175 Commonwealth

175 Commonwealth (2015)

Lot 29' x 124.5' (3,611 sf)

Lot 29′ x 124.5′ (3,611 sf)

175 Commonwealth is located on the north side of Commonwealth, between Dartmouth and Exeter, with 173 Commonwealth to the east and 177 Commonwealth to the west.

175 Commonwealth was designed by Peabody and Stearns, architects, and built in 1881-1882 by Woodbury & Leighton, builders, as the home of banker and trustee Charles Merriam and his wife, Helen (Jaques) Merriam.  He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated March 15, 1881.

As originally built, the house was three stories high, plus a basement.  Sometime between 1902 and 1908 a fourth story was added, with a balustrade at the roof.

Charles Merriam purchased the land for 175 Commonwealth in November of 1880 in two transactions: a 28 foot wide lot to the east which he purchased from Cora (Crowninshield) Boyden, the wife of Charles Boyden, who had purchased it from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on December 29, 1874, and a one foot strip to the west which he purchased from Fanny Cadwallader (Crowninshield) Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams, part of a 28 foot wide lot she had purchased from the Commonwealth on October 9, 1874. The Adamses built their home on the remainder of the lot at 177 Commonwealth; Fanny Adams and Cora Boyden were sisters, the daughters of George Caspar Crowninshield and Harriet Elizabeth Dickason (Sears) Crowninshield.

173-177 Commonwealth (ca. 1904), showing 175 Commonwealth before it was remodeled; detail from photograph of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall; courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Arthur Asahel Shurcliff Collection of Glass Lantern Slides #6.19.87

Click here for an index to the deeds for 175 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Commonwealth and Alley 425, from Dartmouth to Exeter.

By the 1882-1883 winter season, Charles and Helen (Jaques) Merriam had made 175 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived at 263 Beacon. They also maintained a home in Nahant.

Helen Merriam died in September of 1904.  Charles Merriam continued to live at 175 Commonwealth until his death in November of 1906. They had no surviving children.

During the 1906-1907 winter season, 175 Commonwealth was the home of Elizabeth Gardiner (Stone) Bacon, the widow of William Benjamin Bacon, Jr., and their three daughters: Elizabeth (Elsie) Bacon, Emily Low Bacon, and Marion Constance Bacon. Their primary residence was Rock Lawn, their home in Lenox, and their usual winter residence when in Boston was the Hotel Victoria at 273 Dartmouth.

On February 28, 1907, 175 Commonwealth was purchased from Charles Merriam’s estate by Stephen Long Bartlett, importer of cocoa and chocolate. He and his wife, Florence (Ricker) Bartlett, made it their home. They previously had lived in Chestnut Hill.

It appears likely that it was at this time that 175 Commonwealth was remodeled with an additional story.

Stephen Bartlett transferred 175 Commonwealth to his wife on June 11, 1914; the deed was not recorded until November 20, 1920, and he therefore remained the assessed owner through 1920.

Florence Bartlett died in March of 1937 and 175 Commonwealth was inherited by Stephen Bartlett. He died in October of 1937.

Photograph of statue of William Lloyd Garrison with 169-179 Commonwealth in background, ca. 1904; courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection

On December 20, 1939, 175 Commonwealth was acquired from Stephen Bartlett’s estate and residuary devisees by real estate dealer Henry Joseph O’Meara. On January 12, 1940, it was acquired by the Town Bridge Club, and then acquired on February 6, 1940, by Henry O’M’eara’s wife, Mildred Marie (O’Brien) O’Meara. In April of 1940, the Town Bridge Club acquired 109 Commonwealth, changed its name to the Cavendish Club, and operated its club rooms there until the early 1950s.

On December 27, 1940, 175 Commonwealth was acquired from Mildred O’Meara by Rev. Eleanor Mel. Three days later, she transferred the property to the Church of Jesus Christ. Thereafter, she operated the property as the Boston Home of Truth, with herself as pastor.  The Boston Home of Truth was a New Thought Movement congregation following the teachings of Annie Rix Militz.

Eleanor Mel and several of the teachers who were affiliated with the Home of Truth also lived at 175 Commonwealth.  They previously had lived at 1 Queensbury, where the Home of Truth had been located before it moved to 175 Commonwealth.

In September of 1954, the church filed for (and subsequently received) permission legalize the occupancy of 175 Commonwealth as church offices and lodgings.

175 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

175 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

In November of 1957, the church acquired 177 Commonwealth, and in September of 1959, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to cut doors between the two properties.  The use of 177 Commonwealth was shown as a “church reading room.”

Both properties were operated as the Boston Home of Truth until the early 1960s.

Eleanor Mel died in July of 1964. In December of 1964, the church sold 177 Commonwealth, specifying in the deed that, as long as the church continued to own 175 Commonwealth, 177 Commonwealth could be used only as single-family or multi-family residence and not as a rooming, guest or boarding house, or dormitory, or for institutional, business or commercial purposes.

The church continued to operate at 175 Commonwealth as the Church of Jesus Christ in 1965, and as the Unity of Boston Church in 1967. By 1967, the offices of the Protestant Guild for the Blind also were located at 175 Commonwealth.

By 1970, the church had ceased operations at 175 Commonwealth but continued to own the property. The Protestant Guild for the Blind continued to maintain its offices there until the mid-1970s.

On August 18, 1978, 175 Commonwealth was acquired from the Church of Jesus Christ by Aram Brazilian, Jr., trustee of the 175 Commonwealth Avenue Realty Trust. In February of 1979, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a church into five units, and in April of 1979, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to include a partial addition to the fifth floor.

On October 24, 1979, Aram Brazilian, Jr., converted the property into five condominium units, the 175 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.