 13 apartments above, to an office and beauty shop on the first floor, and thirteen apartments above. Real estate brokers Hunneman and Company occupied the office; “Frank and Henri Coiffures” were proposed as occupants of the former retail space.
On May 31, 1962, The Five Trust transferred 4-5 Arlington to the Katharine Gibbs Realty Trust. Gordon Gibbs, Blanche L. Gibbs, and Edward L. Kane were the trustees of both trusts.
In July of 1962, Katharine Gibbs School, which already owned and occupied 6 Arlington next door, converted 4-5 Arlington into a dormitory, with doors cut through to 6 Arlington on several levels.
In 1968, Katharine Gibbs School was purchased by Macmillan Inc. 4-5-6 Arlington remained the property of the Katharine Gibbs Realty Trust.
In February of 1988, the Trust sold 6 Arlington to Emerson College. The Trust retained 4-5 Arlington.
In May of 1989, Macmillan Inc. announced plans to sell Katharine Gibbs School. The school subsequently was purchased by Phillips Colleges.
Probably in anticipation of (or as a part of) the sale, on June 29, 1989, the Katharine Gibbs Realty Trust transferred 4-5 Arlington to Macmillan Inc. At the same time, it also transferred its ownership of several other properties, including 21 Marlborough, 23 Marlborough, and 86 Beacon.
On September 29, 1993, Macmillan Inc. sold 4-5 Arlington and 86 Beacon to Beacon-Arlington LP.
Beacon-Arlington LP converted 4-5 Arlington into seven apartments, including significantly remodeling them to add a floor to 4 Arlington (thereby making the two buildings the same height) and installing a new façade and fenestration more consistent with the historical nature of the building.
On July 29, 1994, Beacon-Arlington LP sold 4-5 Arlington to Robert F. Oberkoetter, trustee of the 4-5 Arlington Street Trust, and on 15, 1995, he converted the apartments into seven condominium units, the 4-5 Arlington Street Condominium.