What sets Beacon Hill apart is that almost every home is unique to its neighbors. This townhouse on Brimmer Street stands out in a big way architecturally and does not remotely try to fit in with the red brick and traditional massing of the Greek Revival and Italianate rows on the surrounding streets. This home was built in 1888 on the last undeveloped parcel on the street. The house was built by Seth Russell Baker and Henry Wilson Savage, real estate developers and sold to a J. Little. By 1900 four families are listed as occupying the house, which was rented out by that time. By 1917 Marie Ames Byrd, wife of polar explorer Richard E. Byrd, had acquired the building, which she owned through at least 1938 according to atlas’. Byrd lived at and owned 9 Brimmer Street, and her mother, Helen A. Ames, owned 7 Brimmer. This house at 5 Brimmer was rented to upper class residents who sought apartment living in a desirable area of the city. Among them was Caroline P. Atkinson, the daughter of Edward Atkinson of Brookline, a successful antebellum cotton mill executive and, ironically, a major figure in the Boston-area abolitionist movement. William Coombs Codman and his son John also lived at 5 Brimmer Street, the former was a merchant trader with dealings in the East Indies and Calcutta. Architecturally, the building is unique with the use of rough-faced brownstone façade and copper at the entablature and parapet. Would you live here?
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!