521 Beacon is one of ten contiguous houses (511-529 Beacon) designed by architect Samuel D. Kelley and built in 1887 for Chadwick & Stillings (N. Henry Chadwick and Oscar L. Stillings), a hat block and flange company that became a significant house building firm in the 1880s and 1890s. They are shown as the owners and builders on the original permit applications, all dated March 14, 1887, and on the final building inspection report for 521 Beacon, dated November 14, 1887. The next year, Chadwick & Stillings built one more house, also designed by Samuel Kelley, immediately to the west, at 531 Beacon.
The ten houses at 511-529 Beacon are of a similar pattern, all with entrances on the east side and cylindrical bays on the west. The houses furthest east and west in the group (511 and 529 Beacon) have brick bays which extend to the third story, with two windows above the bay on the fourth story. The next two houses from either end (513 and 527 Beacon) have rusticated stone bays which are cylindrical for the first two stories and angled on the third story, with single arched window above surrounded by decorative stonework with a triangular top. The next two houses from either end (515 and 525 Beacon) have brick cylindrical bays to the third story, with three windows above surrounded by decorative stonework with a fan shape at the top. The four houses in the center of the grouping (517-519-521-523 Beacon) are variations on the same themes.
Upon its completion, 521 Beacon became the the home of Samuel Hay Savage, a shipping merchant and real estate investor, and his wife Catherine Davenport (Hayward) Savage. They previously had lived at 431 Beacon. Catherine Savage is shown as the owner on the 1888, 1898, 1908, and 1917 Bromley maps.
Samuel Savage died in October of 1901. Catherine Savage continued to live at 521 Beacon until her death in October of 1923.
521 Beacon was not listed in the 1924 Blue Book.
521 Beacon was not listed in the 1926 Blue Book.
In the fall of 1927, 521 Beacon was acquired by Frank J. Hurson, a watchman in factory, and his wife, Helen M. (Hennessey) Hurson, who operated it as a lodging house. The transaction was reported in the Boston Globe on November 6, 1927. Frank and Helen Hurson are shown as the owners on the 1928 Bromley map.
The Hursons continued to live at 521 Beacon during the 1928-1928 winter season, but moved thereafter to 513 Beacon.
By 1932, 521 Beacon was owned by the Taunton Savings Bank.
On March 20, 1932, the Boston Globe reported that Pierce J. Duggan had acquired the property from the bank. The sale either did not close or the property reverted to the bank, and Taunton Savings Bank continued to be shown as the owner on the 1938 Bromley map.
The house was shown as vacant in the 1932 and 1933 City Directories.
In about 1934, 521 Beacon became the Kenmore Dormitory operated by Mrs. Gertrude R. (Loewy) Hydeman, widow of Ernest N. Hydeman. She previously had operated the dormitory, under the same name, at 365 Marlborough.
She continued to live at 521 Beacon in 1936, but moved thereafter and was living in Florida at the time of her death in 1940.
By 1937, the Kenmore Dormitory was operated by Miss Rose Ruvin, a former social worker. Living with her were her sisters, Eda Ruvin, a nurse, and Pauline Ruvin, a secretary in a dispensary. They all previously had lived at 382 Riverway. They had come to America in 1906-1907 with their mother, Gertrude (Gittel) (Garshfield/Hershschild) Orzefsky (Orzewsky), widow of Reuben Orzewsky; they began using the surname Ruvin in about 1913.
They continued to live at 521 Beacon until about 1938, when they and the Kenmore Dormitory moved to 325 Commonwealth.
In 1950, she married Patrick MacNeil, a widower. He was a plumber. They continued to live and operate the lodging house at 521 Beacon until about 1957.
By 1962, 521 Beacon was owned by Hugh Farrington, a real estate broker and property manager. He continued to operate it as a lodging house.
In mid-1968, Boston University acquired 517-519-521 Beacon from Hugh Farrington. It continued to operate them as dormitories for BU students.
In October of 1980, Boston University filed for (and subsequently received) permission to change the legal occupancy of 519 Beacon to be a dormitory, reflecting its current use.
521 Beacon continued to be a dormitory in 2014.