Skip to content

Then and Now: 150 Beacon Street — Isabella Stewart Gardner, Emerson’s Library, and Luxury Condos

This is the first of an Emerson Today series looking at old Emerson College properties as we lead up to the August reopening of the Little Building.

150 Beacon Street

150-152 Beacon Street in June 2019
150-152 Beacon Street in June 2019

Before Emerson opened the Iwasaki Library in the mid-1990s, 150 Beacon Street was the college’s longtime biblioteca. As a library, the space was so jam-packed that the alphabetical order of books was disrupted because there wasn’t enough room for the entire alphabet to be on one floor, so the latter letters were on a different floor than the A’s, B’s, and C’s. Needless to say, the opening of the Iwasaki provided Emersonians with the amenities students expect from a modern-day library.

150 Beacon Street classroom in 1980
150 Beacon Street classroom in 1980 (Photo courtesy Emerson College Archives and Special Collections)

The history of the site is noted by a placard outside of the gated granite townhouse. In 1860, David Stewart, a merchant from New York, built 152 Beacon Street as a wedding present for his daughter, Isabella, and John (Jack) Lowell Gardner. Isabella would later create the beloved and iconic Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

By 1880, the Gardners’ art collection was so huge that they purchased 150 Beacon Street, which was owned by B.T. Loring. The Gardners opened the walls of 150 Beacon and connected it with 152 to display their growing art collection, according to a 1980s Emerson College informational pamphlet about the library’s history.

The combined lots of 150 and 152 Beacon Street were sold to Eben Sumner Draper, and noted architect A.W. Longfellow designed the current day townhouse for Draper, which was constructed in 1904. Draper would later be Massachusetts governor (1909-1910). But at the request of Isabella Stewart Gardner that no one use her former address of 152 Beacon Street, Draper numbered his home as 150 Beacon Street.

150 Beacon Street circa 1961
150 Beacon Street circa 1961 (Photo courtesy Emerson College Archives and Special Collections)

Alvan Tufts Fuller, who was governor of Massachusetts from 1925 to 1929, purchased the home from Draper in the early 1920s.

Emerson College eventually purchased the building in 1961, as well as the adjacent 148 Beacon Street granite townhouse, which was designed and built by Parker Thomas Rice for coal magnate George Warren in 1904.

The College would use the property as its Emerson College Library and Learning Resource Center, which included the Saval Hall Reserve Reading Room, as well as the Leo & Phyllis Beranek Media Center.

Emerson owned the property until 2002, after which it was converted into individual condominium units.

There are multiple units in the very desirable townhouse, including a 3-bedroom, 4.5-bath, 3,543 sq. ft. unit, that sold for $6.2 million in March 2019.


Editor’s note: This article incorrectly stated that Emerson purchased the building in 1966. Emerson purchased the building in 1961.

(Visited 2,730 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply