Back Bay Development: 1900-1909

Overview1855-18591860-18641865-18691870-18741875-18791880-18841885-18891890-1899 – 1900-1909 – 1910-2015

By 1900, almost all of the original lots in residential portion of the Back Bay had been built upon. The last single-family dwelling built on an originally vacant lot was 530 Beacon, built in 1908. By the end of the decade, only thirteen vacant lots remained.

530 Beacon (2014)

530 Beacon (2014), built in 1908, the last single-family dwelling built on an originally vacant lot

Until the end of the 19th Century, the Back Bay had been a neighborhood where affluent families lived primarily in single-family dwellings, in large “French flats” at the Hotel Agassiz or Haddon Hall, or in well appointed suites as permanent residents of hotels such as the Hotel Vendôme.

The residents often also maintained second (and sometimes third) homes elsewhere where they lived for much of the year, spending only the winter season in Boston. The Social Registers and Blue Books are replete with references to homes in Nahant, Prides Crossing, Manchester, Cohasset, and even further afield in Newport, Bar Harbor, and other usually seaside locales. They traveled frequently and at length, and if away for the winter season often would lease their Boston homes to others.

This began to change in the late 19th and early 20th century. With the construction of numerous elegant apartment houses and hotels in the 1890s, apartment living (with appropriate servants’ quarters) became more attractive. At the same time, improved public transportation made the suburbs more accessible (as discussed in Douglass Shand-Tucci’s Streetcar Suburbs), and the rise of the automobile made suburban living even more possible.

150 Beacon (2013)

150 Beacon (2013), built in 1904, one of several large homes built during the first decade of the 20th Century, replacing earlier houses

At the same time, however, the era of the large single-family home was far from over. Continuing the trend begun at 314 Commonwealth in 1899, the first decade of the century was characterized by the replacement a number of original houses with newer and more opulent residences, including 160 Beacon in 1902 (replacing 156 and 158 Beacon), 43 Commonwealth in 1902, 310 Beacon in 1903 (replacing 308 and 310 Beacon), 240 Commonwealth in 1903, 285 Commonwealth in 1903, 150 Beacon in 1904 (replacing 150 and 152 Beacon), 5 Commonwealth in 1905, 118 Beacon in 1907, and 13 Commonwealth in 1907.

The construction of these larger residences stopped in about 1907, perhaps reflecting the economic downturn following the financial Panic of 1907, and presaging a more dramatic change in the neighborhood in the years to come.

The map below indicates when a building was first constructed on a specific lot through 1909. Included are lots within the residential portion of the Back Bay, as defined for purposes of this website, plus buildings on the north side of Newbury. The dates used are based on original permit applications or similar documentation, when available. When no such documentation is available, the dates provided in Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay are used. If an original building was replaced or rebuilt, the date of original building (not the replacement) is shown.  If a replacement building occupied both a vacant lot and the site of a previous building (e.g., 314 Commonwealth at the southwest corner of Hereford), the vacant lot is shown with the date of the replacement building and the previously occupied lot is shown with the date when the original house was built.

Following the map is a list of the 21 buildings constructed between 1900 and 1909 in the residential portion of the Back Bay.

Original Construction through 1909

Click here for a link to maps showing the progress of construction from 1855 through 2015, in slideshow format.

Below is a list of the 21 buildings constructed between 1900 and 1909 in the residential portion of the Back Bay. Houses indicated as demolished were replaced by 2015; buildings indicated as replacements were built on lots where earlier structures previously were located.

Beacon: Arlington to Berkeley
North Side South Side
118 Beacon (1907) (Replacement)
Beacon: Berkeley to Clarendon
North Side South Side
150 Beacon (1904) (Replacement)
160 Beacon (1902) (Replacement)
Beacon: Exeter to Fairfield
North Side South Side
310 Beacon (1903) (Replacement)
Beacon: Gloucester to Hereford
North Side South Side
424 Beacon (1904)
426 Beacon (1904)
Beacon: Massachusetts to Charlesgate East
North Side South Side
532 Beacon (1900)
530 Beacon (1908)
Commonwealth: Arlington to Berkeley
North Side South Side
5 Commonwealth (1905) (Replacement)
13 Commonwealth (1907) (Replacement)
Commonwealth: Berkeley to Clarendon
North Side South Side
43 Commonwealth (1902) (Replacement)
Commonwealth: Exeterto Fairfield
North Side South Side
240 Commonwealth (1903) (Replacement)
Commonwealth: Gloucester to Hereford
North Side South Side
285 Commonwealth (1903) (Replacement)
Commonwealth: Massachusetts to Charlesgate East
North Side South Side
401 Commonwealth (1901) 390 Commonwealth (1908)
403 Commonwealth (1901) 400 Commonwealth: Somerset Hotel Annex (1901)
405 Commonwealth (1900)
407 Commonwealth (1901)
Marlborough: Arlington to Berkeley
North Side South Side
10 Marlborough (1905) (Replacement)
Marlborough: Dartmouth to Exeter
North Side South Side
189 Marlborough (1906)