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.

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?

House of Odd Windows // 1802

This funky house in Beacon Hill was built in 1802 actually as a stable, for United States Senator Jonathan Mason (who lived on the next street). Set out around 1800, Pinckney Street was originally a glorified service alley lined with the stables for the larger homes on the South Slope of Beacon Hill, and served as a buffer street between the mansions of the Brahmins who lived closer to the Boston Common, and the working-class neighborhood of the North Slope. From the 1880s until 1920s, Thomas Bailey Aldrich and his heirs owned the old Mason stable. Aldrich was an author and the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and rented this stable building. He eventually hired noted architect William Ralph Emerson to redesign the main facade of the old stable in the manner of a picturesque Queen Anne cottage. The house has windows of varying sizes and forms and creates a complex composition which surprisingly works. The deeply recessed panel doors and some inset windows give the house depth. It has been known locally as the “House of the Odd Windows”, a name that perfectly fits.

Elijah Williams Stable // 1865

Located on the flat of Beacon Hill, built on 19th century-made land along the Charles River, this stable stands out as one of the best preserved in the neighborhood. The Second Empire style stable was built for owner Elijah Williams, a shipping merchant, who lived in a massive townhome in Louisburg Square, up Beacon Hill. As part of the stable, Mr. Williams’ coachman, Andrew McCullough had an apartment where he and his family would live, while taking care of the horses and driving over Elijah’s carriage whenever he asked. The brick structure features granite stone trim, central carriage entry, and a horsehead above.

Joy Court Stable // c.1850

This charming building at Joy Street on Beacon Hill in Boston, MA was built around 1850 as a livery stable. The brick building appears on historic atlas maps in 1874 and owned by a C. Loring and a William Gray. The stables are a utilitarian Greek Revival style constructed of brick with granite sills, lintels, and carriage door surround. The building would have likely housed
horses and carriages on the ground floor, storage of hay and equipment on the second floor, and a dwelling unit for a liveryman (person attendant of the stable) at the upper floor. The structure was utilized as a carriage house until the 1930s, when a professional repertory group known as the Boston Stage Society occupied the space for the production of plays. In 1940, the brick stable still housed the Bam Theatre and its acting troupe, the Ford Hall Forum Players. Sometime after WWII, the rear wood frame structure was added onto and converted to condominium units and the brick stable was converted to a single family dwelling which it remains as to this day. One of the things I love about about historic cities all over the region is the creative reuse of significant buildings which preserve them in perpetuity, further adding to the layers of history.