169 Commonwealth was designed by Peabody and Stearns, architects, and built in 1879-1880 by Vinal & Dodge, masons, and Norton and Chedley, carpenters. It was built as the home of Joseph Story Fay, Jr., and his wife, Rebecca Rodman (Motley) Fay. They previously had lived at 88 Mt. Vernon with his parents, Joseph and Sarah (Bryant) Fay, and probably before that, during the 1879-1880 winter season, at 251 Beacon. Joseph Fay is shown as the owner of 169 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated October 23, 1879, and on the 1883, 1888, 1898. and 1908 Bromley maps.
Joseph Fay was a president of the Champion Iron Company and treasurer of the Lake Superior Iron Company, and was a noted yachtsman.
The Fays continued to live at 169 Commonwealth in 1893, but were living elsewhere for much of the 1890s.
During the 1893-1894 winter season, it was the home of William Henry Howard and his wife, Anna Dwight (Whiting) Howard. William Howard was a land owner and cattle rancher in California; the Howards probably were living in Boston temporarily when their eldest son, William Davis Merry Howard, entered Harvard.
During the 1894-1895 winter season, 169 Commonwealth was the home of Miss Adele Granger Thayer. By the 1895-1896 season, she had moved to 181 Commonwealth.
Joseph and Rebecca Fay were living at 169 Commonwealth during the 1895-1896 winter season, but were once again living elsewhere during the next two seasons.
During the 1896-1897 winter season, 169 Commonwealth was the home of dry goods merchant Francis Wright Fabyan and his wife, Edith (Westcott) Fabyan. They had lived at 148 Commonwealth during the previous season, and by the 1897-1898 season had moved to 1 Charlesgate East.
During the 1897-1898 winter season, 169 Commonwealth was the home of stockbroker William Bowditch Rogers and his wife Augusta (Kellogg) Bowditch.
By the 1898-1899 season, they had moved to 151 Commonwealth, and 169 Commonwealth was once again the home of Joseph and Rebecca Fay.
In 1901, Joseph Fay acquired 184-186-188 Commonwealth, The Abbotsford apartments, across the street.
Rebecca Fay died in June of 1905. Joseph Fay continued to live at 169 Commonwealth, and in May of 1907, he married again, to Mabel Grace (Ely) Koenig, the widow of Fidèle Koenig, a composer and noted opera vocal coach in Paris. Her son by her first marriage, Fidèle Koenig, Jr., lived with them.
Joseph Fay died in February of 1912. Joseph Fay’s Heirs are shown as the owners of 169 Commonwealth on the 1912 and 1917 Bromley maps.
Grace Fay continued to live at 169 Commonwealth. She also maintained a summer home, Edgewood, in Woods Hole. Fidele Koenig, her son by her first marriage, and Joanna (Joan) Lillie Fay, her daughter by her marriage to Joseph Fay, lived with her.
Fidele Koenig married in September of 1921 to Mary Elizabeth Hodges and they lived with his mother at 169 Commonwealth until about 1924, when they separated and he traveled abroad. Joan Fay married in February of 1928 to Clarence Edward Shankle, a military flying instructor. By 1930, they were living at the Maryland Apartments at 512 Beacon, and moved soon thereafter to Arizona. Joan (Fay) Shankle was the first woman to receive a pilot’s license in Massachusetts. In October of 1929, she completed a solo transcontinental flight.
Grace Fay continued to live at 169 Commonwealth until mid- to late 1927. However, the house was indicated as “closed for the winter” in the 1924-1928 Blue Books and she lived at the Hotel Vendome.
By 1928, 169 Commonwealth had been purchased by banker and broker Isaac Tucker Burr, Jr., and his wife Alice McClure (Peters) Burr. They had lived at the Hotel Agassiz at 191 Commonwealth in 1927.
The Burrs had 169 Commonwealth house rebuilt, including replacing the front and rear façades. Parker, Thomas, and Rice, architects, designed the remodeled house; J. Harleston Parker had similarly rebuilt 173 Commonwealth in 1917 as his own home. I. Tucker Burr is shown as the owner on the original building permit, dated January 31, 1928, and I. T. and A. M. Burr are shown as the owners on the 1928 and 1938 Bromley maps. The Burrs also maintained a home in Milton.
They continued to live at 169 Commonwealth until about 1942, when they moved back to the Hotel Agassiz.
By 1942, 169 Commonwealth was owned by Mrs. Susan Jane (Northridge) Taylor Jones, the widow of Thomas Brierley Taylor and the former wife of David R. Jones. She lived at 59 Commonwealth with her son, William Randolph Taylor, a real estate and furniture dealer.
In October of 1942, her other son, Robert Winston Taylor of Baltimore, filed for permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house. He subsequently abandoned the application, but refiled in August of 1942, and was granted permission to convert the house.
By 1943, Susan Taylor Jones and W. Randolph Taylor had moved to 169 Commonwealth and operated it as a lodging house. He married that year to Ruth Ranghild Weckstrom. After he served in the US Navy during World War II, they lived at 122 Bowdoin. From about 1945 until 1949, her son, Robert Winston Taylor, and his wife, Edna Beatrice (Walls) Taylor, also lived at 169 Commonwealth. They previously had lived in Baltimore. They moved to an apartment at 7 Hereford in 1950.
By the early 1950s, Susan Taylor Jones had ceased using the name Jones and was known as Susan J. Taylor. She continued to live at 169 Commonwealth, and operate the lodging house, until about 1954.
In January of 1954, William J. MacDonald, et al, acquired 169 Commonwealth from Susan Taylor Jones. In October of 1954, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into eight apartments.
By 1973, 169 Commonwealth was owned by Neil St. John Raymond and Stuart W. Pratt. In September of 1973, they converted the property into five condominiums.
In March of 1978, John Horlacher filed for (and subsequently received) permission to increase the legal occupancy from eight to nine units.
In September of 1979, the Condominium Master Deed was amended to increase the number of units from five to six, reflecting the subdivision of one of the units.