7-9 Massachusetts / 504 Beacon is located on the NW corner of Beacon and Massachusetts Avenue, with 490-492 Beacon to the east, across Mass. Ave., 506 Beacon to the west, and 491 Beacon to the south, across Beacon.
7-9 Massachusetts Avenue and 504 Beacon were built separately but functioned as a single building from the time they were constructed.
7-9 Massachusetts Avenue was built first, in 1888-1889, by Charles A. Dodge, mason, for Gamaliel Bradford. It probably was designed by architect Obed F. Smith, who frequently worked with Charles A. Dodge at this time and to whom Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay attributes the building. The original building permit has not been located in the Building Department’s files, and the final building inspection report, dated July 27, 1889, indicates the architect was “V. Smith” (the only two architects listed in the 1888 and 1889 Boston City Directories were Frank M. Smith and Obed F. Smith).
7-9 Massachusetts Avenue was built as a thirteen unit apartment house. The Massachusetts Avenue façade is arranged symmetrically, with two entrances in the middle, presumably one for the apartments on the north side (7 Massachusetts Avenue) and the other for the apartments on the south side (9 Massachusetts Avenue).
The building was called the Hotel Austerfield, named in honor of the birthplace of Gamaliel Bradford’s ancestor, William Bradford, second governor of Plymouth Colony. A former banker, Gamaliel Bradford had retired in 1868 to devote himself to civic and political affairs. Prior to the Civil War, he had been an ardent abolitionist, and after the war he took up the cause of municipal reform. He also was a founder of the Boston Anti-Imperialist League, formed to oppose the United States’s annexation of the Philippines.
Gamaliel Bradford was a widower, his wife, Clara Crowninshield (Kinsman) Bradford, having died in June of 1866. He lived at the Hotel Austerfield with his unmarried sister, Sarah Hickling Bradford. He also maintained a home in Wellesley Hills.
In 1894, Gamaliel Bradford had 504 Beacon built as an annex to the Hotel Austerfield. It was designed by Obed F. Smith and built by Charles A. Dodge, mason. Gamaliel Bradford is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated August 9, 1894, and as the owner of both 7-9 Massachusetts Avenue and 504 Beacon on the 1898 and 1908 Bromley maps. An August 19, 1894, article in the Boston Evening Transcript announcing plans for the building noted that “each floor will have suites of three rooms, which can, if necessary, be added to the front suites of the main hotel building.”
After 1894, the address of the Hotel Austerfield usually was shown as 502 Beacon in the Blue Books and 9 Massachusetts Avenue in the City Directories.
Gamaliel Bradford died in August of 1911. Sarah Bradford continued to live at the Hotel Austerfield during the 1912-1913 winter season, but moved thereafter.
In the fall of 1911, 7-9 Massachusetts Avenue and 504 Beacon were acquired from Gamaliel Bradford’s son, Gamaliel Bradford (a noted biographer, poet, critic, and dramatist), by John Davis Long. The sale was reported by the Boston Globe on October 28, 1911, which described it as “one of the most modern apartment houses in the Back Bay… a large, six-story and basement swell front brick structure containing 12 apartments with every modern improvement, each having a view of the Charles River.”. John Long is shown as the owner on the 1912 Bromley map.
John Long was an attorney and served as a state legislator, Lt. Governor, and — from 1880 to 1882 — as Governor of Massachusetts. From 1883 to 1888, he was a Member of Congress, and from 1897 to 1902 he was US Secretary of the Navy. He lived in Hingham.
John Long died in August of 1915.
By 1917, 7-9 Massachusetts Avenue and 504 Beacon were owned by Gordon Dexter. He is shown as the owner on the 1917 and 1928 Bromley maps.
By 1936, 7-9 Massachusetts Avenue and 504 Beacon were owned by the Charlestown Five Cents Savings Bank.
In March of 1936, real estate dealer Ray C. Johnson applied for (and subsequently received) permission to consolidate 7-9 Massachusetts Avenue and 504 Beacon as a single property and to convert the combined building into 32 apartments and offices. As part of the remodeling, a new entrance to 7-9 Massachusetts Avenue was added on Beacon Street. The remodeling was under the direction of realtor Harold L. Niles, whose firm — Niles Management Company — subsequently managed the building. Plans for the remodeling, designed by architect Hyman Felderman, are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN P-134).
From about this time, the property was known as 504 Beacon.
On August 2, 1936, the Boston Globe described the remodeling of 504 Beacon, to be called the Riverview Apartments, in some detail. “Perhaps the largest undertaking of its kind to date, this property is being completely remodeled into ultra-modern one- two- and three-room apartments. … Working in conjunction with the Edison Company, the builders are installing the latest all-electric equipment in the roomy kitchens which are a feature of all the apartments. The one-room apartments will have a good-sized reception hall, large closets, and in many suites a dinette, dressing room and wood-burning fireplace in addition to the good-sized living rooms and kitchens. The two room apartments will consist of a spacious living room with fireplace, a large bedroom, an all-electric kitchen, a small separate dining room, a luxurious tile bath and shower, a good-sized foyer, ample well-planned closet and shelf space. … A roof garden is planned to top the building which will furnish the residents with a commanding view of the entire River Basin and the attractive new Esplanade development.”
The Charlestown Five Cents Savings Bank was shown as the owner of the property on the 1938 Bromley map.
Niles Management, Inc., continued to manage the building in the 1950s.
By 1976, the property was owned by Michael B. Moscow.
7-9 Massachusetts Avenue / 504 Beacon remained an apartment building in 2014.