176 Commonwealth

176 Commonwealth (2013)

176 Commonwealth (2013)

Lot 28' x 124.5' (3,486 sf)

Lot 28′ x 124.5′ (3,486 sf)

176 Commonwealth is located on the south side of Commonwealth, between Dartmouth and Exeter, with 174 Commonwealth to the east and 178 Commonwealth to the west.

176 Commonwealth was designed by architect Charles Atwood and built in 1883 by Benjamin F. Dewing and Morton & Chesley, builders, one of two contiguous houses (176-178 Commonwealth) designed as a symmetrical pair with lower stories in the Romanesque style and the dormer pediments in a Flemish style.

The houses were built for physicians and each had two front entrances, one on the outer side of the front façade, for use by the residents, and the other on the inner side, where the two houses join, for use by patients.  The porches to the entrances are enclosed and fronted with three arches (the two entrances to what were the medical offices sharing the center porch and arch) with windows in the bays between the arches, creating a continuous plane across the entire front of the two buildings.  Although this design would appear to violate the original setback restrictions in the Back Bay deeds, in 1894, the Board of Harbor and Land Commissioners (the agency with jurisdiction to enforce the deed restrictions) determined that it did not.

176 Commonwealth was built as the home and medical office of Dr. William Palmer Wesselhoeft, a homeopathic physician, and his wife, Sarah F. (Allen) Wesselhoeft.  They previously had lived (and he had maintained his office) at 52 Boylston, possibly in association with James Batchelder Bell, also a homeopathic physician, who maintained his offices at the same address and for whom 178 Commonwealth was built.  William Wesselhoeft is shown as the owner of 176 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated October 5, 1883.

176-178 Commonwealth (ca. 1885); Soule Photograph Company, courtesy of Historic New England

176-178 Commonwealth (ca. 1885); Soule Photograph Company, courtesy of Historic New England

William Wesselhoeft and James Bell each purchased the land for their homes on June 14, 1883, from Richard H. Stearns. He had purchased both lots from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on June 5, 1883.

Click here for an index to the deeds for 176 Commonwealth.

William and Sarah Wesselhoeft’s two children, Alice Wesselhoeft and William Fessenden Wesselhoeft, lived with them.

Alice Wesselhoeft married in November of 1886 to Arthur Augustus Haserick, in importer of textile machinery in his father’s firm. He previously had lived at 256 Commonwealth with his parents, Frederick Augustus Haserick and Minna Emily (Hedwig) Haserick. After their marriage, Arthur and Alice Haserick lived at the Hotel Victoria at 273 Dartmouth.

William F. Wesselhoeft graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1887 and maintained his office at 176 Commonwealth with his father. He married in June of 1887 to Emily Bradley. After their marriage, they traveled to Europe where he continued his studies, returning in September of 1888 They lived at 176 Commonwealth with his parents until about 1891, when they moved to 827 Boylston. He continued to maintain his office at 176 Commonwealth.

During the 1893-1894 winter season, William and Sarah Wesselhoeft were traveling abroad, and 176 Commonwealth, and it was the home of boiler and elevator manufacturer Henry Parsons King and his wife, Alice (Spaulding) King. They had married in October of 1893 and 176 Commonwealth probably was their first home together. By the 1894-1895 season, they had moved to 205 Commonwealth and the Wesselhoefts were once again living at 176 Commonwealth.

Sarah Wesselhoeft died in January of 1901. Dr. Wesselhoeft continued to live and maintain his medical office at 176 Commonwealth.  He also maintained a home at York Harbor, Maine.

William Fessenden Wesselhoeft continued to maintain his office at 176 Commonwealth with his father, and during the 1903-1904 and 1904-1905 winter seasons, he and Emily lived there with his father. They had been living at 851 Boylston. By 1906, William and Emily Wesselhoeft had moved to 398 Marlborough, where he also relocated his office.

William Palmer Wesselhoeft continued to live at 176 Commonwealth until his death in August of 1909. After his death, William and Emily Wesselhoeft moved back to 176 Commonwealth and lived there in 1910 and 1911.

On December 13, 1911, 176 Commonwealth was purchased from William P. Wesselhoeft’s estate by real estate investor Albert Geiger and his son, Albert, Jr., and William and Emily Wesselhoeft moved back to their home at 398 Marlborough.

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

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

176-178 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

176-178 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

The December 15, 1911, Boston Globe article on the transaction indicated that the Geigers had purchased 176 Commonwealth with the intention “to improve the building by constructing several modern suites.”

During the 1911-1912 winter season, 176 Commonwealth was the home of Charles Benjamin Barnes, Jr., a lawyer, and his wife, Josephine Lea (Low) Barnes. They also maintained a home in Hingham. They had lived at the Wesselhoefts’ home at 398 Marlborough earlier in 1911 while the Wesselhoefts were living at 176 Commonwealth.

On December 16, 1912, 176 Commonwealth was purchased from the Geigers by real estate dealer Renton Whidden. He lived in Brookline.

176 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1913 Blue Book.

By the 1913-1914 winter season, 176 Commonwealth had been leased by Dr. Henry Lincoln Houghton, a homeopathic physician, and his wife, Cornelia (McAvoy) Houghton. He also maintained his medical offices at the house. They previously had lived at The Charlesgate at 535 Beacon and he had maintained his office at 419 Boylston. They also maintained a home in Winchester.

On January 15, 1923, Cornelia Houghton purchased 176 Commonwealth from Renton Whidden.

Cornelia Houghton died in January of 1929.  Henry Houghton continued to live and maintain his office at 176 Commonwealth.  He remarried in 1938 to Edna Phyllis Swasey; after their marriage, they lived at 176 Commonwealth.

176-178 Commonwealth (2013)

176-178 Commonwealth (2013)

On August 22, 1945, 176 Commonwealth was acquired from Henry Houghton by real estate dealer Howard S. Cosgrove.

In August of 1945, real estate dealer Thomas J. Diab filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a doctor’s office and one-family dwelling into a doctor’s office and three-family dwelling. It appears likely that the filing was made on behalf of Howard Cosgrove, who continued to own the property.

On December 10, 1945, 176 Commonwealth was purchased from Howard Cosgrove by Olive Melville (Roche) Kindlund, the widow of Eric Axel Kindlund. She lived in Scituate. In March of 1946, she filed for permission to increase the occupancy from a doctor’s office and three apartments to a doctor’s office and four apartments. She subsequently abandoned the application.

Henry and Edna Phyllis Houghton continued to live (and he to maintain his office) at 176 Commonwealth until his death in June of 1948.

The property subsequently changed hands and on November 6, 1957 was purchased by Delillus (Crockett) Kipp, the wife of attorney Roy Frank Kipp. She and her husband owned and lived at 178 Commonwealth and also owned 172 Commonwealth, 174 Commonwealth, and 163 Commonwealth (across the street).

On February 27, 1992, 176 Commonwealth was acquired from Delillus Kipp by Bruce A. Percelay. In June of 1993, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a doctor’s office and three apartments into seven apartments.

The property subsequently changed hands. It remained an apartment house in 2016.

176-178 Commonwealth, drawing from the Inland Architect (Feb1889); Inland Architect Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago (Digital file #IA1301_0285-0286).

176-178 Commonwealth, drawing from the Inland Architect (Feb1889); Inland Architect Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago (Digital file #IA1301_0285-0286).