Peter Bent Brigham (1807-1877)
A local restaurateur and philanthropist, Peter Bent Brigham was born in Bakersfield, Vermont on February 4, 1807.
Brigham lamented the fact that he did not have a formal education, having attended a local school instead. He moved to Boston at 17 to look for work and found employment in a grocery store before working as a lobster salesman. His work brought him into contact with Amherst Eaton, owner of the Concert Hall Hotel. Brigham opened an oyster shop on Hanover Street in 1828, and the small fortune gleaned from the business allowed him to take over Eaton’s lease of the Hotel and open a restaurant in 1836.
Though he never married, Brigham was a family man. He mentored his nephew, Robert Breck Brigham, and taught him about restaurant management and real estate. In 1842 Brigham’s recently widowed sister, Sarah Jacobs, and her son moved into his home. Brigham purchased a lot at Mount Auburn in 1855 when Sarah’s son, James B. Jacobs, died.
Brigham experienced continued success with the Concert Hall, celebrated not only for its cuisine but also for its abundance of alcohol and tobacco. His savvy real estate investments were valued at almost $700,000 at the time of his death, and the city of Boston frequently consulted with him on real estate matters. Brigham retired in 1869, and died in his home in 1877.
Brigham’s will was his greatest legacy. He donated $30,000 to his hometown to fund Brigham Academy, a private school named in his honor that would afford his community the formal education he lacked. The majority of his will went to funding the creation of Brigham Hospital. The executors of his will were able to invest Brigham’s money and increase its value to over two million dollars over two decades. It was decided by the trustees that Brigham’s would be a teaching hospital, and land was purchased in the Back Bay Fens for construction adjacent to Harvard Medical School.
Brigham Hospital was the home of many medical breakthroughs and innovations, from a cure for pernicious anemia (a Nobel Prize winning discovery), to the use of an iron lung device, to the invention of plastic bags used for blood storage. It is still a well-known and respected institution.
Peter Bent Brigham’s grave can be found at Lot #2438, Magnolia Avenue.
Adapted from the research of Jill Graboski, as published in Mount Auburn’s February Birthday: Peter Brent Brigham, 2005.
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