118 Commonwealth was designed by Emerson and Fehmer, architects, and built in 1872-1873, one of four contiguous houses (118-120-122-124 Commonwealth). The houses were designed as a symmetrical composition, with the two taller and narrower houses (118 and 124 Commonwealth) flanking the two shorter and wider houses (120 and 122 Commonwealth). 122 and 124 Commonwealth were built in 1871-1872, and 118 and 120 Commonwealth were built in 1872-1873.
118 and 120 Commonwealth were built on two lots, each of which originally was 28 feet wide. The lot to the east was purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on March 20, 1867, by real estate dealer Samuel Gleason Reed. It subsequently changed hands and on September 15, 1868, was purchased by attorney George Morgan Browne. He also owned the 28 foot lot at 116 Commonwealth. The lot to the west was purchased from the Commonwealth on May 2, 1871, by Henry Lefrelet Daggett, a leather and shoe merchant.
On April 25, 1872, George M. Browne sold the eastern 20 feet of his lot to James Brown Case and the western 8 feet to his wife, Laura Lucretia (Williams) Case. That same day, Henry Daggett sold his 28 foot lot to Laura Case and purchased George M. Browne’s lot at 116 Commonwealth.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 118 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 435, from Clarendon to Dartmouth.
In May of 1872, Benjamin D. Whitcomb, builder, received a permit to build houses at 118 and 120 Commonwealth (reported in the Boston Evening Transcript on May 18, 1872). Construction probably started soon thereafter, with 118 Commonwealth built on the 20 foot lot and 120 Commonwealth on the combined 36 foot lot. A July 19, 1872, Boston Traveller article on “present building operations” in the Back Bay reported that the foundations were being laid for the houses.
James and Laura (Williams) Case made 120 Commonwealth their home. They also had owned the 34 foot 8 inch lot to the west, where they had 122 Commonwealth built. On April 25, 1872, the same day they purchased the land for 118-120 Commonwealth, they sold 122 Commonwealth, with the house still under construction, to James Lee and his wife, Frances (Van Dusen) Lee.
On April 9, 1875, 118 Commonwealth was purchased from James B. Case by Elizabeth Waterman (Hicks) Harding, the wife of wool and cotton merchant William H. Harding. They previously had lived in Jamaica Plain.
The Hardings’ unmarried son, Albert Ellis Harding, a wool merchant, lived with them. By 1880, their granddaughter, Eliza (Elizabeth) Windsor Harding, also lived with them. She was daughter of their son, William Frederick Harding, who was living elsewhere, and his wife, Emily L. (Goodell) Harding, who had died in September of 1877.
Albert Harding married in 1880 to Mary Manzer Clark. After their marriage, they lived at 374 Marlborough.
William Harding died in May of 1883. Elizabeth Harding continued to live at 118 Commonwealth. Her granddaughter, Eliza, lived with her until her marriage in April of 1892 to Daniel Richard Randall, an attorney from Annapolis, Maryland.
In about 1893, Mrs. Harding was joined at 118 Commonwealth by her son, William.
Elizabeth Harding died in July of 1902. In her will, dated December 6, 1897, she left 118 Commonwealth to her son, William (who was living there with her), and left a house she owned at 137 Bay State Road to her son, Albert (who was living there at the time). She named her two sons as her executors. The next year, in September of 1898, she made a codicil to the will naming her granddaughter’s husband, Daniel Richard Randall, as sole executor, replacing her sons.
After his mother’s death, William F. Harding moved to the Hotel Vendôme. He continued to own 118 Commonwealth and leased it to others.
The house was not listed in the 1903 Blue Book.
By the 1903-1904 winter season, 118 Commonwealth was the home of Dr. George H. Payne, a dentist, and his wife, Bertha L. (Luce) Payne. He also maintained his dental office at the house. They previously had lived in Cambridge and he had maintained his practice at 283 Dartmouth.
The Paynes also provided office space to several other dentists and rented lodgings to Charles C. Newcomb, a produce merchant, and his brother, George Dillingham Newcomb, treasurer of an iron foundry, neither of whom was married.
They continued to live at 118 Commonwealth during the 1912-1913 winter season, but moved thereafter: the Paynes to Haddon Hall at 282 Berkeley (29 Commonwealth) and Charles and George Newcomb to 28 Commonwealth.
By the 1913-1914 winter season, 118 Commonwealth had been leased by Dr. James Ralph Taylor, Jr., a physician, for his medical offices. He previously had maintained his offices at 2 Commonwealth. Dr. Taylor’s primary home in Quincy, but he may also have maintained a residence at 118 Commonwealth.
He continued to maintain his offices at 118 Commonwealth through about 1920. The house also was rented to various lodgers during this period. By 1921, Dr. Taylor had moved his home and office to 124 Commonwealth.
William Harding had died in September of 1917 and 118 Commonwealth was inherited by his daughter, Eliza Windsor (Harding) Randall.
On June 11, 1921, 118 Commonwealth was purchased from Elizabeth Randall by Anna Teresa Lee (O’Neill) Johnson, the wife of Dr. David Joseph Johnson. He was a physician and also maintained his office at 118 Commonwealth. They previously had lived (and he had maintained his office) at 1 Schuyler in Roxbury.
Living with the Johnsons were Anna Johnson’s brother-in-law and sister, Eugene J. Waldron and Blanche (O’Neill) Waldron. They also had lived with the Johnsons at 1 Schuyler. They continued to live with the Johnsons until about 1923.
In May of 1922, the Johnsons received permission to build a two car garage at the back of 118 Commonwealth. The decision was appealed by the neighbors and overturned in September of 1922 by the State Fire Marshall, who found that allowing the garages would create a congested condition in the alleys and a potential fire hazard because of the accompanying storage of gasoline in the tanks of the cars. A similar application by Frederick Blood, owner of 124 Commonwealth, was overturned in the same decision.
By 1923, the Johnsons had been joined by Anna Johnson’s sister, Georgianna O’Neill.
At about the same time, they also were joined by Bertha Ellen Tuttle, probably a lodger. She previously had lived at 23 Beacon. She continued to live at 118 Commonwealth until her death in December of 1933.
David Johnson died in October of 1944. Anna Johnson and Georgianna O’Neill continued to live at 118 Commonwealth, joined in about 1946 by their sister, Minnie E. O’Neill. Georgianna O’Neill died in January of 1947, and Minnie O’Neill died in June of 1948.
On July 8, 1953, 118 Commonwealth was purchased from Anna Johnson by Anna Louise (Day) Hicks.
Louise Day Hicks was a real estate investor and operator of lodging houses. She and her husband, John Edward Hicks, an engineer, lived in South Boston. She later would become a well known Boston politician. She was elected to the Boston School Committee in 1961 and was an outspoken opponent of using busing to integrate Boston’s schools. In 1967, she was an unsuccessful candidate for Mayor, but in 1969 was elected to the City Council. In 1970, she was elected to the US Congress, but was defeated for re-election in 1972. She was reelected to the City Council in 1973 and 1975, but then lost two successive bids in 1977 and 1981.
On August 20, 1953, 118 Commonwealth was acquired from Louise Day Hicks by Ida May (Smith) Weber Symington Rolin, the wife of William Alphonso Rolin, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. In December of 1953, she filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house.
William and Ida Rolin made 118 Commonwealth their home and operated it as a lodging house. He died in 1955, and she continued to live there until about 1959.
On October 26, 1959, 118 Commonwealth was purchased from Ida S. Rolin by Kathryn (McLeod) MacPherson, the widow of Ewen John Douglas MacPherson, who operated it as a lodging house. She previously had lived at 20 Jamaicaway.
On January 3, 1961, 118 Commonwealth was acquired from Kathryn MacPherson by Kenneth L. MacLean and Donald R. MacLean, trustees of the Colonial Apartment Trust.
On June 28, 1962, 118 Commonwealth was purchased from the Colonial Apartment Trust by Miss Annabelle Bowditch, a public stenographer, who continued to operate it as a lodging house. She previously had lived at 196 Bay State Road.
Annabelle Bowditch died in June of 1973 and 118 Commonwealth was inherited by her sister, Caroline P. Bowditch. She lived at 146 Beacon and in Mattapoisett with their sisters, Ruth William (Bowditch) Munro, the widow of Willis Munro, and Marion (Bowditch) Steeves, the former wife of Walter Bingham Steeves.
On October 6, 1978, 118 Commonwealth was purchased from Caroline Bowditch by her sister, Marion (Bowditch) Steeves
On August 1, 1979, 118 Commonwealth was acquired by Gaetano Morello.
In November of 1979, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into five apartments, and on November 19, 1979, he transferred the property to himself as trustee of The Comm. Ave. Trust.
On April 24, 1980, he converted the property into five condominium units, The Condominium at 118 Commonwealth Avenue.