122 Commonwealth was designed by Emerson and Fehmer, architects, and built ca. 1871, one of four contiguous houses (118-120-122-124 Commonwealth) designed by them and built ca. 1871-1873.
122 Commonwealth was built on two lots owned by wholesale dry goods merchant and banker James Brown Case and his wife, Laura Lucretia (Williams) Case, a 26 foot wide lot and one-third (8 feet 8 inches) of the lot to the west of 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 were used for 124 Commonwealth.
The Cases also owned the two lots to the east. Each of these lots 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.
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 1872, James Lee, Jr., and his wife, Frances (Van Dusen) Lee, purchased 122 Commonwealth from James and Laura Case. The Lees previously had lived in Charlestown. Frances Lee is shown as the owner of 122 Commonwealth on the 1874 Hopkins map.
James Lee was owner of the Middlesex Bleachery.
The dining room of the Lee home at 122 Commonwealth is illustrated in The Book of American Interiors, by Charles Wyllys Elliott, published in 1876. It is described as 25 feet by 17 feet, with a bay window at the end of the room, with a floor laid in Swiss parquetry in one color of oak and walls that “begin with an oaken panel dado, four feet high” engraved with rosettes and some lines and chamfers, “which are touched with dull red and black.” The ceiling is oak, “panelled and bracketed, the chamfers and lines of which are touched with red, green, and black.”
In October of 1877, the Lees sold the house to David W. Williams, Richards Bradley, and Lemuel Shaw, trustees under the will of John Davis Williams of Boston. The Lees moved to 282 Marlborough.
122 Commonwealth became the Boston home of John Davis Williams’s grand-daughter, Sarah Ann Williams (Merry) Bradley, and her husband, Richards Bradley, a retired merchant. They also maintained a home in Brattleboro, Vermont.
In the mid-1880s, a brick stable was added at the back of the house. It is not shown on the 1874 Hopkins and 1883 Bromley maps, but is shown on the 1888 and subsequent Bromley maps. A May 6, 1894, Boston Globe article on the sale of the property notes that it includes a brick stable.
During the 1891-1892 winter season, the Bradleys were living elsewhere and 122 Commonwealth was the home of Horatio Appleton Lamb, treasurer of Simmons College, and his wife, Annie Lawrence (Rotch) Lamb. They had moved to 107 Commonwealth by the 1892-1893 winter season, and 122 Commonwealth was once again the Bradleys’ home.
In May of 1894, Richards Bradley, as sole surviving trustee of his wife under John Davis Williams’s will, sold 122 Commonwealth to William Lawrence, Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, and his wife, Julia (Cunningham) Lawrence. The Bradleys subsequently retired to their home in Brattleboro.
In his memoirs, Memories of a Happy Life, Bishop Lawrence described his decision to purchase 122 Commonwealth: “We had hoped to make our home in Cambridge our real centre, but the demands of the Diocese compelled us to have a house in Boston. With, therefore, the Bishop’s House Fund and the gift of ten thousand dollars from my brother and sisters, our winter house at 122 Commonwealth Avenue, was acquired.”
Bishop Lawrence’s daughter, Marian, described the house in her memoirs, To be Young was Very Heaven: “My father had bought a house in town. It was a big house — not on the swell side of Commonwealth Avenue where all our friends lived, but on the ‘shady side.’ The interior was all finished in black walnut which my mother intended to paint white, but Uncle Peter Brooks told her that ‘would be a sin.’ He said it was such handsome wood that, even though it was so dark, she would ‘live to regret it.’ Halfway up the long heavy staircase hung a stuffed peacock fastened to a perch on one of the steps. His long superb tail was the first thing you saw when the front door was opened to you. The large parlor was on the right and a small room for my father’s secretary on the left. In the back where there was glorious sun was the dining room and my father’s study, and gentlemen in long coats with top hats were continually passing the parlor doors to go there when papa was at home.”
In 1894 and 1895, at the time the Lawrences moved to 122 Commonwealth, the Bishop’s mother-in-law, Sarah (Parker) Cunningham, lived with them, probably taking care of their children (their daughter, Elinor, was born in January of 1894). She subsequently moved to 357 Marlborough, and then in 1901 purchased 124 Commonwealth, next door to the Lawrences, where she lived until her death in 1913.
The Lawrences lived at 122 Commonwealth for the rest of their lives. The Boston house was their winter home. They spent the spring and fall in Cambridge (until 1911) or Readville/Milton (from 1913), and the summer at Mount Desert in Bar Harbor, Maine.
In February of 1907, Bishop Lawrence applied for (and subsequently received) permission to install a 8 foot by 4 foot, one story brick “heater house” at the rear of the property. In June of 1913, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to make modifications to the interior of the garage at the rear of the house (the former stable, which, by that time, had been converted into a three car garage).
Julia Lawrence died in September of 1927. After her death, Bishop Lawrence retained his homes in Boston, Bar Harbor, and Readville. Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill, in William Lawrence: Later Years of a Happy Life, notes: “At one time he had considered making 122 Commonwealth Avenue, his Boston home, into apartments, but finally decided to keep the house as a family center. Miss Mary Cunningham, Mrs. Lawrence’s niece, ‘Polly,’ came to live with him in the winter, an arrangement which brought great happiness to both of them.”
In 1929, he agreed to have an elevator installed at 122 Commonwealth. He distained using it until the mid-1930s, however. According to Cleveland Amory’s The Proper Bostonians, the “Bishop liked to move right along, even up stairs, and it took an attack of whooping cough, at the age of eighty-five — of which a friend recalled that it ‘delighted’ him to be the oldest person on record to have the disease — to make him use the elevator his family had installed in his four-story home” (Amory’s anecdote implies the elevator ran between all floors; however, the Boston permit records indicate that it was installed only between the first and second stories).
In April of 1942, Bishop Lawrence’s sons, William and Frederic, who were his executors, sold 122 Commonwealth to real estate dealer Henry Joseph O’Meara. One month later, he sold the house to Dr. Peter A. Consales and Dr. John F. Keane, both physicians.
In May of 1942, Drs. Consales and Keane applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into doctors’ offices. In September of that year, they wrote to the Building Commissioner asking if there would be “any objection” to their turning the third and fourth floors, and possibly a portion of the basement, into “residential suites” to house war-time workers. It is unclear whether this request was granted, but later permits indicate that there was one residential unit on the upper floors. In August of 1946, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to extend the existing elevator to the fourth floor.
In September of 1952, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to renovate the garage, which was described as being a brick structure 20 feet wide by 20 feet deep by one story high (but presumably the same structure as the larger garage described in earlier permits granted to Bishop Lawrence).
In December of 1953, Drs. Consales and Keane sold the house to National Realty Co., Inc., which sold the house one month later to Richard Earl Schroeder and his wife, Mary (Lima) Schroeder. Richard Schroeder was an electrical engineer, a loss prevention engineer for the American Mutual Liability Insurance Company, and, from the mid-1950s, a lawyer specializing in product liability.
In January of 1954. the Schroeders applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from medical offices and one apartment to medical offices and two apartments.
In April of 1961, 122 Commonwealth was purchased from Richard and Mary Schroeder by Louis Francis Musco, George J. Brennan, Jr., and James P. Lynch, trustees of the Commonwealth Realty Trust. They acquired the property to become the location of Bay State Academy (later Bay State College), which Louis Musco and George Brennan had co-founded in 1946. James Lynch was dean of the school, which previously had been located at 30 Huntington.
In June of 1961, the trust applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into a school.
In January of 1988, 122 Commonwealth was purchased from the Commonwealth Realty Trust by Thomas E. Langford and Frederick G. Pfannenstiehl, trustees of The Langford Trust. Thomas Langford was president of Bay State College.
It remained Bay State College in 2017.