167 Commonwealth

167 Commonwealth (2013)

167 Commonwealth (2013)

Lot 30' x 124.5' (3,735 sf)

Lot 30′ x 124.5′ (3,735 sf)

167 Commonwealth is located on the north side of Commonwealth, between Dartmouth and Exeter, with 165 Commonwealth to the east and 169 Commonwealth to the west.

167 Commonwealth was designed by Sturgis and Brigham, architects, and built in 1880 by Vinal & Dodge, masons, and J. W. Morrison, carpenter.  It was built as the home of banker and broker Eben Rollins Morse and his wife, Marion Ronaldson (Steedman) Morse.  They had lived at the Hotel Vendôme during the winter of 1881-1882, probably awaiting completion of their home across the street.  Prior to that, they had lived at 241 Beacon.

E. Rollins Morse is shown as the owner of 167 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated September 4, 1880, and on the 1883, 1888, and 1898 Bromley maps.

The Morses continued to live there in 1892, but were living elsewhere during the 1892-1893 winter season, when it was the home of William Fletcher Weld and his wife, Ellen Homer (Winchester) Weld.  Their usual home was on their estate, Weld, in Brookline, and by the 1893-1894 season, 167 Commonwealth was the Morses’ home again.

In the mid-1890s the Morses were again living elsewhere.

During the 1894-1895 winter season, 167 Commonwealth was the home of Edwin Carlton Swift and his wife, Florence Abbott (Bailey) Swift.  They had lived at the Hotel Vendôme earlier in 1894.  Edwin C. Swift and his brother, Gustavus Franklin Swift, founded the meat packing company, Swift Bros. & Co. (Swift & Company) in Chicago.  The Swifts moved to 21 Fairfield by the 1895-1896 season.

167 Commonwealth (ca. 1880); Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago (Digital file #51191).

167 Commonwealth (ca. 1880); Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago (Digital file #51191).

During the 1895-1896 winter season, 167 Commonwealth was the home of Katharine (Lowell) Roosevelt, the widow of Alfred Roosevelt.  He had been a banker in New York City and was killed while trying to board a moving train in Mamaroneck, New York, in July of 1891.  She had moved to 234 Beacon by the 1896-1897 season.

By the 1896-1897 winter season, the Morses were living at 167 Commonwealth again.

At the time of the 1900 US Census, they were living elsewhere and it was the home of Marion Morse’s brother and sister-in-law, Charles and Mary (Lippitt) Steedman.

The Morses were again living there during the 1900-1901 winter season, but by 1902 had moved to New York City (in 1901, Ogden Codman, Jr., designed a summer home, Villa Rosa, for them in Newport, and in 1905 he designed their Manhattan home at 7 East 51st Street).

By the 1901-1902 winter season, 167 Commonwealth was the home of Frank George Webster and his wife, Mary Fidelia (Messenger) Webster.  They previously had lived at 232 Newbury.   He is shown as the owner of 167 Commonwealth on the 1908, 1917, and 1928 Bromley maps.  They also maintained a summer home in Holderness, New Hampshire.

Frank Webster was a partner in the investment banking firm of Kidder, Peabody & Co.

Their son and daughter-in-law, Lawrence Jackson Webster and Alys May (Rogers) Webster, lived with them during the 1901-1902 winter season.  They had been married in October of 1901.  They had moved by the 1902-1903 season.

From about 1923, Frank and Mary Webster were joined by their daughter, Mary Ann Messenger (Webster) Sampson, the widow of William Clark Sampson, a stage actor, who had died in April of 1922.

Frank Webster died in January of 1930.  Mary Webster and Mary Sampson continued to live at 167 Commonwealth until Mary Webster’s death in December of 1932.

The house was not listed in the 1934-1937 Blue Books and was shown as vacant in the 1933-1941 City Directories.

The Heirs of Frank Webster are shown as the owners on the 1938 Bromley map.

By 1942, 167 Commonwealth was the home of Katherine Theresa Foley.  She previously had lived at 115 Commonwealth.  In August of 1943, she applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 167 Commonwealth from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house.

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 from the Hotel Vendôme (ca. 1885); courtesy of the Print Department, Boston Public Library

In May of 1945, Rev. John J. Watson, Director of the Saint Francis de Sales Guild, wrote the Building Department regarding the legal requirements for establishing a center for the deaf and hard of hearing at 167 Commonwealth.  According to a May 14, 1945, Boston Globe article, Archbishop Richard J. Cushing announced that the center would open on May 28, 1945, and would be the “first of its kind in the nation.”  It is unclear whether it actually did open and, if so, how long it continued to operate.

Katherine Foley continued to live (and operate a lodging house) at 167 Commonwealth until the mid-1950s.

The property subsequently changed hands and in January of 1960 was purchased by Thomas F. Keating, Jr., trustee of the Pond Realty Trust.  The legal use continued to be a lodging house, but from about 1961, it was shown as an apartment house in the City Directories.

In June of 1973, the property suffered a fire which resulted in the death of one of its residents.  In July of 1973, Thomas Keating filed for (and subsequently received) permission to make emergency repairs to close the building and make it safe.

By September of 1973, Wingate Developer Corporation had acquired 167 Commonwealth from Thomas Keating.  In September of 1973, it filed for (and subsequently received) permission to rehabilitate the building and convert it from a lodging house into nine apartments.  In June of 1975, it converted the property into nine condominiums.