151 Commonwealth (originally numbered 137 Commonwealth) was designed by architect Robert Gould Shaw (of the firm of Shaw and Shaw) as his own home, and was built in 1876-1877 by Standish & Woodbury, builders, one of two contiguous houses (151 Commonwealth and 303 Dartmouth), designed to create a symmetrical composition on both the Commonwealth and Dartmouth façades. The Commonwealth façade includes a one-story central bay which masks a lower entrance and reinforces the overall symmetry.
151 Commonwealth is located on an unevenly-shaped lot shared with 303 Dartmouth. The combined lot for the two houses is 58 feet by 124.5 feet. On Commonwealth, 151 Commonwealth’s frontage is 38 feet and 303 Dartmouth’s façade is 20 feet. On the alley, 151 Commonwealth’s façade is 27 feet 8 inches, and 303 Dartmouth’s façade is 30 feet, four inches.
Robert Shaw and Isabella Pratt Hunnewell had married in September of 1875, and 151 Commonwealth was their first home together. 303 Dartmouth was built for his brother-in-law, Arthur Hunnewell. Another brother-in-law, Hollis Hunnewell, lived at 315 Dartmouth, the house immediately to the north of 303 Dartmouth, which had been built ca. 1870.
Robert Shaw was in partnership with his brother, George Russell Shaw, in the firm of Shaw and Shaw, from 1874. In about 1882, Robert Shaw gave up his career as an architect and in order to manage his property and serve as trustee of various estates. George Shaw continued to be a practicing architect, and subsequently went into partnership with Henry Sargent Hunnewell, the brother of Isabella (Hunnewell) Shaw, Arthur Hunnewell, and Hollis Hunnewell.
Robert G. Shaw is shown as the owner of 151 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated April 11, 1876, and Isabella P. Shaw is shown as the owner on the 1883, 1888, 1898, 1908, and 1917 Bromley maps.
The Shaws were living at 151 Commonwealth during the 1886-1887 winter season, but during the 1887-1888 season, it was the home of banker Eugene Van Rensselaer Thayer and his wife Susan (Spring) Thayer. They had lived at 315 Dartmouth during the previous season, and probably were living at 151 Commonwealth while their new home at 17 Gloucester was being completed. They moved to their new home in 1888.
The Shaws probably lived at 151 Commonwealth for part of the 1888-1889 winter season, and at 130 Beacon with Isabella Shaw’s father, Horatio Hollis Hunnewell, during part of it. They are listed at both addresses in the 1889 Blue Book.
During the 1889-1890 season, 151 Commonwealth was the home of Samuel Dennis Warren, Jr., and his wife, Mabel (Bayard) Warren. They previously had lived at 174 Marlborough. Samuel Warren had been an attorney in partnership with future Chief Justice Louis D. Brandeis. In 1888, after his father’s death, he had withdrawn from active participation in the firm and assumed management of his father’s paper manufacturing company, S. D. Warren & Co. The Warrens had moved from 151 Commonwealth to 261 Marlborough by the 1890-1891 season.
During the 1890-1891 winter season, 151 Commonwealth was the home of Augustus Hemenway, a trustee of estates, and his wife, Harriet Dexter (Lawrence) Hemenway. They lived at 91 Marlborough and had just purchased 273 Clarendon, next door. They were in the process of combining the two houses into a single residence and lived at 151 Commonwealth during the remodeling. They had resumed living at their remodeled house at 273 Clarendon by the 1891-1892 season.
During the 1891-1892 winter season, 151 Commonwealth was the home of paper manufacturer and former Congressman William Augustus Russell and his wife Frances Spofford (Hall) Russell. In 1890, the Russells had lived next door, at 303 Dartmouth, the home of Robert G. Shaw’s brother-in-law, Arthur Hunnewell. By the 1892-1893 season, the Russells moved to 146 Beacon, the home of Henry Sargent Hunnewell, another of Robert G. Shaw’s brothers-in-law.
By the 1892-1893 winter season, the Shaws were once again living at 151 Commonwealth.
During the 1895-1896 winter season, the Shaws were once again living with Isabella Shaw’s father, Horatio Hollis Hunnewell, at 130 Beacon and 151 Commonwealth was the home of Oliver Ames and his wife, Elise Alger (West) Ames. They had lived at 120 Beacon during the 1893-1894 season and also maintained a home in North Easton. He was treasurer of Oliver Ames & Sons, the pick and shovel business founded by his great-grandfather in North Easton, and an investor in real estate, railroads, and other businesses. They had moved from 151 Commonwealth by the 1896-1897 season, and by the late 1890s were living at 15 Commonwealth.
During the 1898-1899 winter season, it was the home of stockbroker William Bowditch Rogers and his wife, Augusta (Kellogg) Rogers. The previous season they had lived at 169 Commonwealth. In 1900, they purchased and moved to 152 Commonwealth.
During the 1900-1901 winter season, 151 Commonwealth was the home Amy Gore (Walker) Iasigi, the widow of Oscar Iasigi. Oscar Iasigi had been treasurer of the Vassalboro Woolen Mills and had served as Consul General for the Ottoman Empire in Boston; he was killed in the wreck of the steamer City of Columbus in 1884. Amy Iasigi previously had lived at 170 Beacon. She had moved to an apartment at the Empire Hotel at 333 Commonwealth by the 1901-1902 season.
By 1902, Robert and Isabella Shaw were once again living at 151 Commonwealth. In June of 1902, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to construct an 17 foot by 9.5 foot addition (9 feet high) at the rear of the existing building. The addition was designed by architect R. Clipston Sturgis.
The Shaws continued to live at 151 Commonwealth until 1917.
In September of 1917, Isabella Shaw sold 151 Commonwealth to J. Sumner Draper and Mark Temple Dowling, real estate brokers and investors, and they immediately resold the house to architect Arthur Little and his wife, Jessie (Whitman) Means Little. The two transactions were reported by the Boston Globe on September 7 and September 9, 1917.
The Littles previously had lived at 35 Commonwealth. They lived at 151 Commonwealth during the 1917-1918 and 1918-1919 seasons.
By the 1919-1920 winter season, 151 Commonwealth was the home of Rodman Paul Snelling and his wife, Eva Burnham (de Tréville) Snelling. They had lived at 317 Beacon during the previous season. He was treasurer of the Saco-Lowell Shops, makers of textile (cotton worsted and spun silk) machinery.
They continued to live there in 1923, but had purchased and moved to 35 Commonwealth by 1924.
In September of 1924, 151 Commonwealth was purchased by the Katharine Gibbs School, which converted it into a school and dormitory. The school already owned 90 Marlborough which it had purchased in May of 1924. It previously had been located at 247 Berkeley. It subsequently acquired 92 Marlborough in April of 1926, 135 Commonwealth (next door to 151 Commonwealth to the east) in September of 1927, 303 Dartmouth (next door to 151 Commonwealth to the west) in October of 1930, and 21–23 Marlborough in August of 1936.
In August of 1935, the school cut through doors between 151 Commonwealth and 303 Dartmouth, and in January of 1946, it cut through doors between 151 Commonwealth and 135 Commonwealth on the second, third, fourth, and fifth floors.
In mid-1953, Katharine Gibbs School acquired 6 Arlington to consolidate its operations in one location.
In August of 1953, 151 Commonwealth was acquired by real estate dealer Thomas J. Diab’s Baid Realty Corporation (Baid being the reverse spelling of Diab). At the same time, he also acquired 135 Commonwealth, 303 Dartmouth, 90 Marlborough, and 92 Marlborough from the school. The school retained 21-23 Marlborough, converting them from dormitories to classrooms.
In 1955, The Commonwealth School, Inc., acquired 151 Commonwealth and 303 Dartmouth. Charles E. Merrill, Jr., founder and headmaster of the school, lived at 23 Commonwealth.
In January of 1956, the Board of Appeal approved the school’s plans to consolidate the buildings and to construct an addition at the rear, 24.5 feet x feet, 13 feet high, for use as a gym and dining room (probably replacing the addition constructed in 1902).
Commonwealth School continued to be located at 151 Commonwealth and 303 Dartmouth in 2010.