Earlier this month, the Unification Church sold the 46 Beacon St. residence and former club it had owned since 1976 to a pair of local developers, according to Suffolk County Registry of Deeds records.
The church, officially the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, Inc., although more recently the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, sold the five-story building for $20.5 million to developers Geoff Caraboolad and Jim Keliher of Mainsail Management, which both develops and manages residential buildings in Boston.
The church paid $475,000 for the building on an 8,000-square-foot lot in a foreclosure sale in 1976. It still has a center in Gloucester.
Being on Beacon Hill, of course, the building has a history.
Eben D. Jordan lived there in the late 1800s - city records (searchable here) show a permit allowing him to build a three-story stable in 1880. Then, after his death, his son, Eben D. Jordan Jr., lived in what is the building that exists today - a combination of what were originally two separate buildings, featuring a large music room for the musical performances the Jordans loved (they also gave Boston Jordan Hall).
Eben D. Jordan (source):
After both Jr. and his wife died, the family sold the building to the Republican Women's Club, which used it for both organizing and for talks, such as "Women Jurors - Shall We Have Them in Massachusetts?" in 1925. In 1951, the club let the local Daughters of the Confederacy hold a luncheon "honoring the memory of Gen. Robert E. Lee."
Sometime after the Gen. Lee luncheon, Benjamin White bought the building, changed it into the Boston Club and opened membership to men - who could partake of its barbershop and massage and steam rooms, as well as its squash courts, gym and cocktail salons. The club also offered dinner, held Saturday night dances for members and their guests and had rooms for them to stay in overnight should they prove too debilitated to get home.
In 1961, White outraged Beacon Hill when he turned the first and second floors into Tiffany's Restaurant and Lounge, Albert Giannino, chef, and began work to convert the upper floors and the stable/carriage house into apartments. In a letter to Boston Building Commissioner Robert York, Beacon Hill Civic Association President John Bok - grandfather of current BHA head and former City Councilor Kenzie Bok - thundered about the change from club to restaurant without so much as a single request to the community for comment, never mind a request for a variance, and that the change meant just anybody could now wander in without a membership and get a meal and a drink.
Several of our members report that they have visited the establishment and have been served both liquor and food without any questions being asked about "membership." Indeed, one of our members was informed by two waitresses, upon inquiry, that the building is no longer used for any club functions and is open to the public.
In my experience, I must confess to never having witnessed a more flagrant disregard for the zoning laws of the City of Boston or received more protests from indignant residents of the area. It seems to me incumbent upon your office to take the necessary steps to stop this violation without delay.
But delay the building commissioner did, as he sought advice from the city corporation counsel. White fired back, insisting that, if anything, the city should be grateful to him for investing serious money into renovating the club and keeping more than 100 people employed - he insisted the place was still a club even if he had removed the exercise facilities - at a time when Boston was in decline due to "the drift to the suburbs."
Then White and his attorney figured out how to outsmart the civic association. It turned out that the zoning code for Beacon Hill allowed both clubs - hence the Boston Club - and hotels in its residential areas. White filed a new application with the Building Department to turn the building into a hotel.
In 1962, York had to tell the Beacon Hill Civic Association that with the building now a hotel, White could proceed with his plans, including the restaurant, since those are customary in hotels. Oh, and the liquor sales.
Sometime by 1968, White sold the building to David Siegel of Brookline.
In 1968, Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway filmed a scene for "The Thomas Crown Affair" in a ballroom in the building:
When Tommy outbids Vicki for a set of lithographs at an art auction held in the St James Ballroom of the Eben Jordan Mansion, 46 Beacon Street, she makes no bones about the fact that she's investigating him, and the game is on.
Siegel ran afoul of the Building Department in 1971, when he added an art gallery - and two signs to advertise it - without seeking city approval. He was ordered to "remove that which has been illegally established" - and take down the two signs.
In 1976, Werner Erhard's "est" movement set up its Boston headquarters in the building. In April, the Globe reported it had already trained 2,000 people.
But Siegel was running into financial problems and the bank that had given him his mortgage foreclosed that year.
The Unification Church then snapped it up.
In 1977, the church listed the use of the building as "Place of worship - Parish Hall and Monastery," but did not file for city permission for those uses until 1982, at a zoning hearing at which nobody spoke against.
Caraboolad and Keliher have yet to say what they'll do with the building, although their options might be limited to something like condos, given its location in a historic district. The building itself is not designated as a landmark; a proposal to do so has been sitting at City Hall for years with no action.
In August, when word began to spread about the building's apparently imminent sale, somebody filed a 311 complaint with the city:
Constituent states the Eben Jordan Mansion at 46 Beacon Street has been sold (with plans to turn it into luxury condos) and the closing is on August 31. Jordan was co-founder of Jordan Marsh department store. The music room has been designated a Boston Landmark but entry has been denied to complete the process. Constituent requests something be done to pursue the designation for the historically significant room.