Just steps from the iconic Louisburg Square in Boston’s exclusive Beacon Hill neighborhood, a man named Joshua Bennett in 1834, purchased two recently completed townhouses built by housewrights Samuel H. Mitchell and Loring Dunbar. Joshua Holden Bennett (1792-1865) was born in Billerica, Massachusetts and split his time between his hometown and Boston. Bennett and his family owned the two identical bowfront houses until about 1930, likely renting them out to middle-upper class families. The home on the right (pictured) was later purchased by Benjamin B. Gillette an organist at a local church. After WWII, property values in Beacon Hill began to falter and this property and its neighbor became lodging houses of rented rooms to a more wealthy clientele than those on the North Slope of the hill. The home last sold in 1989 for $753,000 and is estimated at a value today at over $4,000,000!
Beacon Hill Real Estate
Thayer Stable – Toy Theatre // 1865
Built in 1865, this gorgeous building in Beacon Hill shows how perfectly imperfect historic structures are. The stable building was first occupied by Samuel Neal, a carpenter, and Jonathan Dow, a blacksmith. Within a decade, the stable’s owner Nathaniel Thayer, appears to have kept his carriage in the building. By 1911, architect Harold S. Graves was hired to renovate the former stable which would soon become the Toy Theatre. The Toy Theatre was founded in 1911 by an amateur theatrical group to present plays that had not been presented professionally in Boston. That included both works written by members of the group itself and playwrights as far away as Europe. The founding group included many members of Boston’s high-society who were involved in the arts. The group desired a new, modern space and pooled together resources to build a more appropriate theatre in the Back Bay just a few years later (next post). This building was then converted to a residence.
Peirce House // c.1860
On the north slope of Beacon Hill, you’ll find an excellent mix of early 19th century townhouses, early 20th century tenements, and landmarks related to Boston’s vibrant Black and Jewish communities which historically lived here. One thing you won’t see much of is wood-frame houses, many of which were replaced by the large, boxy tenements when land values and populations increased on the North Slope. One of the rare survivors of wooden homes from the 19th century here is this very narrow home on South Russell Street, built around 1860. Maps from the period show this house being owned by a Caroline Peirce. This tiny house was subdivided into four units around the time of the Great Depression!
Goldfarb Tenements // 1910
Constructed in 1910 to house ten apartments, this tenement building is architecturally significant and high-style to blend in with the many Federal and Greek Revival homes in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. The building replaced an earlier home and was built for Lillian Goldfarb as an investment opportunity. The tenement block was designed by Max M. Kalman, a Russian-born, Boston-based architect who designed most of the post-1900 tenements on the North Slope. Kalman designed many tenements and other buildings in Beacon Hill and the West End for Jewish property-owners. The Goldfarb Tenement building is a richly detailed example of a tenement whose red brick, brownstone and cast stone-trimmed facades are dominated by substantial cast metal oriel windows. The cast metal is a cheaper material than traditional copper which would patina that same color.
Converse-Brown House // 1912
When walking around Boston, don’t forget to look up! When strolling around Beacon Hill, I always make a point to stop and look at details, and this towering mansard roof really caught my eye this time. In 1911, real estate developer Gerald G.E. Street purchased a brick horse stable and razed it to lay out house lots for ten townhouses. He hired architect Richard Arnold Fisher, a specialist in the ever-popular Colonial Revival style to design the houses. For this property, he veered into English/Tudor Revival with the stone frame casement windows. The house was purchased by Frederick Shepard Converse, a composer who taught at the New England Conservatory of Music in addition to composing such works at The Pipe of Desire, which in 1915 was the first American work ever performed at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera. By 1927, the home was owned by Waldo H. Brown, New England manager of Colonial Air Transport Company, an early airline that flew between New York and Boston. The 32-year-old Waldo occupied the house with his wife Frances, three young children and four servants: housekeeper, cook, maid and nurse! In 1927 Brown filed a permit application to build a tall new room over a roof terrace with a slate mansard roof containing a huge studio window, possibly to house all of the servants in the home! Richard Arnold Fisher, the building’s original designer, was cited as architect.
Minot-Herter House // c.1825
Set along Beacon Street, one of the finest streets in Boston, this townhouse has uninterrupted views of the Boston Common and Public Garden. The house was built around 1825 after a large fire destroyed nearly all the homes on the block. Build it and they will come, and the upper-class Boston elite did! Attorney William Minot (1783-1873) purchased the land here as early as 1817, and is said to have hired Peter Banner, the English architect who designed Park Street Church, to design the first house on this site, which stood less than 10 years. Minot had a new home built in the 1820s and lived there until his death in 1873. By the late 1920s, Christian Archibald Herter lived here. Herter held a number of important offices in state and national government, serving as the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Governor of Massachusetts, and President Eisenhower’s Secretary of State (1959 to 1961). It was Herter who likely added the Federal Revival features on the house, including the porch, dormers and updated door surround.
Chapin-Bodge House // 1829
One of my favorite houses in Boston is this absolutely perfect townhouse on Pinckney Street in Beacon Hill. This house was built on speculation in 1829-1830 for Hollis Chapin by architect John Kutts. Kutts was active as a Boston architect between 1828 and 1838, but he is much less well-known compared to his peers today. I hope someone who is a better researcher than me stumbles upon this article because I would love to learn more about this architect! Kutts (possibly also Kutz) is a unique name for Boston, so it is likely he was a German immigrant who settled in Pennsylvania before moving up here. Back to the house. It was finished and sold in 1830 to Ebenezer T. Pope for four thousand dollars. The home was quickly bought and sold a couple more times as the values on Beacon Hill continued to grow. The property was purchased in the 1870s by Noah Bodge, as a rental property and it remained in the family through the 1920s. The home retains all the original details and provides a needed pop of color with the door and shutters.
George G. Hall Stables // 1895
Many of the buildings along Byron Street in Boston were built in the mid-19th century as stables for wealthy residents of the Beacon Hill and Back Bay. Three similar private stables were constructed in 1865 for owners, but all three were purchased by George Gardner Hall, a wealthy hotelier and developer in Boston. Gardner demolished the three stables in 1895 and hired Boston architect William Whitney Lewis to furnish plans for a more stately stable building. The Romanesque Revival stable featured an entrance and exit set within the large Syrian arches on the facade. The building featured stalls for horses, a carriage room, harness room, and office on the ground floor, with storage space for hay, sleeping chambers for stable-hands, and living room with kitchen. The building allowed for wealthy residents to rent space for their horses if they didn’t have a stable of their own. The stable also likely provided carriages to Hall’s hotel downtown. A developer purchased the building after attempts were made in the 20th century to convert the building into a private auto garage. In the 1960s, he hired local architect Goody & Clancy Associates, who renovated the building, restoring the exterior and converted it into three housing units. There are three stone medallions on the facade that read “G.G.H” “No. 13” and “1895” which keep the stable’s history alive.
Burke’s Hack and Livery Stable // c.1865
There is something so charming about old stable buildings in Boston! This stable (like the Garcelon-Sears Stable of the last post) is located on Byron Street in Beacon Hill Flat. This stable building is older, and originally was two stories, similar to the others on the street. The stable was constructed in the mid-1860s for Margaret Barker Sigourney, a wealthy widow who lived nearby in Back Bay. After other owners, by 1922, a coachman named James F. Burke owned and lived in the stable. The painted sign on the lintel over the vehicle door reading “Burke’s Hack & Livery Stable” apparently remains from this period. Burke also added the mansard roof at this time, evident from historic maps. The stable was eventually converted to a single-family home. Could you live in an old stable?
Garcelon-Sears Stable // c.1860
Located in what historian Samuel Eliot Morison dubbed the “horsey end of town”, this stable in the Flat of Beacon Hill is built on 19th century-made land along the Charles River. The sub-area of Beacon Hill is best-known for the prevalence of old stables and carriage houses, converted to residential use. This stable dates to around 1860, when many of the Boston Brahmins of Beacon Hill either built their own private stables or rented space in a livery stable. By 1870, Alsom Garcelon was listed in city directories as a stablekeeper here, and he managed a number of others in the vicinity. After Garcelon’s death, the stable was owned by the wealthy Sears Family, who boarded some of their horses here. By the 1920s, the building was converted to a clubhouse, known as the Byron Street House. The clubhouse was largely rebuilt by architects Putnam & Cox, who also re-designed the interior space to a more social atmosphere. The former stable was later occupied as the Bishop-Lee School of Theater, run by Paul and Emily (Perry) Bishop. By 1970, it was converted again, but to a single-family home, which it remains to this day.