The block on the south side of Beacon between Clarendon and Dartmouth is 548 feet in length and 112 feet from Beacon to Alley 419.
The land was part of the approximately 108 acres of land in the Back Bay owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Commonwealth sold its land starting in 1857. The earliest transactions were by private sales negotiated by the Commissioners on the Back Bay. In 1860, the legislature required that all future sales be made through public auctions. The first auction was held on October 24, 1860, and they continued until March of 1872, when they were suspended due to depressed real estate values. In 1879, the legislature authorized the Harbor and Land Commissioners (successors to the Commissioners on the Back Bay) to sell lots with frontages of up to 100 feet by privately negotiated sale. The land sales resumed in May of 1879 and the last of the remaining land was sold in 1886.
All of the land on the south side of Beacon between Clarendon and Dartmouth was sold by the Commonwealth at its auction on January 3, 1863, in twenty-two lots: a 30 foot lot at the corner of Clarendon (Lot 1), eight 25 foot lots to the west of the corner lot (Lots 2-9), twelve 24 foot lots to the west of those (Lots 10-21), and a 30 foot lot at the corner of Dartmouth (Lot 22).
The names of the buyers of the lots were reported by the Boston Herald on January 5, 1863. The corner lot at Beacon and Clarendon (Lot 1) was purchased by Henry Chapman Wainwright, an investment banker and broker. The next two lots to the west (Lots 2 and 3) were purchased by William Brown, a retail druggist, Lots 4 and 5 by Franklin Evans, a merchant and real estate investor, and Lots 6 and 7 by Sidney Homer. Attorney Peleg Whitman Chandler was the successful bidder for the next four lots (Lots 8-11), and the ten lots west of those by shipping merchant William Gordon Weld (Lots 12-21). The corner lot at Beacon and Dartmouth (Lot 22) was purchased by commission merchant Charles Amory, Jr.
Of these successful bidders, only Peleg Chandler took title to the land. All of the rest sold or transferred their deed bonds, and the property was purchased from the Commonwealth by someone else.
Eastern Parcels. The corner lot at Beacon and Clarendon was purchased from the Commonwealth on November 6, 1869, by Francis Welles Hunnewell. He and his wife, Margaret (Fassitt) Hunnewell, built their home at 203 Beacon (later 278 Clarendon after the entrance was relocated to Clarendon ca. 1919).
Charles William Freeland, a cotton manufacturer, merchant, and real estate developer, purchased the six lots to the west of the corner (Lots 2-7) from the Commonwealth. He first purchased Lots 4-7 on April 17, 1866. The lots were each 25 feet wide, and he subdivided them into five 20 foot lots and built 211-213-215-217-219 Beacon for speculative sale. Then, on April 28, 1874, and December 7, 1875, he purchased the two 25 foot lots (Lots 2-3) between the corner and his other property, and built 205-209 Beacon for speculative sale (there is no 207 Beacon). The lot at 205 Beacon was conveyed to him by the Commonwealth after the house had been completed, presumably on the basis of his ownership of the deed bond for the land.
Central and Western Parcels. All of the lots between 219 Beacon and the corner lot at Dartmouth were purchased at the January 3, 1863, auction by two buyers: Peleg Chandler was the successful bidder for the four lots immediately to the west of 219 Beacon (two 25 foot lots, Lots 8-9, to the east and two 24 foot lots, Lots 10-11, to the west) and William G. Weld was the successful bidder for the next ten lots (all 24 feet wide, Lots 12-21).
Peleg Chandler worked with building contractor George Wheatland, Jr., to develop his lots. William G. Weld sold or transferred his deed bonds, and his 240 foot parcel was subdivided into lots of varying widths which were then conveyed by the Commonwealth to several parties.
On September 19, 1865, and January 4, 1866, the Commonwealth conveyed Lots 9-11 to Peleg Chandler, three of the four lots he had purchased at the auction. On January 3, 1867, attorney Edwin H. Abbot acquired a 20 foot lot to the west of Peleg Chandler’s land (the eastern 20 feet of Lot 12, purchased at the auction by William G. Weld).
On March 18, 1868, Edwin Abbot sold the western 18 feet of his lot to Dr. William Wallace Morland, who built his home on it at 231 Beacon, and the eastern 2 feet to George Wheatland, Jr. On April 10, 1868, George Wheatland, Jr., purchased Peleg Chandler’s land and combined it with the two foot strip he had acquired from Edwin Abbot into a 75 foot wide parcel, where he built 223-225-227-229 Beacon for speculative sale.
On November 12, 1869, George Wheatland, Jr, purchased Lot 8, the 25 foot lot to the east (having acquired Peleg Chandler’s deed bond for the lot) and built 221 Beacon, also for speculative sale.
On July 31, 1868, Anna Huntington (Lyman) Mason, the widow of Rev. Charles Mason, purchased a 19 foot lot to the west of William Morland’s land and had 233 Beacon built as her home.
The two lots to the west of 233 Beacon were purchased from the Commonwealth on April 1, 1871, the eastern lot with a 19 foot frontage at 235 Beacon by house builders Robert Tower Bourn (Bourne) and William Leavitt, and the western lot with a 21 foot frontage at 237 Beacon by Nathaniel Silsbee. In both cases, the houses had been constructed before the land was conveyed by the Commonwealth and, therefore, it can be assumed that the purchasers had acquired the William G. Weld’s deed bonds for the land. It appears likely that Nathaniel Silsbee acquired the deed bonds for both lots and entered into an agreement with Bourne and Leavitt to build both houses, after which he sold or transferred the right to purchase 235 Beacon to them.
On July 25, 1867, real estate dealer Henry Whitwell purchased a 97 foot parcel from the Commonwealth running west from one foot beyond the boundary of Nathaniel Silsbee’s land at 237 Beacon. On March 19, 1868, he purchased an additional 60 feet to the west from Edward S. Rand, who had purchased the land from the Commonwealth on April 27, 1867.
On May 9, 1868, Henry Whitwell’s brother and business partner, Frederick Augustus Whitwell, purchased the eastern 19 feet of the parcel and on July 31, 1868, he purchased the one foot strip to the east from the Commonwealth. He built his home at 239 Beacon.
Western Parcels. On February 2, 1866, the Commonwealth sold the corner lot at Beacon and Dartmouth to Charles William Galloupe (the land had originally been acquired at the January 3, 1863, auction by Charles Amory, Jr., who had sold or transferred his deed bond). On April 27, 1867, it sold Charles Galloupe an additional three feet to the east, representing the eastern-most portion of Lot 21, purchased at the auction by William Weld. Charles Galloupe built his home at 255 Beacon.
Original Construction. All of the houses on the south side of Beacon between Clarendon and Dartmouth had been built by 1874.
The plans below illustrate when the land on the block was first sold at auction by the Commonwealth, when the Commonwealth conveyed the land (based on the dates of the deeds), and when houses were first constructed (based on building permit applications, news reports, and dates provided in Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay).
Building Restrictions in Original Land Deeds
The deeds from the Commonwealth included identical language specifying that any building on the land was to be “at least three stories high for the main part thereof and shall not in any event be used for a stable, or for any mechanical or manufacturing purposes;” that the front walls were to be set back twenty-two feet from Beacon, with “steps, windows, porticos, and other usual projections appurtenant thereto” allowed in the reserved space subject to dimensional limitations enumerated in the deed; and that “no cellar or lower floor of any building shall be placed more than four feet below the level of the mill-dam, as fixed by the top surface of the hammered stone at the south-easterly corner of the emptying sluices.” The deed also provided that the owners of the land would have the right to “cultivate trees on the side walks” in front of their land provided that they left a distance of ten feet between the front boundary of their lots and the trees.
In November of 1858, the Commissioners on the Back Bay had voted to clarify that the prohibition on stables would not be enforced “in such a manner as to prevent the erection and use of private stables by gentlemen as appurtenances to their own dwelling homes; provided, such stables are so constructed and used as not to be justly offensive to the occupants of the surrounding buildings.” This clarification was subsequently published in the auction catalogues issued by the Commissioners, but usually was not included in the deeds.
Original Land Deeds
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts conveyed the land on the south side of Beacon between Clarendon and Dartmouth by the following deeds:
|278 Clarendon||06Nov1869||30’||112’||Francis W. Hunnewell||981||98|
|205 Beacon||07Dec1875||25’||112’||Charles W. Freeland||1304||273|
|209 Beacon||28Apr1874||25’||112’||Charles W. Freeland||1301||274|
|211-213 Beacon||17Apr1866||25’||112’||Charles W. Freeland||898||122|
|213-215 Beacon||17Apr1866||25’||112’||Charles W. Freeland||898||161|
|215-217 Beacon||17Apr1866||25’||112’||Charles W. Freeland||898||162|
|217-219 Beacon||17Apr1866||25’||112’||Charles W. Freeland||898||163|
|221 Beacon||12Nov1869||25’||112’||George Wheatland, Jr.||982||197|
|223-225 Beacon||19Sep1865||25’||112’||Peleg W. Chandler||867||123|
|225-227 Beacon||04Jan1866||24’||112’||Peleg W. Chandler||873||299|
|227-229 Beacon||04Jan1866||24’||112’||Peleg W. Chandler||873||298|
|229-231 Beacon||03Jan1867||20’||112’||Edwin H. Abbot||892||233|
|233 Beacon||31Jul1868||19’||112’||Anna Huntington Mason||933||317|
|235 Beacon||01Apr1871||19’||112’||Robert T. Bourne and William Leavitt, builders||1041||290|
|237 Beacon||01Apr1871||21’||112’||Nathaniel Silsbee||1041||289|
|239 Beacon||31Jul1868||1’||112’||Frederick A. Whitwell||934||308|
|239-247 Beacon||25Jul1867||97’||112’||Henry Whitwell||904||206|
|249-253 Beacon||27Apr1867||60’||112’||Edward S. Rand||920||61|
|255 Beacon||02Feb1866||30’||112’||Charles W. Galloupe||903||128|
|255 Beacon||27Apr1867||3’||112’||Charles W. Galloupe||905||59|