128 Commonwealth

128 Commonwealth (2016)

Lot 26' x 124.5' (3,237 sf)

Lot 26′ x 124.5′ (3,237 sf)

128 Commonwealth is located on the south side of Commonwealth, between Clarendon and Dartmouth, with 126 Commonwealth to the east and 130 Commonwealth to the west.

128 Commonwealth was designed by architect Samuel D. Kelley and built in 1882 by Antoine Xavier, builder, one of two contiguous houses (128 and 130 Commonwealth). 128 Commonwealth was built for building contractor Samuel M. Shapleigh, who is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated July 18, 1882; 130 Commonwealth was built for building contractor William Seavey Rand, who is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, also dated on July 18, 1882. As originally built, both houses had brownstone façades and octagonal bays.

Samuel Shapleigh purchased the land for 128 Commonwealth on May 11, 1882, ftom Vanlora Joanna (Aiken) Clapp, the wife of George Bucklin Clapp, of Rockland. They had purchased the land on April 4, 1881, from Frances Ann (Richardson) Moseley, the wife of Alexander Moseley, who had purchased it from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on September 13, 1872.

Click here for an index to the deeds for 128 Commonwealth.

On July 23, 1883, 128 Commonwealth was purchased from Samuel Shapleigh by Col. Jonas Harrod French.

Col. French was a distiller, President of the Cape Ann Granite Company, and banker.  He and his second wife, Nella Jane (Pearson) Foss French, had been married in August of 1883 and he had bought 128 Commonwealth to be their new home.  He previously had lived at 15 Marlborough.

During the Civil War, he had served under General Benjamin Butler, rising to the rank of Colonel and serving as Provost Marshal General of Louisiana during General Butler’s controversial administration of the captured New Orleans.  He was a central player in the financial irregularities which caused Butler’s removal in December of 1862.  After General Butler’s departure, Col. French was replaced immediately as Provost Marshall but remained as New Orleans Chief of Police until the Spring of 1863, when he resigned.

124-128 Commonwealth; detail from photograph taken in June 1884 from 129 Commonwealth; Manning family album, courtesy of Historic New England

124-128 Commonwealth; detail from photograph taken in June 1884 from 129 Commonwealth; Manning family album, courtesy of Historic New England

In 1869, Col. French organized the Cape Ann Granite Company in association with Benjamin Butler, who by then was a Member of Congress.   They both built summer estates in the Bay View area of Gloucester, Col. French naming his Rock Lawn.

From 1873, Col. French also was a director and part owner of the Maverick National Bank of Boston.  In October of 1891, the bank failed.  Col. French, Asa Potter (of 29 Fairfield), the bank’s president and other principal owner, and Thomas Dana (of 311 Commonwealth), a bank director, were indicted on various charges, including embezzlement and violating federal banking laws. The Cape Ann Granite Company went into receivership against Col. French’s liabilities, estimated at $900,000, and the ownership passed into the hands of one of the Rockport quarrying companies.

On March 31, 1894, 128 Commonwealth was purchased from Charles Almy and William H. Coolidge, assignees for the benefit of Col. French’s creditors, by Charles Henry Bond, He and his wife, Isabella (Bacon) Bond, made it their home. They also maintained a home in Cliftondale, which previously had been their primary residence, and a home, Peacehaven, in Swampscott.

Charles Bond was resident of Waitt and Bond. one of New England’s largest cigar manufacturers, and a real estate investor.

Charles Bond’s son, Charles Lawrence Bond, was born at 128 Commonwealth.  In his memoirs, he described the house in some detail:

“The house at that time was four stories and a basement, a twenty-six foot brown sandstone house on the southerly side of the Avenue, midway between Clarendon and Dartmouth Streets.  A twin to the house at 130, it had a long flight of steps to the front door and a short flight to the basement level.

Architectural rendering of remodeled front façade of 128 Commonwealth (1909) by James T. Kelley and Harold S. Graves, architects; courtesy of the Boston Public Library Fine Arts Department

Architectural rendering of remodeled front façade of 128 Commonwealth (1909) by James T. Kelley and Harold S. Graves, architects; courtesy of the Boston Public Library Arts Department

“Inside, a partition wall separated the right hand third of the house from the larger two thirds, all the way from the cellar to the roof.  On the first floor, the vestibule, front stairway and butler’s pantry were on the right; the formal parlor at the front, the reception hall amidships, and the dining room at the rear.

“On the second floor the Library and Oriental room were at the front; a sewing room used as a play room, and in later years as quarters for Grandma Bacon, with a bed room was at the right, and a bath was across the hall.

“On the third floor was Mother’s room and my room as a baby, later Mother’s office, and, at the front, two bedrooms for my siblings.

“On the fourth floor was Papa’s room and a guest room at the front, three servants’ rooms at the rear and two baths.”

In March of 1908, Charles Bond purchased 130 Commonwealth from Clara Clapp, the widow of Dr. Dwight M. Clapp, who had died in September of 1906. The property was conveyed to Charles Bond on May 15, 1908.

The March 12, 1908, Boston Globe article describing the transaction stated that it was Charles Bond’s “intention to make extensive improvements by using both estates and erecting one of the finest private houses in this section of the Back Bay.”  According to Charles Lawrence Bond’s memoirs,  his father “bought the house at 130 Commonwealth Avenue with the intent of having a large music room in which to entertain.  To eliminate the walls between the houses required major changes in the foundations and supporting beams.”

Charles Bond purchased 130 Commonwealth at a point when his finances already were well over-extended following the financial panic of 1907. On May 18, 1908, he transferred his property to John C. F. Slayton and Arthur W. Newell as trustees of the Charles Bond Trust, formed to manage his properties in Massachusetts and Washington DC. His holdings included the Lyric Theatre on Tremont, which was not yet completed and subsequently was sold to the Shubert Organization, who opened it as the Shubert in 1910.

Charles Bond died in July of 1908 at his home in Swampscott.  After his death, according to his son’s memoirs, the walls between 128 and 130 Commonwealth “were restored so that 130 Commonwealth could be sold.”

It was during this period that the Beaux Arts façade was added at 128 Commonwealth (including lowering the entrance to street level) and the rear façade was remodeled.  The drawings for the remodeling also show the addition of a one story ell on the east side at the rear, running to the alley; that structure was not built.

In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting placed the remodeling at about 1905, but notes:  “The files of the city Building Department, usually so complete, fail to mention these alterations.  The facades were evidently entirely rebuilt and some new interior paneling and mantels added; the floor system and partitions of the old structures, particularly on the upper levels, were retained, however.”

Other writers attribute the remodeling to Arthur Bowditch.

In fact, the original drawings  — including front and rear elevations, floor plans, and foundation and piling plans — are located in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN A-75).  These indicate that the plans were drawn in April of 1909 for the C. H. Bond Trust by architects James T. Kelley and Harold S. Graves.  The drawings for 130 Commonwealth have not (as yet) been located, and it remains an open question whether its complementary façade was added at the same time as the work at 128 Commonwealth.

Click here to view the elevations and floor plans for the 1909 remodeling.

Restoring the walls between 128 and 130 Commonwealth presumably took place first, before the  remodeling of 128 Commonwealth, inasmuch as 130 Commonwealth was sold by the Charles Bond Trust on January 9, 1909, to Frances Thorley Goodwin, the wife of Augustus F. Goodwin, and the remodeling plans for 128 Commonwealth were not drawn until April of 1909.

128 Commonwealth (109 Newbury) (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

128 Commonwealth (109 Newbury) (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

Isabella Bond continued to live at 128 Commonwealth with her four surviving children: Edith Louise Bond, Mildred Bond, Kenneth Bacon Bond, and Charles Lawrence Bond. During the 1908-1909 winter season, while the remodeling was underway, they traveled to Pasadena, California, to visit Isabella Bond’s step-daughter and her husband, Sara Augusta (Bond) Goldsmith Trood and Scobell Pomeroy Trood (Sara Bond was the daughter of Charles Bond and his first wife, Martha Augusta (Morrison) Bond).

By the 1910-1911 winter season, Isabella Bond had been joined at 128 Commonwealth by her mother, Louisa Jane (Lynde) Bacon, the widow of George Allen Bacon.

Edith Bond married in April of 1912 to Frederick (“Gale”) Hugh Stearns, a former news reporter and an impressionist painter.  After their marriage, they lived in the Bonds’ home in Cliftondale.  Mildred Bond married in August of 1913 to John Alexander Rogers, an investment broker, and they moved to an apartment at 82 Chestnut.  Kenneth Bond, a lawyer, married in June of 1921 to Marion Pond and they moved to Brookline.

Louisa (Lynde) Bacon died in September of 1921.  Isabella Bond continued to live at 128 Commonwealth with her unmarried son, Charles Lawrence Bond (later known as Lawrence Bond), an engineer with a construction firm.  In about 1922, they were joined by Edith (Bond) Stearns, who had separated from Frederick Stearns.  They divorced in 1923 and Edith Stearns continued to live with her mother and brother.

On September 1, 1922, Kenneth Bond, as the sole surviving trustee of the Charles Bond Trust, transferred 128 Commonwealth to the Old Colony Trust Company, in its capacity as trustee under Charles Bond’s will.

In about 1929, Charles Lawrence Bond moved to 31 Fairfield, which he had purchased as rental property, and then to Topsfield.

Isabella Bond died in January of 1931. On February 11, 1931, the Old Colony Trust Company transferred 128 Commonwealth to Charles Bond’s five surviving children, and on February 15, they transferred it to Kenneth Bond and C. Lawrence Bond as trustees on their behalf. They subsequently leased 128 Commonwealth to others.

During the 1930-1931 winter season, it was the home of Robert Shuman Steinert and his wife, Lucy Pettingill (Currier) Steinert.  They previously had lived at 75 Mt. Vernon and, before that (during the 1928-1929 season) at 13 Gloucester.  They also maintained a home in Beverly Farms.  Robert Steinert was president of M. Steinert & Sons, piano and music dealers, on Boylston, and of the Jewett Piano Company, manufacturers of pianos.  By the 1931-1932 season, they had moved to 291 Marlborough.

During the 1931-1932 winter season, 128 Commonwealth was the home of real estate dealer and developer William J. McDonald and his wife, Maud Annie (Severance) McDonald.  They previously had lived at the Hotel Statler in Park Square.  By the 1932-1933 season, they had moved to an apartment at 276 Marlborough.

In 1933, 128 Commonwealth was the site of the Deschapelles Club of Boston, of which Robert Steinert was an organizer.  According to its brochure, the club was “organized to serve as a headquarters for those interested in the advancement and play of contract bridge.”  It also served luncheon and dinner, made private rooms available for “those who may wish to entertain a small or large bridge party,”  and offered bridge lessons by Florence (Mrs. Harold) Landy to non-members for a fee.

The Club does not appear to have remained in business for very long, inasmuch as by the 1933-1934 winter season, 128 Commonwealth was the home of Jacob Joseph Lowe (Lowenburg) and his wife, Janet (Jennie) (Rosenfeld) Conrad Morse Lowe.  They previously had lived at the Lenox Hotel at 61 Exeter.

Jacob Lowe was a radiologist.  He operated the Boston Dental X-Ray Laboratory and developed and patented a device to use X-Ray technology for fitting shoes to feet.

Jacob Lowe died in January of 1934.  Janet Lowe subsequently moved back to the Lenox Hotel and died in February of 1935.

128 Commonwealth was shown as vacant in the 1935-1937 City Directories.

In 1937, the house was leased by the new Stratford School, founded by Matthew Joseph Malloy and his wife, Ione (Wilkinson) Malloy. They lived in West Roxbury.

128-130 Commonwealth (2016)

On May 1, 1945, Matthew and Ione Malloy purchased 128 Commonwealth from the Bonds. The Malloys continued to live in West Roxbury until about 1947, when they moved to 227 Marlborough.

In December of 1947, the Malloys purchased 130 Commonwealth and leased it to Chamberlayne School and Chamberlayne Junior College.

Stratford School and Chamberlayne subsequently merged, and on December 31, 1951, the Malloys transferred 128 Commonwealth and 130 Commonwealth to Chamberlayne. Matthew Malloy subsequently became president of the merged institution, remaining in that position until at least December of 1986, when Chamberlayne merged with Mount Ida College of Newton.  He died in December of 1987.

At some point after Stratford School and Chamberlayne merged, the walls between 128 and 130 Commonwealth were once again cut through to join the two buildings together.

In the mid-1970s, Chamberlayne went bankrupt and most of its properties were transferred to Bernard P. Rome, trustee in bankruptcy. 128 and 130 Commonwealth, however, were retained by the Stratford Foundation, Inc., as successor to Chamberlayne, and the school continued to be located there until it was consolidated with Mount Ida College at their Newton campus.

On June 1, 1989, 128 Commonwealth and 130 Commonwealth were purchased from the Stratford Foundation by real estate broker and investor George P. Demeter, as trustee of the 128 and 130 Commonwealth Avenue Trust. He separated the buildings once again and in March of 1993 sold 130 Commonwealth.

In April of 1993, George Demeter filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 128 Commonwealth into a three family dwelling.  On March 30, 1995, he converted the property into three condominium units, The 128 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.

In 1995-1996, the three units were acquired by Peter A. Roy and his wife, Leah (Taylor) Roy. They and their family occupied all three units. They also maintained a home in Cohasset.

On June 21, 2004, all three units were purchased by automobile dealer Herbert G. Chambers. In October of 2004, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to build an indoor garage on the ground level of the property, reconfiguring a window in the rear bay into a garage door. On November 17, 2010, he converted the property back to a single-family dwelling.

The property subsequently changed hands. It remained a single-family dwelling in 2016.

Commonwealth Avenue looking southeast toward Clarendon, photograph taken in June 1884 from 129 Commonwealth; Manning family album, courtesy of Historic New England

Commonwealth Avenue looking southeast toward Clarendon, photograph taken in June 1884 from 129 Commonwealth; Manning family album, courtesy of Historic New England