The block on the south side of Beacon between Exeter and Fairfield is 600 feet in length and 112 feet from Beacon to Alley 417.
The eastern 504.8 feet of the block were part of the approximately 108 acres of land owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The western 95.2 feet were part of the lands owned by the Boston Water Power Company, which included all of the land from the south side of Beacon to the north side of Commonwealth west of the Commonwealth’s lands.
There was a 0.37 foot (4½ inch) discrepancy in the original deeds from the Commonwealth and the Boston Water Power Company, with the Commonwealth deeds placing the boundary at 95.20 feet from Fairfield and the Boston Water Power Company deeds placing it at 95.57 feet from the corner. Click here for more details.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Land. 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.
The Commonwealth sold its land on the south side of Beacon between Exeter and Fairfield both through public auctions on December 24, 1868, December 27, 1870, and March 2, 1872, and through privately-negotiated sales in 1879. The Commonwealth lands comprised twenty lots: a 30 foot corner lot at Exeter (Lot1), nineteen 25 foot lots (Lots 2-19) and one 24.8 foot lot (Lot 20).
On December 24, 1868, the Commonwealth offered the eastern ten lots for sale. The Boston Traveller reported that the 30 foot corner lot was purchased by building contractor George Wheatland, Jr.; the 25 foot lot next to it (Lot 2) by A. B. Almont (probably attorney Andrew B. Almon); Lots 3-4 to the west by building contractor George Martin Gibson; Lots 5-6 by retail clothier Leopold Morse, and the remaining four (Lots 7-10) by dry goods merchant Eben Dyer Jordan, co-founder of Jordan, Marsh $ Co.
The Commonwealth offered the next five 25 foot lots to the west (Lots 11-15) at its auction on December 27, 1870. The Boston Herald reported on December 28, 1870, that only the two lots furthest east sold, Lot 11 to architect and building contractor Frederick Pope and Lot 12 to dry good merchant Augustus Napoleon Loring.
On March 2, 1872, the Commonwealth offered the three lots that did not sell in 1870 and the lot to the west of them. The Boston Herald reported that Frederick Pope was the successful bidder for the two furthest east (Lots 13-14), A. S. Young (probably clothier Amos S. Young) was the purchaser of Lot 15, and merchant and real estate investor Franklin Evans was the purchaser of Lot 16.
A plan accompanying the 1879 Harbor and Land Commissioners Report showing all of the land sales through 1879 indicated that the Lots 17 and 18 were sold on November 10, 1879, and Lots 19 and 20 were sold on November 5, 1879. The sales were privately negotiated; neither the map nor the report identifies the names of the purchasers, and there does not appear to have been a news account of their sale. The land was conveyed by the Commonwealth in 1881 and 1882.
Boston Water Power Company Lands. The Boston Water Power Company sold its land in large parcels, almost exclusively to real estate investment trusts which then subdivided the land and resold it. It sold land in 1863, 1866, 1868, and 1872, by which point it had sold all of its land between the Commonwealth’s lands and a line 125 feet west of Massachusetts Avenue (West Chester Park). It sold the remainder of its land in the residential portion of the neighborhood in 1880.
On February 16, 1863, the Boston Water Power Company sold all of its land from the boundary with the Commonwealth to Fairfield on the south side of Beacon, north and south side of Marlborough, and north side of Commonwealth, to Daniel Davies, Jarvis D. Braman, and Grenville T. W. Braman.
Grenville Temple Winthrop Braman was a real estate investor and treasurer of the Boston Water Power Company, remaining in that position until mid-1869. Jarvis Dwight Braman was his brother. In the mid-1860s he was assistant paymaster for the Commonwealth, and by the 1870s he was engaged in real estate with his brother. In mid- to late-1878, he became President of the Boston Water Power Company, remaining in that position until his death in October of 1888. Daniel Davies was a housewright and master carpenter. His daughter, Susan (Susie) A. (Davies) Braman, was Grenville Braman’s wife.
Eastern Parcels. The Commonwealth sold the corner lot at Exeter and the two lots west of it (Lots 1-3), with a combined frontage of 80 feet on Beacon, to George Wheatland, Jr. He had been the successful bidder for the corner lot at the December 24, 1868, auction, and acquired the rights to purchase the other two lots from A. B. Almon and George B. Gibson. He built 299 Beacon and 1-3-5 Exeter on the western 61 feet of the lot (1-3-5 Exeter were 40 feet deep with a 21 foot rear yard and 299 Beacon was 40 feet wide with a 21 foot wide side yard; in 1984, this side yard would be filled with a four story addition to 299 Beacon).
On March 1, 1871, George Wheatland, Jr., sold 299 Beacon to George W. Simmons together with the western 19 feet of his land.
Central Parcels. Much of the central portion of the block was developed by architect and building contractor Frederick Pope, who designed and oversaw the building of fourteen contiguous houses at 303-329 Beacon.
Eben D. Jordan had been the successful bidder for Lots 7-10 at the Commonwealth’s December 24, 1868, auction, and on April 25, 1870, he entered into an agreement with Frederick Pope under which Frederick Pope would design and build two houses at the eastern end of his four lots and Eben Jordan would transfer to him the right to purchase the two lots further west. In October of 1870, the Commonwealth conveyed the two eastern lots (Lots 7-8) to Eben Jordan, he transferred the western 8.5 feet to Frederick Pope, and the Commonwealth sold the western two lots to Frederick Pope. 311-313 Beacon were built on the eastern 41.5 feet, and 315-317-319 Beacon were built on the western 58.5 feet, all for speculative sale.
The houses at 311-319 Beacon were designed as a symmetrical group and their construction probably started before the houses Frederick Pope developed on either side.
On May 5, 1871, the Commonwealth sold Frederick Pope the three lots (Lots 4-6) to the east of 313 Beacon. George M. Gibson (Lot 4) and Leopold Morse (Lots 5 and 6) had been the successful bidders at the December 24, 1868, auction, and sold or transferred their right to purchase them. Frederick Pope built 303-305-307-309 Beacon on the land for speculative sale.
Instead of building the eastern wall of 303 Beacon straddling the boundary line (as was customary), he built it one foot further west. Through a series of transactions, on February 5, 1878, George W. Simmons acquired the eastern one foot strip of Frederick Pope’s land (including the land under the eastern half of the wall at 303 Beacon) and combined it with his 19 foot vacant lot west of 299 Beacon. George W. Simmons died in December of 1882, and on June 15, 1883, the 20 foot vacant lot was purchased from his estate by George E. Niles, who built his home at 301 Beacon.
Frederick Pope had been the successful bidder at the December 27, 1870, auction for Lot 11 (to the west of 319 Beacon) and Augustus N. Loring had been the successful bidder for Lot 13. It appears that Frederick Pope entered into an agreement with Augustus Loring similar to his agreement with Eben Jordan, and he designed and built 321-323-325 Beacon on the land. On June 28, 1872, after the houses were completed, they took title to their individual lots from the Commonwealth. Frederick Pope sold 321 Beacon and he and Augustus Loring sold 323 Beacon together. Augustus Loring retained 325 Beacon as rental property and then as his home.
Frederick Pope also had been the successful bidder at the March 2, 1872, auction for Lots 13-14 (west of 325 Beacon). Prior to taking title to the land, he built 327 Beacon on the eastern 33 feet and offered it for sale. It was purchased by Emma Esther (Howe) Proctor, the wife of leather dealer Thomas Emerson Proctor, to whom Frederick Pope transferred his right to purchase the property. On April 30, 1873, the Commonwealth sold her the 50 foot parcel and she transferred the western 17 feet to Frederick Pope, who subsequently built 329 Beacon for speculative sale.
On April 27, 1880, the Commonwealth sold Lot 15 to the west of 329 Beacon to Roxana (Stackpole) Dabney, the widow of Frederic Dabney. The lot had been purchased at the March 2, 1872, auction by A. S. Young, who sold or transferred his right to purchase the land. She had 331 Beacon built as the home of her son and daughter-in-law, Walter Dabney and Harriet (Larkin) Dabney.
The five houses to the west, at 333-335-337-339-341 Beacon, were built by building contractor Samuel Tarbell Ames for speculative sale. 333 Beacon was built on Lot 16, for which Franklin Evans had been the successful bidder at the Commonwealth’s March 2, 1872, public auction. 335-337-339-341 Beacon were built on four lots which were sold by the Commonwealth by private sales in November of 1879, probably to Samuel T. Ames’s son, James Barr Ames. In all cases, the buildings were substantially completed before the land was conveyed by the Commonwealth.
On April 27, 1880, the same day as the Commonwealth sold Lot 15 to Roxana Dabney, it also conveyed the eastern six inches of Lot 16 to Franklin Evans’s widow, Carrie (Ellis) Evans. On October 27, 1881, she conveyed the six inch strip to James B. Ames, and probably also transferred to him the right to purchase the remainder of the lot. The six inch strip included the western half of the party wall with 331 Beacon and acquiring it permitted Samuel Ames to begin construction of 333 Beacon. The Commonwealth conveyed the remaining 24.5 feet of the lot to James B. Ames on March 7, 1882, after 333 Beacon had been built. After his father had built 335-337 Beacon on the 49.8 foot parcel to the west, James B. Ames purchased the land from the Commonwealth on September 21, 1882.
At about the same time, Samuel T. Ames also built 339-341 Beacon on the two 25 foot lots to the west, which the Commonwealth had sold in November of 1879 probably James B. Ames, who then transferred his right to purchase the land to the ultimate purchasers after the houses were completed. On September 26, 1881, the Commonwealth conveyed the eastern lot, on which 339 Beacon had been built, to Nathaniel Willard Pierce, who made it his home, and on October 19, 1881, it sold the western lot, on which 341 Beacon had been built, to Elizabeth F. (Trull) Welch Eldredge, the widow of John Hunt Welch and of Edward H. Eldredge. It became the home of her first husband’s niece, Emeline (Welch) Leonard, and her husband, Charles Webster Leonard.
Western Parcels. On February 16, 1863, the Boston Water Power Company sold all of its land on the south side of Beacon between Exeter and Fairfield to Daniel Davies, Jarvis D. Braman, and Grenville T. W. Braman. The deed indicated that the parcel extended west 95.57 feet from the boundary with the lands owned by the Commonwealth to Fairfield. As noted above, this description was inconsistent with the Commonwealth’s deeds, which placed the boundary 95.20 feet east of Fairfield. Click here for more detail.
On January 16, 1866, Daniel Davies and his partners sold the parcel to retired druggist William Gardiner Prescott. He and his wife, Josephine Augusta (Peabody) Prescott, lived at 129 Beacon. The next day, he transferred a half-interest in the land to real estate dealer Henry Whitwell. On March 1, 1870, they divided the land, with Henry Whitwell taking full ownership of the eastern 48 feet and William Preston taking full ownership of the western 47.57 feet.
On March 5, 1872, Henry Whitwell sold his land to Frederick Pope, who subsequently built 343 Beacon on a 31 foot lot and 345 Beacon on a 17 foot lot, both for speculative sale. At the same time, Henry Whitwell also sold Frederick Pope the equivalent parcel across the alley, where he built 277-279 Marlborough.
On November 8, 1880, William G. Prescott sold the corner lot at Fairfield to Dr. John Homer Dix. The land remained vacant and on March 18, 1884, was purchased by James Wheaton Converse, who built his home at 347 Beacon.
Original Construction. All of the buildings on the south side of Beacon between Exeter and Fairfieldhad been built by 1884.
The plans below illustrate when the land on the block was first sold by the Commonwealth or the Boston Water Power Company, when the Commonwealth or Daniel Davies and his partners 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.
The February 16, 1863, deed from the Boston Water Power Company to Daniel Davies and his partners included language almost identical to that of the Commonwealth’s deeds, with the exception that the height of the buildings was required to be “at least two stories high for the main part thereof exclusive of basement and attic” and the prohibition against stables was clarified as being a prohibition against “livery stables.”
Original Land Deeds
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts conveyed the land on the south side of Beacon between Exeter and Fairfield by the following deeds:
|02Feb1870||80’||112’||George Wheatland, Jr.||990||229|
|303-309 Beacon||05May1871||75’||112’||Frederick Pope||1048||42|
|311-315 Beacon||17Oct1870||50’||112’||Eben D. Jordan||1019||281|
|315-317 Beacon||27Oct1870||25’||112’||Frederick Pope||1021||93|
|321-323 Beacon||28Jun1872||25’||112’||Frederick Pope||1114||273|
|323-325 Beacon||28Jun1872||25’||112’||Augustus N. Loring||1114||277|
|327-329 Beacon||30Apr1873||50’||112’||Emma H. Proctor||1156||113|
|331 Beacon||27Apr1880||25’||112’||Roxana Dabney||1491||28|
|333 Beacon||27Apr1880||0.5’||112’||Carrie E. Evans||1492||281|
|333 Beacon||07Mar1882||24.5’||112’||James Barr Ames||1575||225|
|335-337 Beacon||21Sep1882||49.8’||112’||James Barr Ames||1574||551|
|339 Beacon||26Sep1881||25’||112’||Nathaniel W. Pierce||1539||561|
|341 Beacon||19Oct1881||25’||112’||Elizabeth T. Eldredge||1542||4|
The Boston Water Power Company conveyed the land on the south side of Beacon between Exeter and Fairfield by the following deed:
|343-347 Beacon||16Feb1863||95.57’||112’||Daniel Davies, Jarvis D. Braman, and Grenville T. W. Braman||826||86|
Daniel Davies, Jarvis Braman, and Grenville T. W. Braman conveyed the land on the south side of Beacon between Exeter and Fairfield by the following deed:
|343-347 Beacon||16Jan1866||95.57’||112’||William G. Prescott||871||13|