161 Commonwealth was designed by Ann Beha Architects and built in 2010-2011 by Sea-Dar Construction as a five-story, single-family dwelling with a limestone façade and interior garage, for the 161 Commonwealth Avenue Nominee Trust.
It was built on a vacant lot purchased on April 1, 2010, from the 163 LLC (Neil St. John Raymond, managaer of record) by Elaine C. Mann, trustee of the 161 Commonwealth Avenue Nominee Trust. On the same day, she also purchased (as trustee of the 163 Commonwealth Avenue Nominee Trust) the house and lot at 163 Commonwealth, also from the 163 LLC.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 161 Commonwealth.
161 Commonwealth (Demolished)
The lot on which 161 Commonwealth was built originally had been the site of one of two contiguous houses (161-163 Commonwealth) built in 1873-1874 for John Douglas Bates, Jr. He was a shipping merchant in Bates & Co., founded by his father.
The land on which 161-163 Commonwealth were built was originally sold by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at its public sale on December 27, 1870. John Bates either was the successful bidder or acquired the right to purchase the land from the successful bidder. He did not complete the purchase, however, until after the houses were built, taking title from the Commonwealth on October 15, 1874 (both houses appear as completed structures on the 1874 Hopkins map).
The original lot was 56 feet wide, and John Bates had two houses built on it: a wider and lower house at 161 Commonwealth (about 37 feet 9 inches wide and three stories plus basement in height), and a narrower and taller house at 163 Commonwealth (about 18 feet 3 inches wide and five stories plus basement in height). Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay attributes both houses to Charles K. Kirby (who is shown as the owner of 163 Commonwealth on the 1874 Hopkins map, although there is no indication in the deeds that he ever owned the property).
John Bates made 161 Commonwealth his home. He was unmarried and previously had lived at the St. James Hotel in Franklin Square, and before that at 12 Arlington with his widowed mother, Mary (Boardman) Bates. He appears to have used 163 Commonwealth as an annex for several years before selling it in October of 1880 to William A. Tower.
John Bates married in June of 1895 to Mary Clarkin, who had been his cook. They continued to live at 161 Commonwealth.
John Bates died in May of 1900. Mary Bates continued to live at 161 Commonwealth and also maintained a residence, The Briars, in Center Harbor, New Hampshire.
During the 1907-1908 winter season, the FitzRoys were living elsewhere and 161 Commonwealth was the home of architect Arthur Little and his wife, Jessie Maria (Whitman) Little. It appears likely that he was engaged in remodeling some portion of the house. The Littles also maintained a home in Swampscott.
By 1909, the Littles were living in Swampscott and 161 Commonwealth was once again the home of Henry and Mary FitzRoy.
Katherine J. Clarkin, Mrs. FitzRoy’s sister, lived with the FitzRoys at the time of the 1910 US Census, and Agnes Clarkin, her niece, lived with them at the time of the 1920 US Census.
During World War I, it appears that Henry Fitzroy served as British Vice Consul in New York City.
The FitzRoys were divorced in 1924. Mary FitzRoy continued to live at 161 Commonwealth and in Center Harbor. Her niece, Agnes Clarkin, and her nephew, John Clarkin, lived with her at the time of the 1930 US Census. Agnes Clarkin (and probably also John Clarkin) continued to live with her in 1937.
Mary FitzRoy died in January of 1940.
On August 20, 1940, 161 Commonwealth was acquired by the trustees of the Chestnut Hill Farm Association. The trustees were Edwin Sibley Webster, his wife, Jane dePeyster (Hovey) Webster, their son. Edwin Sibley Webster, Jr., James H. Orr, and John G. Flint. The Websters owned and lived at 306 Dartmouth, next door, and in Chestnut Hill.
On July 20, 1971, the vacant lot at 161 Commonwealth was acquired from the Chestnut Hill Farm Association trustees by attorney Ralph F. Mazza, trustee of the Fantasy Realty Trust, the sole beneficiary of which was real estate developer Neil St. John (Ted) Raymond.
On the same day, Neil St. John Raymond purchased 306 Dartmouth from Edwin Webster’s estate. He converted 306 Dartmouth into professional offices and used the lot at 161 Dartmouth for parking. In October of 1980, he purchased 163 Commonwealth.
On January 30, 2008, he transferred 161 Commonwealth and 163 Commonwealth to the 163 LLC, of which he was the manager of record.
On April 1, 2010, Elaine C. Mann, as trustee of the 161 Comm Ave Nominee Trust, purchased the lot at 161 Commonwealth. On the same day, as trustee of the 163 Comm Ave Nominee Trust, she purchased 163 Commonwealth.