1 Commonwealth (12 Arlington) is located on the NW corner of Arlington and Commonwealth, with 10-11 Arlington to the north, across Alley 422, 2 Commonwealth to the south, across Commonwealth, and 3 Commonwealth to the west.
In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting does not identify an architect for either 1 Commonwealth or 12 Arlington. However, May 25, 1860, and July 31, 1860, articles in the Boston Evening Transcript indicate that 1 Commonwealth was being built under “the superintendence” of architect Edward C. Cabot, and June 21, 1859, and May 15, 1863, articles in the Transcript identify Arthur Gilman as the architect of 12 Arlington.
The bulk of the land on which the two houses were built was purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on December 28, 1858, when John D. Bates purchased a 38 foot wide lot at the corner of Commonwealth and Arlington, and Samuel G. Ward purchased a 30 foot lot immediately to the west. On July 12, 1859, Samuel Ward sold John Bates a strip of land 3.5 feet wide, increasing John Bates’s lot to 41.5 feet in width. Construction of John Bates’s house began soon thereafter. On January 3, 1860, Samuel Ward purchased a 3.5 foot wide strip of land from the Commonwealth to the west of his current land, thereby restoring his lot to 30 feet in width, and construction of his home at 1 Commonwealth began soon thereafter.
Click here for indices to the deeds for 1 Commonwealth and 12 Arlington, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Commonwealth and Alley 422, from Arlington to Berkeley.
1 Commonwealth was designed by architect Edward C. Cabot and built in 1860-1861 as the home of Samuel Gray Ward and his wife, Anna Hazard (Barker) Ward.
On July 31, 1860, the Boston Evening Transcript commented that a “house, to be situated on the Great Avenue, north side, next to that of Mr. Bates, and to be built for S. G. Ward, Esq., is also under the superintendence of Mr. Cabot. This structure will be 30 by 57 feet, four stories in height, and of New Jersey freestone to the top of the third story, and face brick and stone dressing above this point.” It appears that the design subsequently was modified, inasmuch as it was built with the entire front façade in stone.
By 1861, Samuel and Anna (Barker) Ward had made 1 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived at 20 Louisburg Square.
Samuel Ward was a merchant and banker, and was US agent for Baring Brothers Bank of London.
They continued to live at 1 Commonwealth until 1865, when they moved to New York City.
On July 15, 1865,1 Commonwealth was purchased from Samuel Ward by Nicholas Reggio, an importer of produce and wine from the Mediterranean and vice consul for Italy. He and his wife, Pamelia Josephine (Miller/Carney) Reggio, lived at 1 Commonwealth by 1866. They previously had lived at 57 Summer with her mother, Pamelia J. (Green) Hazelton Miller Carney. Pamelia Carney was the widow of clothier and real estate investor Andrew Carney, who had died in April of 1864; she had been married previously to John Hazelton and John Miller, the father of Pamelia Reggio.
Nicholas Reggio died in November of 1867. Pamelia Reggio continued to live at 1 Commonwealth. By the 1870s, she had been joined there by her mother.
On December 14, 1872, Pamelia Reggio transferred 1 Commonwealth to her mother, who entered into a mortgage with the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company, and then transferred the property back to Pamelia Reggio on December 18, 1872.
Pamelia Carney died in April of 1875 and Pamelia Reggio moved abroad soon thereafter.
By the 1876-1877 winter season, 1 Commonwealth was the home of David Snow, Jr., and his wife, Georgianna (Coburn) Snow. They previously had lived at 157 West Concord. He was a fish dealer.
On September 22, 1879, 1 Commonwealth was purchased from Pamelia Reggio by J. Ingersoll Bowditch, trustee of Mary Copley (Greene) Amory, the wife of James Sullivan Amory, under the will of her father, Gardiner Greene.
By the 1879-1880 winter season, 1 Commonwealth was the home of James and Mary Amory. They previously had lived in Brookline.
James Amory was a cotton manufacturer.
Three of the Amory’s five surviving children lived with them: Frederic Amory, Augustine Heard Amory, and Harcourt Amory. Frederic and Harcourt Amory were members of their father’s cotton manufacturing firm. Augustine Heard Amory was an Episcopal clergyman.
Augustine Heard Amory married in May of 1883 to Elizabeth Tilden Snelling of 24 Commonwealth. After their marriage, they lived in Lawrence where he he was Rector of Grace Church from January of 1884.
James Amory died in June of 1884. Mary Amory, Frederic Amory, and Harcourt Amory continued to live at 1 Commonwealth.
Mary Amory died in April of 1892 and Frederic Amory moved soon thereafter.
Under the terms of Gardiner Greene’s will, after Mary (Greene) Amory’s death, her surviving children — Arthur, Robert, Frederic, Augustine, and Harcourt Amory — inherited 1 Commonwealth. On May 31, 1892, they sold the property to Joshua Montgomery Sears. He and his wife, Sarah Carlisle (Carlile) (Choate) Sears, owned and lived at 12 Arlington. After acquiring 1 Commonwealth, they consolidated it with their home.
12 Arlington was designed by architect Arthur Gilman) and built in 1859-1860 by Ivory Harmon, mason, for John Douglas Bates and his wife, Mary (Bordman) Gilman Bates.
On June 21, 1859, the Boston Evening Transcript reported that “workmen have now commenced operations for the foundations of the house which is to occupy the most conspicuous and most desirable of the lots already sold – the one at the corner of Arlington street and the great Central avenue. … We learn than this house will be erected from designs and drawings by Mr. Arthur Gilman, Architect, in the same style of the French Renaissance period, as used by him already in the fine mansions of Messrs. Hovey and Sturgis, in Beacon street – but with such different modifications of plan and detail as to produce a different yet not inferior effect to those elegant structures.” George Hovey lived at 100 Beacon and Henry Parkman Sturgis lived at 102 Beacon.
A May 25, 1860, Boston Evening Transcript article described the house in some detail. Noting that it was “rapidly approaching completion,” the article commented: “As it is the first instance in which the Acadian freestone has been used here, we would call particular attention to the exquisite grain and texture of this stone for ornamental carving as shown in the portico, balconies and balustrades of this fine house. The stains on the ashlar of the walls are temporary disfigurements, always incident to the first exposure of this kind of stone to the air. They are now rapidly clearing off from day to day, and the lapse of a few will bring the whole to a uniform and even tint of grey. The parts of the work above alluded to, however, are free from this objection, and if the delicate work of the Corinthian capitals and of the consoles and parapet of the balconies does not satisfy the admirers of architectural carving by the sharpness of its relief and the beauty of its shadows, we think they must be hard to please. This house measures 35 x 64 feet, with an L containing dining room &c measuring 22 x 40 feet.”
By 1861, the John and Mary (Bordman) Bates had made 12 Arlington their home. They previously had lived at 81 Mt. Vernon. They also maintained a residence, Cedar Cliffs, at Phillips Beach in Swampscott, which they sold in 1863 to John Jeffries, Jr., of 126 Beacon.
John Bates was a shipping merchant dealing in the sugar trade and served as Danish Consul in Boston. He had married in January of 1834 to Mary (Bordman) Gilman, the widow of Robert Hale Gilman. Her two sons – Robert Henderson Gilman and Benjamin Ives Gilman – lived with John and Mary Bates after their marriage. Robert Henderson Gilman subsequently lived in China for several years after which he settled in St. Louis, where he married in June of 1853 to Helen Stettinius. Benjamin Ives Gilman changed his name to Ives Gilman Bates and continued to live with his mother and step-father.
An April 10, 1881, column in the Boston Herald indicated that Mary (Bordman) Gilman Bates was the mother of Arthur Gilman, the architect who designed 12 Arlington. In fact, Mary Bates’s first husband, Robert Hale Gilman, was the third cousin, once removed, of Arthur Gilman.
John and Mary Bates had one son, John Douglas Bates, Jr.
John Bates died in Paris in October of 1863. In its obituary, the Boston Daily Advertiser commented on “his far-sighted public spirit” as illustrated by his “early purchase of a lot of the commonwealth’s land upon the Back Bay … where he proceeded to erect a very handsome mansion, and when it was completed made it his residence; the larger part of the territory in the neighborhood of his house being at first unimproved, while the ultimate success of the work of filling the desolate area and making it attractive, was in the opinion of many persons quite uncertain. Mr. Bates by his example was one of those who led the way in an improvement which has had a marked effect upon the growth and beauty of our city. …”.
Mary Bates, Ives Gilman Bates, and John D. Bates, Jr., continued to live as 12 Arlington. Ives Bates was agent for the Cunard line steamships, and John D. Bates, Jr., was associated with his father’s shipping firm. By 1866, they were joined by William Henderson Gilman, who had separated from his wife in St. Louis and served as a paymaster with the US Navy during the Civil War.
On January 3, 1868, 12 Arlington was purchased from John D. Bates, Jr., by Mary Bates’s brother, William Henderson Boardman, a shipping merchant and real estate investor. He was unmarried and lived at 6 Tremont Place.
Mary Bates and her sons moved soon thereafter. John D. Bates, Jr., and William H. Gilman moved to the St. James Hotel in Franklin Square, where William Gilman died in July of 1869. John D. Bates, Jr. continued to live there until 1874, when he moved to a new home he had built at 161 Commonwealth. Mary Bates moved to the Revere House hotel in Bowdoin Squaee, where she died in March of 1870. Ives Gilman Bates was hospitalized at McLean Hospital in Somerville, where he died in July of 1870.
On June 11, 1868, 12 Arlington was purchased from William Bordman by Nathan Matthews. He and his wife, Albertine (Bunker) Matthews, made it their home. They previously had lived at 56 Beacon.
A former commission merchant, Nathan Matthews was a real estate investor. He was president of the Winnisimmet Company, which developed portions of Chelsea, and (between 1860 and 1870) president of the Boston Water Power Company, which developed a large part of the Back Bay.
In 1871, Nathan Matthews purchased land on Bellevue Avenue in Newport where he subsequently built a home designed by Peabody and Stearns.
On May 27, 1876, as part of what appears to be a financial restructuring, Nathan Matthews sold 12 Arlington to Seth Turner and Frederick Lothrop Ames, who were creditors and also were trustees on behalf of several banks, that also were creditors of Nathan Matthews.
Nathan and Albertine Matthews continued to live at 12 Arlington until 1877, when they moved to 145 Beacon.
On May 3, 1877, 12 Arlington was purchased from Seth Turner and Frederick L. Ames, trustees, by Joshua Montgomery Sears.
J. Montgomery Sears was a real estate investor. According to a September 19, 1877, Boston Globe article, he was “heir to the Sears estate in this city, reputed at $7,000,000 in value” and bought the house as a “bridegroom’s gift” costing $110,000 for Sarah Carlisle (Carlile) Choate, whom he married in September of 1877.
Sarah (Choate) Sears was a well-known and respected watercolorist and pictorialist photographer.
The Searses also maintained homes at The Briars in Bar Harbor, and Wolf Pen Farm in Southborough.
1 Commonwealth/12 Arlington
On May 31, 1892, J. Montgomery Sears acquired 1 Commonwealth and subsequently combined the houses, with the address of 12 Arlington. The entrance to 1 Commonwealth was removed and the second story was remodeled into a music room.
Monty Sears was killed in an automobile accident in August of 1908.
Sarah Sears and Helen Sears traveled to Europe during the 1908-1909 winter season and again during the 1909-1910 season.
During both seasons, 12 Arlington was the home of Bayard Thayer, a banker and noted yachtsman, and his wife, Ruth (Simpkins) Thayer. They also maintained a home in Lancaster and owned a stable at 342 Newbury. They had lived at 205 Commonwealth during the previous winter season.
The Bayard Thayers moved to 261 Clarendon for the 1910-1911 season, and Sarah Sears and Helen Sears resumed living at 12 Arlington.
Helen Sears married in July of 1913 to James Donald Cameron Bradley. After their marriage, James and Helen Bradley lived at 12 Hereford and in Southborough.
By the 1917-1918 winter season, the Bradleys had joined Sarah Sears at 12 Arlington. James Bradley died in December of 1928, and Helen Bradley continued to live at 12 Arlington with her mother.
Sarah Sears died in September of 1935.
After her mother’s death, Helen Bradley may have contemplated selling 12 Arlington/1 Commonwealth to Edward Wyner, owner of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, inasmuch as in December of 1937, he applied for permission to build a 17-story apartment house on the site. The application subsequently was abandoned and Helen Bradley continued to live at 12 Arlington until about 1941, when she made Wolf Pen Farm in Southborough her home.
The property was shown as vacant in the 1942 City Directory.
By 1943, 12 Arlington/1 Commonwealth was leased by the Army and Navy Service Committee, which converted the building into an officers’ club, with dining, lodging, and recreational facilities. They continued to be located there in 1945.
On December 31, 1945, 12 Arlington/1 Commonwealth was purchased from Helen Bradley and Sarah Sears’s estate by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston.
On November 19, 1947, the Archbishop transferred 12 Arlington/1 Commonwealth to Ursuline Convent, Inc., which converted the property into a day school and convent.
On August 25, 1959, Ursuline Convent, Inc., transferred 12 Arlington/1 Commonwealth back to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston. The Archdiocese eliminated the day school and converted the property into the Convent of Oblate Sisters. In June of 1966, the Diocese converted it from a convent into professional offices.
On October 17, 1966, 12 Arlington/1 Commonwealth was purchased from the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston by Harbridge House, Inc., an international management consulting firm, which owned and maintained its offices at 10-11 Arlington. After acquiring 12 Arlington/1 Commonwealth, it occupied all four buildings.
On July 31, 1987, Harbridge House transferred all four buildings to Sears, Roebuck and Company (by that time, Harbridge House was a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears World Trade, Inc.).
On September 30, 1993, One Commonwealth Corporation purchased 12 Arlington/1 Commonwealth from Sears, Roebuck and Co. It remodeled the buildings into nine apartments, including adding an underground garage, and on September 27, 1995, it converted the property into nine condominium units, with the address of 1 Commonwealth, the One Commonwealth Condominium.