118 Commonwealth was designed by Emerson and Fehmer, architects, and built ca. 1873, one of four contiguous houses (118-120-122-124 Commonwealth) designed by them and built ca. 1871-1873.
118 and 120 Commonwealth were built on two lots owned by wholesale dry goods merchant and banker James Brown Case and his wife, Laura Lucretia (Williams) Case. Each lot originally had been 28 feet wide, but the Cases combined them to permit the construction of a 36 foot wide home for themselves at 120 Commonwealth, leaving the 20 foot frontage for 118 Commonwealth.
The Cases also had owned the 26 foot wide lot immediately to the west and one-third (8 feet 8 inches) of the lot next to it. They combined these and had 122 Commonwealth built, 34 feet 8 inches wide. The remaining 17 feet 4 inches of the fourth lot had been purchased separately and was used for 124 Commonwealth.
118-124 Commonwealth were designed by Emerson and Fehmer to be 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). Based on the land records and party wall agreements, 122 and 124 Commonwealth appear to have been built first, ca. 1871, and then 118 and 120 Commonwealth built ca. 1873.
In April of 1875, wool and cotton merchant William H. Harding and his wife Elizabeth Waterman (Hicks) Harding purchased 118 Commonwealth from James and Laura Case. In 1874, they had lived in Jamaica Plain, and before that (in 1872 and earlier) at 28 Chester Square. Elizabeth Harding is shown as the owner of 118 Commonwealth on the 1883, 1888, and 1898 Bromley maps.
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.
William F. Harding moved to the Hotel Vendôme, retaining 118 Commonwealth as rental property; he is shown as the owner on the 1908, 1912, and 1917 Bromley maps.
By 1904, it was the home of Dr. George H. Payne, a dentist, and his wife, Bertha (Luce) Payne. He also maintained his dental office at the house. The previous year, they 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.
By 1914, 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.
William Harding died in September of 1917, and in June of 1921, Daniel and Eliza (Harding) Randall sold 118 Commonwealth to Dr. David Joseph Johnson, a physician, and his wife, Anna Teresa Lee (O’Neill) Johnson. Prior to purchasing the house, the Johnsons had lived at 1 Schuyler in Roxbury.
Dr. Taylor moved his practice to 124 Commonwealth, and Dr. Johnson made 118 Commonwealth both office and his home. Anna L. Johnson is shown as the owner on the 1928 and 1938 Bromley maps.
Living with the Johnsons were Anna Johnsons’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.
In July of 1953, Anna Louise (Day) Hicks purchased 118 Commonwealth from Anna Johnson.
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.
In August of 1953, Ida S. Rolin purchased the house from Louise Day Hicks. In December of 1953, she filed for (and subsequently received) to convert the house from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house.
118 Commonwealth changed hands, remaining a lodging house and, in August of 1979 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. In April of 1980, he converted the five apartments into condominiums.