Monday, December 2, 2013

1382 Beacon Street, Brookline, Massachusetts "The Wrexham"

1382 Beacon Street, Brookline, Massachusetts
 My first cousin five generations removed is the Boston publisher William Lee (1826 – 1906), of the firm Lee & Shepard.  I've blogged about him before, but he is intriguing to me not only as the publisher of Queen Liliuokalani’s biography, but he was also her host during her second visit to Boston in 1897.  The Queen’s husband, John O. Dominis, was William Lee’s first cousin.  Their mothers were sisters, and also sister to my 5th great grandmother Catherine Plummer (Jones) Younger (1799 – 1828).

I've been tracing the places Queen Liliuokalani visited during her stay in Boston.  She was there to visit family after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.  William Lee, and his wife Sara, found her comfortable and private accommodations near their own apartments in Brookline, Massachusetts.  Following the rules of etiquette in those days, the Queen did no visiting, and attended only a few receptions.  One of those receptions was held at the Lees apartments.  I found the location of the Queen’s lodgings and blogged about it HERE.  Now I wanted to find out how close by the Lees were living.  I knew that in the census records they were living at 1382 Beacon Street. 

Here is an excerpt from the Queen’s biography:

“On New Year's Day, 1897, a brilliant reception was given by Mrs. William Lee at her residence, where I found myself the guest of honor. It might be noticed here, that, in regard to such occasions as this, the feelings of one who has been imprisoned, politically or otherwise, can only be understood by a person who has passed through the ordeal. With Mrs. Lee's numerous friends and high social position, she would most gladly have given to me an opportunity to receive attentions from the clubs and societies of which she is a distinguished member, and I would thereby have met many very delightful people. But although, since my earliest remembrance, I have been accustomed to ceremonies and receptions, yet, even after a winter's experience in Washington, it is not easy for me to get over that shrinking from the gaze of strangers acquired by recent years of retirement, eight months of experience as a prisoner, and the humiliations of the time when I was under the supervision of government spies or custodians.

Therefore, while I was grateful to Mrs. Lee for the wish, I told her that save in her own house and to meet her personal friends, I would be obliged to decline public receptions. But the number of gallant gentlemen, beautiful ladies, and fair young girls (two of whom served as ushers) that honored this occasion, caused me to be happy that I had made an exception.”

And a newspaper account from the Boston Journal, 2 January 1897:

"One of the most delightful receptions of New Year's day was that held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Lee, Beacon street, Brookline, where ex-Queen Lilioukulani was the guest of honor. The old colonial mansion house was bright with flowers and full of guests during the reception hours from 3 to 5. The receiving party formed a pretty picture, as, grouped in the bay window, they greeted with charming cordiality the many friends who expressed so much pleasure at the opportunity offered to meet a charming woman, who was most womanly and cordial in her greetings in this lovely home.

In the receiving party were ex-Queen Lilioukulani, with Mrs. Lee on her right, Mrs. Kia Nahsolelin on the left, with Mr. Lee, Miss Lee, J. Haleluke and Capt. Julius Palmer in the line. The ushers were Misses Flora and Donalena MacDonald and F.M. Goss. Most delightful music was rendered during the afternoon by Miss Sarah MacDonald, harpist.

The ex-queen wore a gown of black velvet, with thread lace garniture, caught with rare jewels, and prominent was the badge of the Mystic Shrine, of which she was made a member in 1887. Mrs. Lee was radiantly beautiful in a costume of French gray and lace, with a circle of gold on her arm, which the guest presented as a token of friendship, a golden band with the letter "L" in plain gold, a dainty trifle which Lilioukulani wore during the days of her recent imprisonment, and Mr. Lee also wore a New Year's gift from the same source, a heart-shaped pin of pearl, with centre of amethyst.

The tea room was very dainty where Mrs. Walter M. Farwell poured tea. Mrs. F. M. Goss of Melrose presided at the chocolate table, while Miss Annie Morse served frappe."

By using Google to search for “1382 Beacon Street”, and also for “The Wrexham” I had several good hits. One was a lawsuit  of Henry A. Hildreth vs Charles F. Adams in 1918, very close to the time period when the Lees lived at this address. This was in a book titled Massachusetts Reports 229: Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts December 1917 – March 1918 by Henry Walton Swift, court reporter,  Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1918, page 581.  This book was found scanned and available to read in the Google Book search.  The text of this can be seen below:

This confirms that the address seen in the census is indeed the same building and same street number in Brookline today.  We took some photos of this building. 

There are several city directories of Brookline from this time period, and also several editions of Clark’s Boston Blue Book, which was sort of a social directory with ladies visiting lists and social clubs.  These list the residents of this building, which appears to have had about four or five families living here at any one time.  The apartments must have been large, with room for servant’s quarters.   It is a five story building, so it originally had only one apartment on each floor.  The bay windows are mentioned in the newspaper account above. 

This is a very fashionable address, one block from Coolidge Corner, a main shopping square in Brookline, and the MBTA green line “C Branch” trolley line passing right in front.  It is near the National Historic Site on 83 Beals Street, the birthplace of President John F. Kennedy, and the original SS Pierce Building built in 1897, a large Tudor style clock tower.  It was only a few blocks from where Queen Liliuokalani lived for about one month, at Stirlingworth Cottage .

In 1906 William Lee passed away, and Sara moved to 1408 Beacon Street.  Later I found her in the 1910 census living in a boarding house at 61 Sewell Avenue in Brookline. She was briefly married in 1908 to George Mortimer who died in 1913.  In 1920 she was enumerated with her sister, Mary, at 170 Huntington Avenue in Boston.  Sarah died in 1925. 

For more information:

A blog post about Stirlingworth Cottage in Brookline, Massachusetts

The Queen's biography is Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen, published in Boston by Lee & Shepard, 1898. It is available online to read at 

The URL for this post is

Copyright © 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

1 comment:

  1. Hi Heather. I'm the head of the Brookline Historical Society. We helped with your research on Stirlingworth Cottage back in 2010, but I don't think I has ever seen this later post. Something didn't sit right about 1382 Beacon. After doing some additional research, I've determined that the The Wrexham and the rest of the existing block weren't built until 1904 or 1905. The house that William and Sarah Lee lived in in 1897 when Queen Liliuokalani visited was probably the one shown here: It matches the Boston Journal description of an "old colonial mansion house." The Hoar family was no longer living there by 1897; the 1900 Census shows William Lee was renting the house at that address. - Ken