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154 Beacon Street

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1861.

Reconciling the charms of a symmetrical facade with the constraints of the side-hall row house plan never looked so easy. Sweeping upward to a cantilevered landing that embraces the full width of the bowfront brownstone elevation, a broad central stoop deemphasizes the placement of the entrance door to the left, balancing a full-height sash window to the right. Above the triple arcade of the parlor floor, the upper stories are expressed as two bays. These diminish in height and elaboration with each successive floor below the mansard, screened behind a parapet balustrade. The author of this ingenious solution to an age-old problem is, alas, unknown.

Novelist William Dean Howells had built his own Beacon Street town house when he wrote about the experience in his novel The Rise of Silas Lapham: “When the spring opened Colonel Lapham showed that he had been in earnest about building on the New Land. His idea of a house was a brownstone front, four stories high, and a French roof with an air chamber above. . . . He was confirmed in his ideas by a master builder who had put up a great many houses on the Back Bay as a speculation, and who told him that if he wanted to have a house in the style, that was the way to have it.”

Writing Credits

Author: 
Keith N. Morgan

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