534 Beacon (1 Charlesgate East) was designed by Edward B. Stratton, architect, and built in 1923-1924 by the F. J. Van Etten Company, builders. as the Hotel Fensgate for the Fensgate Real Estate Trust.
A May 10, 1923, Boston Globe article reported that the “exterior is to be of limestone and and red brick” and would be a “modern, first class non-housekeeping apartment house” containing “72 suites of one room and bath. one room and chamberette and bath, and two rooms and bath. Every room will be an outside one, and suites are arranged so that larger ones may be obtained if desired.”
In March of 1928, the hotel applied for (and subsequently received) permission to install an electric sign on the roof. In October of 1930, the residents of the The Charlesgate, across the street, at 535 Beacon, asked that the sign not be operated to flash on and off, and the hotel complied. The Suburban Realty Corporation is shown as the owner on the 1928 Bromley map.
In the mid-1930s, the hotel defaulted in its payments to bondholders and was sold through sealed bid for their benefit. The Fensgate Company is shown as the owner on the 1938 Bromley map.
During the late 1930s and 1940s, the hotel featured a small night club, the Satire Room. In The Boston Jazz Chronicles, Richard Vacca comments that the Satire Room was “once advertised as ‘Boston’s most expensive and initmate rendezvous.'” He notes that “Liberace made his Boston debut at the Satire, as did Irwin Corey. George Frazier, in his Herald review of singer Elsie Houston in August 1942 noted the cost of an evening in the Satire Room: ‘She is so good that you forget for the moment that the check will be a sum only slightly smaller than the national debt. That’s pretty good.'”
In August of 1945, the hotel applied for (and subsequently received) permission to construct a 50 foot x 78.5 foot dining room addition at the rear of the building.
In the late 1940s. the hotel featured entertainment on an outdoor terrace, and in April of 1948 it was ordered by the Boston Licensing Board to have soft music only (no amplification) and to close by midnight as a result of complaints by MIT and Boston University students living nearby.
By the early 1950s, the nightclub at the Fensgate was called the “Café Society.”
In May of 1958, the Beacon Hotel Corporation entered into a longterm lease to operate the hotel.
In June of 1961, 534 Beacon was acquired by the Chandler School for Women, which operated it as a dormitory and dining facility for its students. Chandler School did not obtain a change in the permitted use from a hotel to a dormitory. It did, however, receive licenses to operate the building as a dormitory from the Boston Licensing Board.
Chandler School continued to operate 534 Beacon as a dormitory until about 1973.
In 1973, 534 Beacon were used as a dormitory and dining facility by Boston University.
In August of 1973, Emerson College acquired 534 Beacon from Rohrbough Inc. George Irwin Rohrbough was president of Chander School. Emerson continued to use the property as a dormitory.
In February of 1976, the Building Department cited Emerson College for operating dormitory at 534 Beacon without obtaining a change in legal occupancy to permit that use. Emerson College subsequently filed for permission to change the use from a hotel to a dormitory. Residents of the neighborhood expressed concern about the continued use of the building as a dormitory, and the Board of Appeal imposed a series of conditions, postponing a final decision until the early 1980s, when it approved the use.
Emerson College continued to operate a dormitory at 534 Beacon until the mid-1990s.
In June of 1995, Emerson College sold 534 Beacon to the 534 Beacon Street Limited Partnership.
In July of 1995, the 534 Beacon Street LP filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the building (including removing two one-story additions at the front and rear of the building) and to convert it into 67 apartments (57 one bedroom units and 10 two bedroom units).
In September of 1995, it filed for (and subsequently received) permission to change the legal use from a dormitory to 67 apartments.
In October of 2001, the Charlesview Realty LLC, successor to the 534 Beacon Street LP, converted the apartments into 67 condominiums, The Charlesview Condominium.
When the Hotel Fensgate was built, it occupied three lots, replacing a vacant lot at 534 Beacon and houses at 536 Beacon and 1 Charlesgate East (538 Beacon) which had been combined into a single home by financier Thomas William Lawson.
536 Beacon (Demolished)
536 Beacon was designed by William York Peters and built ca. 1891, one of a pair of buildings — 536 Beacon and 1 Charlesgate East (538 Beacon) — built at the same time.
536 Beacon was built as the home of George Zachariah Silsbee, a widower. He is shown as the owner on the 1895 Bromley map. He also maintained a home in Beverly.
536 Beacon was not listed in the 1896 and 1897 Blue Books.
By the 1897-1898 winter season, 536 Beacon was the home of Francis William Kittredge and his wife, Mary Hascal (Wheaton) Kittredge. They previously had lived at 144 Warren in Roxbury. Mary Kittredge is shown as the owner of 536 Beacon on the 1898 Bromley map.
Francis Kittredge was a lawyer. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1889-1891 and in the State Senate in 1893-1894.
The Kittredges continued to live at 536 Beacon during the 1899-1900 winter seasoin, after which they moved to a new home they had built at 532 Beacon.
In mid-1899, 536 Beacon was acquired by Thomas William Lawson and his wife, Jeannie Augusta (Goodwillie) Lawson. They also acquired 1 Charlesgate East and the vacant lot at 534 Beacon.
The July 18, 1899, Boston Globe article reporting the transactions comment that: “The last of the papers in the purchases of a site for a home on Beacon and Charlesgate East by Thomas W. Lawson, were passed yesterday. The purchase includes two modern brick and stone dwellings and an adjoining lot of vacant land. Mr. Lawson will have a total area of 13.581 feet, fronting on Beacon st., Charlesgate east, and on the Charles river. The two buildings, the present homes of William S. Bryant and Hon. Francis W. Kittredge, will be torn down and a magnificent dwelling erected on the site. A representative of Mr. Lawson said yesterday that plans were now being drawn for the new home, but that nothing in the way of actual building operations would probably be done until after the coming winter.”
Thomas Lawson was an investor and financier specializing in mining stocks. In 1899, was an organizer of the Amalgamated Copper Mining Company, which later became the Anaconda Copper Company. He also was an author of both non-fiction and fiction, and an unsuccessful independent candidate for US Senate in 1918.
Based on the Bromley maps, it appears that the Lawsons did not demolish 536 Beacon and 1 Charlesgate East, but rather combined the existing houses, with the address of 1 Charlesgate East (shown as 2 Charlesgate East in the 1899-1905 Blue Books), leaving the lot at 534 Beacon vacant. The change in plans may have reflected the Lawsons focus on building their summer home, Dreamwold, located on 210 acres at Egypt in Scituate, on which construction began in 1901.
Jeannie Lawson died in August of 1906. The Heirs of Jeannie A. Lawson are shown as the owners of 536 Beacon and 1 Charlesgate East on the 1908 and 1917 Bromley maps.
Thomas Lawson continued to live at 1 Charlesgate East and in Scituate until the early 1920s. He faced increasing financial reverses, and in the Fall of 1922, his Dreamwold estate was sold for the benefit of his creditors.
1 Charlesgate East (538 Beacon) (Demolished)
1 Charlesgate East (538 Beacon) was designed by William York Peters, architect, and built ca. 1891, one of a pair of buildings (536 Beacon and 1 Charlesgate East) built at the same time.
1 Charlesgate East was built as the home of Dr. William Sohier Bryant and his wife, Martha Lyman (Cox) Bryant. They previously had lived at 111 Beacon. He is shown as the owner of 1 Charlesgate East on the 1895 and 1898 Bromley maps. They also maintained a home in Cohasset.
They continued to live at 1 Charlesgate East during the 1895-1896 winter season, but moved thereafter to Brookline.
During the 1897-1898 winter season, 1 Charlesgate East was the home of dry goods merchant Francis Wright Fabyan and his wife, Edith (Westcott) Fabyan. They had lived at 169 Commonwealth during the previous season, and by the 1898-1899 season were living at 232 Beacon.
As discussed above, in mid-1899, 1 Charlesgate East was acquired by Thomas William Lawson and his wife, Jeannie Augusta (Goodwillie) Lawson. They also acquired 536 Beacon and the vacant lot at 534 Beacon. They combined 1 Charlesgate East and 536 Beacon into a single home, leaving 534 Beacon vacant. The house was razed and replaced by the Hotel Fensgate.