161 Commonwealth

161 Commonwealth (2013)

161 Commonwealth (2013)

Irregular Lot 37.71' on Commonwealth, 37.91 on Alley 425, 124.5' North-South (4,701 sf)

Irregular Lot 37.71′ on Commonwealth, 37.91 on Alley 425, 124.5′ North-South (4,701 sf)

161 Commonwealth is located on the north side of Commonwealth, between Dartmouth and Exeter, with 306 Dartmouth to the east and 163 Commonwealth to the west.

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.

161 Commonwealth continued to be assessed as a single-family dwelling in 2021.

Click here for an index to the deeds for 161 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Commonwealth and Alley 425, from Dartmouth to Exeter.

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) designed by architect Charles K. Kirby and built in 1873-1874 for John Douglas Bates, Jr. He was a shipping merchant in Bates & Co., founded by his father.

161-163 Commonwealth (ca. 1875), with 306 Dartmouth in foreground, detail from photograph taken from the Brattle Street (First Baptist) Church tower; courtesy of the Print Department, Boston Public Library

161-163 Commonwealth (ca. 1875), with 306 Dartmouth in foreground, detail from photograph taken from the Brattle Street (First Baptist) Church tower; courtesy of the Print Department, Boston Public Library

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, two of several lots for which investment banker Henry C. Wainwright was the successful bidder. John Bates subsequently acquired Henry Wainwright’s right to purchase the property. 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).

On December 6, 1873, the Boston Globe reported that Charles K. Kirby had been issued a building permit for 161 Commonwealth, with Henry E. Joslyn, mason, as the builder. Construction of 161 Commonwealth probably started soon thereafter. Construction of 163 Commonwealth started about five months later, following Charles Kirby’s receipt of a building permit for it in early May (reported in the Boston Globe on May 9, 1874).

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 also maintained a home in Centre Harbor, New Hampshire. 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.

306 Dartmouth and 161-171 Commonwealth, detail of photograph taken from the Hotel Vendôme (ca. 1885); courtesy of the Print Department, Boston Public Library

306 Dartmouth and 161-173 Commonwealth, detail from photograph taken ca. 1885; courtesy of the Print Department, Boston Public Library

In May of 1905, she remarried to Henry Somerset FitzRoy.  He had been a captain in the British Navy and subsequently became a lawyer in Boston.

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. During the previous season they had traveled abroad, and during the 1905-1906 season had lived at 180 Beacon. They also maintained a home in Swampscott. Living with them were Jessie Little’s three unmarried children by her first marriage, to Robert Lawrence Means: Robert Whitman Means, Claire Whitman Means (who was a debutante that season), and Jessie Keith Means. Her fourth and eldest child, William Gordon Means, had married in November of 1907 to Marjory Reeves Rice of New York City; after their marriage, they lived at 50 Mt. Vernon. He was an insurance broker.

The Littles had moved from 161 Commonwealth by the next season, which they spent at their home in Swampscott. In June of 1909, Arthur Little purchased 148 Commonwealth and, after significantly remodeling it, they made it their Boston home for the 1909-1910 winter season.

By the 1909-1910 season, 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.

161-163 Commonwealth ca. 1890, on a wintry day; courtesy of Margaret Pokorny

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. Edwin Webster was co-founder of Stone & Webster, an international construction, engineering, and consulting firm.

On November 19, 1940, William P. Ripley, who was employed with Stone & Webster, filed for (and subsequently received) permission to raze 161 Commonwealth. The house was demolished that year and the Websters left the lot vacant thereafter.

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.