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.
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?
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.
Commonwealth Avenue in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood is a dream, no matter what time of year, though I am a huge fan of it in the winter so the leaves don’t obscure the architectural details! This home just steps from the Public Garden was built in 1903 for Walter Baylies (1862-1936) and his wife, Charlotte. The couple had purchased a c.1860 Second Empire mansion (basically a sister house or twin to the adjacent at 3 Commonwealth Ave), and demolished it for a more “modern” residence. Baylies was extremely wealthy with investments in nearly everything, and he wanted his city residence to stand out amongst the earlier, brick and brownstone townhouses on the eastern edge of the neighborhood. Architect Arthur Rice designed the house in the Renaissance Revival style, and it is finished with Indiana Limestone. Of particular note is the one-story ballroom, which was built to the side of the home, set back behind a small garden. An empty house lot, formerly occupied by a stable, was used simply for the Baylies’ ballroom, constructed in 1909 for their daughter. Talk about a status symbol! The home was purchased by Walter’s heirs in 1941 by the Boston Center for Adult Education. The home was again purchased in 2020, and is back to a single-family home! I can’t even imagine how stunning the interior is!
These two townhouses were built in 1860 and were once part of a row of four matching homes constructed for wealthy Bostonians. The end units feature stronger detailing with the center two homes being slightly recessed and less ornate, all four constructed of brick with brownstone facades. The original owners wanted to ensure that their new homes would be harmonious in design, both with each other and with the other houses being built nearby.The property already was subject to restrictions contained in the deeds from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who sold much of the land in the Back Bay for development, but the owners added further stipulations. Among them that “the front of said houses shall be of free stone and the height not less than three stories” and “the cornice and roof of all the houses shall be uniform, and shall conform to a plan to be hereinafter agreed upon.” The right house seen here was occupied by Henry Atkins, a grocer and importer of wines and spirits. The left home was occupied by John Chandler, a dry goods merchant and his wife. They both died at a young age in 1875 and 1876 respectively, and the home was sold off by their children’s guardian to Charles Porter, a physician and surgeon. He served as a doctor of anatomy at Harvard Medical School under Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and worked as Chief Surgeon at Mass. General Hospital. His wife, Margaret Cochran Dewar, who also was a physician and was resident surgeon at Sheffield Hospital in England. She had graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1894, among the first women in Scotland to receive a university degree and the first to receive a university medical qualification. In 1925, the two homes here were purchased and combined to one multi-family apartment building and remodelled the structure with ugly brick additions. By 1996, a developer purchased the building and restored them by installing a new façade and fenestration more consistent with the historical nature of the building, making their heights identical once again.
One of the most prominent homes in Jamaica Plain is the Riddell House, built in 1873. The Second Empire style house was built for Samuel S. Riddell, who is listed in directories as a merchant with offices in Downtown Boston. After the Civil War, it was common for those with money, to build larger mansions outside the city and commute in via horsecar or train. Boston at the time was an industrial powerhouse with coal stacks and horses spewing waste all over, so a respite from the urban conditions of Boston was a selling point for many to build homes farther out. Interestingly, Second Empire style homes by the 1870s were starting to wane in popularity, but the owner decided to have the home constructed in the style anyway. Besides the amazing siting on the hill with lush landscaping, the house features a large belvedere at the roof, which would allow Samuel the ability to see Boston in the distance, along with all the pollution at the time.
One of the oldest extant homes in the Sumner Hill neighborhood of Jamaica Plain is this stunning 1852 country mansion, built for William Hyslop Sumner. General William H. Sumner (1780-1861) was born in Roxbury, not far from where he built this house in his later years of life. He attended Harvard College, and after graduating, Sumner entered the law office of district attorney John Davis, gaining admittance to the bar in 1802. He practiced law from 1802 until 1818 when he left the field in order to concentrate on his military duties at the outbreak of the War of 1812. Sumner was involved in the state’s defenses. In September 1814 Massachusetts Governor Caleb Strong sent Sumner, then a lieutenant colonel in the state militia, to coordinate the defense of Portland in the District of Maine (which was then still a part of Massachusetts). His task was to maintain 1,900 militia and create a better relationship between the Massachusetts militia and the U.S. Army forces posted there. After the war, he developed what we know today as East Boston. His maternal grandmother, Mehitable (Stoddard) Hyslop, owned Noddle’s Island. Sumner’s Beginning in 1833, in partnership with Stephen White and Francis J. Oliver, The East Boston Company was created to conduct the development of East Boston. They laid out the first planned neighborhood in the City of Boston, laying out grids and house lots. He would go on to write histories on the neighborhood which are referenced to this day. His country estate in Jamaica Plain is a blending of Greek Revival and Italianate styles. The home is undergoing a renovation currently.
This lovely Italianate home in Jamaica Plain, Boston, was built around 1869 for newlyweds Samuel B. Capen and Helen W. Capen. The house (with a glorious, bold paint scheme) features a central entry with columned portico, central gable with arched window and decorative trusses, and decorative features like corbels at the eaves and window hoods at the ground floor. Owner Samuel Billings Capen (1842-1914) entered the carpet business in Boston at the age of 17 in the firm of Wentworth & Bright, and in 1864 became a partner in the firm, which later became Torrey, Bright & Capen Company. He later became an advocate for immigrants moving into Boston and served as President of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Chairman of Board of Trustees of Wellesley College, and Trustee of World’s Foundation. He died while on a trip with his wife and daughter in China, after a three day illness with pneumonia, while trying to spread Christianity in Shanghai. After his death, his widow and daughter returned to Jamaica Plain, where Helen lived to 97 years old.
Cyrus White (1830-1893) was born in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts and eventually settled in Boston, where he patented his “White’s Tropic Furnace”. The furnace was powered by coal, but due to its engineering, required only a small amount compared to competitors. From this invention, Cyrus opened a store in Jamaica Plain which sold house-furnishing goods, hardware, plumbing fixtures, furnaces, stoves, and drain and gas fittings, a business that boomed in Victorian-era Boston, with all the home building and wealth seen at the time. From his furnace invention and store, he could afford to build this Queen Anne home in the desirable Sumner Hill neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, Boston. Of particular note is the recessed entry within an arched opening and siding styles, including sawtooth edges at the overhang.
David Stoddard Greenough IV (1844-1924), was a descendant of David Stoddard Greenough and Anne Doane, who acquired the Loring-Greenough House after it was taken from loyalist Joshua Loring. David Greenough IV became a businessman and real estate developer, following his father’s footsteps, after the development of much of the family land near the old homestead. It was David who sold the old homestead out of the family, likely for development, as Jamaica Plain had become a streetcar suburb, with many older estate lots subdivided and homes demolished for commercial buildings or smaller homes. Luckily, the old estate was purchased and saved by the Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club. This home built for David Greenough IV was constructed in 1893, possibly as a high-end rental property. The home is a blending of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles, which serves as a transition house from the Georgian style Loring-Greenough House to the intricate Queen Anne homes in the Sumner Hill neighborhood behind. The home was purchased by Susan W. Fitzgerald in the 1910s. Ms. Fitzgerald (1871-1943) is best known for her commitment to the women’s suffrage movement and her involvement in progressive political organizations, including sitting on the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1923-1925.