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 in April of 2010, by Elaine C. Mann, trustee of the 161 Commonwealth Avenue Nominee Trust, from the 163 LLC. On the same day, she also purchased (as trustee of the 163 Commonwealth Avenue Nominee Trust) the house and lot at 163 Commonwealth.
161 Commonwealth (Demolished)
The lot on which 161 Commonwealth was built in 2010-2011 originally had been the site of a house designed by Charles K. Kirby and built ca. 1873, one of two contiguous houses (161-163 Commonwealth).
In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting indicates that both houses were built for merchant John Douglas Bates, Jr. Based on the 1874 Hopkins map and the 1883 and 1888 Bromley maps, it appears that two 28 foot wide lots were combined, and that a 38 foot wide house built at 161 Commonwealth and an 18 foot wide house built at 163 Commonwealth on the remaining portion of the lot.
John Bates was a shipping merchant in Bates & Co., founded by his father. He previously had lived at the St. James Hotel in Franklin Square, and before that at 12 Arlington with his widowed mother, Mary (Boardman) Bates.
On the 1874 Hopkins map, John Bates is shown as the owner of 161 Commonwealth and Charles Kirby is shown as the owner of 163 Commonwealth. John Bates continued to be shown as the owner of 161 Commonwealth on the 1883, 1888, and 1898 Bromley maps.
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.
Mary FitzRoy is shown as the owner of 161 Commonwealth on the 1908, 1917, 1928, and 1938 Bromley maps.
In about 1908, the FitzRoys lived 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.
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.
By 1971, the lot at 161 Commonwealth was owned by Neil St. John Raymond, trustee of Fantasy Realty Trust. He also owned 306 Dartmouth, which he purchased in 1971 and converted into professional offices. He used the lot at 161 Commonwealth for additional parking for 306 Dartmouth. In October of 1980, he purchased 163 Commonwealth.
On January 30, 2008, he transferred 161 Commonwealth and 163 Commonwealth to the 163 LLC.