This 1,593-square-foot unit has many features atypical of Beacon Hill: a floor-through layout that defines separate spaces, but remains light-filled and fluid; three front-facing bedrooms of near-equal size; common elevator service; a shared fitness center and a live-in superintendent.
With the fervor with which he popularized the Gothic Revival and Italianate styles in the United States as founding president of the American Institute of Architects, Richard Upjohn broke the mold on Beacon Hill by designing 70-72 Mt. Vernon St. with features deviant from its modestly-scaled, mostly-brick neighborhood, yet demanded by many homebuyers today.
A year after designing New York’s iconic Trinity Church on Wall Street in 1846, Upjohn refashioned its carved brownstone, high-rise and block-domination aesthetics in a domestic context for 70-72 to express the wealth and upward mobility of its occupants - Boston banker brothers John and Nathaniel Thayer. This gave Beacon Hill its first classical Italianate brownstone with window sizes, ceiling heights, square footage, width and roof elevation exceeding those of its neighbors.
Also new to the neighborhood was the granite-slab sidewalk with water-drainage grooves - a public safety antidote to the seasonal shifting of sidewalk bricks.
That makes Unit 3A at 70 Mt. Vernon St. a mold-breaking residence in its own right. This 1,593-square-foot unit has many features atypical of Beacon Hill: a floor-through layout that defines separate spaces, but remains light-filled and fluid; three front-facing bedrooms of near-equal size; common elevator service; a shared fitness center and a live-in superintendent. There’s also front and rear entrances from two different streets (Mt. Vernon and Chestnut), a common courtyard with benches and flowers (accessed from Chestnut Street), and a common roofdeck with far-reaching city views usually found in modern high-rises.
The unit entrance directly introduces the living room with no dark foyer or corridor to slow down your arrival or make you hunt for your keys. At your immediate left is much more than the standard coat closet: a trio of built-in double-door closets with overhead storage compartments – ready for an overflow of dinner-party guests.
A double window and a lamp-shaded chandelier provide ample light without glare while a crown molding and a baseboard provide classic grace without frippery.
The double window also sheds light on the adjacent dining room, which is prepped for any kind of entertaining with ample space for a banquet table set, a room-length buffet counter with under-shelf lighting to highlight your fine foods and overhead display shelves with recessed lighting to exhibit your glassware, earthenware, china, books, artwork and trophies in their full glory. More display space runs above the shelf unit’s milled cornice.
For food-service convenience, the dining room flows right into the chef’s kitchen, which a granite island counter/bar directly introduces. The granite is reprised along three sides of counterspace, two with matching backsplashes.
The counters integrate maple cabinetry and a full set of Miele stainless steel appliances – including a five-burner electric cooktop with stainless backsplash, a wine cooler and a space-saving under-counter two-door refrigerator – into a tasteful culinary environment worthy of your choicest cuisine. The cabinets vary in size and design for a wide variety of storage uses and capacities.
The space between the dining room and kitchen connects to a perpendicular hall of closets handily serving all bedrooms, the common bath and the closeted in-house laundry.
Unlike most Beacon Hill homes, all three bedrooms are near-equal in size and directly face the street, letting everybody wake up to a pleasant tree-lined view of what author Henry James, who lived at No. 102 in 1882, called “the most proper street in Boston.” And no wonder: two of its oldest houses – the Second Harrison Gray Otis House and the Colonial Society of Massachusetts headquarters, designed by State House architect Charles Bulfinch in 1802 and 1805 – greet you with their Federal finesse when you part your curtains, enriched by the northern exposure that shines in over their rooflines, courtesy of the higher altitude of the bedrooms.
The master bedroom boasts a built-in frosted-glass curio cabinet that suits it for use as a family room.
A closeted private hall links it to an elegant marble en suite bath, complete with a twin-sink vanity and a glass shower with a honeycomb tile floor and an unusually large marble bench.
A second shower bath with colorful Italian floor tiles serves the other two bedrooms. Each bedroom has a window alcove for an intimate sitting spot for reading, knitting or exercising by a historic scenic backdrop.
More breathtaking scenery can be enjoyed from comfortably cushioned lounge chairs on the common roofdeck: the trademark slate roofs and brick chimneys of Beacon Hill, the golden State House dome by which everyone recognizes Boston, the handsome steeples of the Charles Street Meeting House and the Church of the Advent, the sparkling blue Charles River waters and their pearly-white sailboats, and the high-tech towers of Cambridge and MIT across the river.
This view also denotes the unit’s proximity to some of Boston’s best offerings: fine restaurants and antique shops along Charles Street, fitness trails along the Esplanade, recreation on the Boston Common (for which Upjohn designed the granite-post entrance on Charles Street and the cast-iron fencing), world-class hospitals and much more.
Offered at $2.15 million, Unit 3A at 70 Mt. Vernon St. capitalizes on Richard Upjohn’s architectural foresight to offer a residence rooted in yesterday, but relevant today.
For a private showing, contact Lili Banani of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage at 617-407-0402 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hedges, Hillary Rayport, Charles Sullivan and Brian Pfeiffer, “Historic Paving and Sidewalks in New England,” Archipedia New England, June 2019, www.archipedianewengland.org/1600-1699/historic-paving-and-sidewalks-in-new-england
- Heintzelman, Patricia, and Charles Snell, National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form for Beacon Hill Historic District, October 9, 1975, p. 7, https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/fd6cb593-7814-49c7-a5d8-73e919b51a62
- Hospital, Janette Turner, “Living the Life of a Bostonian on Beacon Hill,” The New York Times, September 11, 1988, www.nytimes.com/1988/09/11/travel/living-the-life-of-a-bostonian-on-beacon-hill.html
- Margolies, Jane, “The Church with the $6 Billion Portfolio,” The New York Times, February 8, 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/02/08/nyregion/trinity-church-manhattan-real-estate.html
- McIntyre, A. McVoy, Beacon Hill: A Walking Tour (Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1975), p. 37-39.
- “Richard Upjohn,” Wikipedia, last edited on March 4, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Upjohn
- Shand-Tucci, Douglass, Built in Boston: City and Suburb, 1800-2000 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), p. 30.
- Southworth, Susan and Michael, AIA Guide to Boston, Third Edition (Guilford, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press, 2008), p. 27.