184-186-188 Commonwealth were designed by Henry S. McKay (MacKay) and Frank Warren Smith (McKay and Smith), architects, in 1889-1890.
184 Commonwealth was built first, in 1889 as a six-unit apartment building, by Benjamin F. Denning, mason and builder. The original owner was Frank Warren Smith’s mother, Jane Ludlow (Ross) Smith Palmer. She is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated May 16, 1889, and continued to be shown as the owner on the 1890 Bromley map.
Jane Palmer was the widow of Holland Smith, a merchant, who had died in June of 1863, and of Dr. Frederic N. Palmer, a physician. Dr. Palmer had died in May of 1886, having jumped from the steamer John Brooks, bound for Portland, Maine, with Jane Palmer’s four year old grandson, Wendell Smith. Jane Palmer and Frank Warren Smith lived at 226 West Chester Park (Massachusetts Avenue). They moved to 184 Commonwealth after it was completed. They continued to live there during the 1891-1892 winter season, but moved thereafter to Brookline.
186-188 Commonwealth, a matching double-wide building with fifteen units, was built in 1890-1891 by Coon & Hall, masons and builders. The original permit application was filed on May 13, 1890, and proposed a ten family structure at 186 Commonwealth, with Henry McKay and Frank Smith as the owners. The application was abandoned and a new one proposing a fifteen family structure at 186-188 Commonwealth was submitted on June 20, 1890, by Henry McKay, Frank Smith, and Albert Ivins Croll, a yarn merchant. They are shown as the owners on the final building inspection report, dated October 23, 1891.
Jane Palmer continued to be shown as the owner of 184 Commonwealth on the 1895 Bromley map; William H. Hill et al, trustees, are shown as the owners of 186-188 Commonwealth.
In the spring of 1896, Ernest G. A. Isenbeck, a real estate dealer, purchased 184 Commonwealth from Jane Palmer. The sale was reported in the Boston Globe on May 22, 1896.
By 1898, 184 Commonwealth was the property of Francis William Lawrence, president of the Brookline National Bank and the Globe Gas-Light Company of Boston. He is shown as the owner on the 1898 Bromley map; William Hill et al, trustees, continued to be shown as the owners of 186-188 Commonwealth.
In 1901, Joseph S. Fay, Jr., acquired 184 Commonwealth from Francis Lawrence and 186-188 Commonwealth from William Hill et al, trustees. He is shown as the owner of 184-186-188 Commonwealth on the 1908 Bromley map. He died in January of 1912, and his heirs are shown as the owners on the 1912 and 1917 maps.
On December 18, 1919, a portion of 188 Commonwealth was destroyed by fire. At that time, 184-186-188 Commonwealth had a total of 35 apartments. The repairs to the building were designed by architects Appleton and Stearns, successors to Peabody and Stearns.
In October of 1925, the Fay Estate purchased 190 Commonwealth, a single-family dwelling.
On the 1928 and 1938 Bromley maps, Joseph S. Fay et al, trustees, are shown as the owners of 190 Commonwealth, and the New England Trust Company (trustee under Joseph S. Fay, Jr.’s will), is shown as the owner of 184-186-188 Commonwealth.
In December of 1929, the New England Trust Company applied for (and subsequently received) permission to cut connecting doors between 188 and 190 Commonwealth. Although it had been joined with 188 Commonwealth, 190 Commonwealth appears to have remained a single-family dwelling during most of the 1930s.
By 1940, 184-186-188-190 Commonwealth were owned by A. M. Sonnabend Properties. In March of 1940, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to change the zoning status of the property from an apartment hotel to an apartment house, and also to increase the number of units in 184-186-188 Commonwealth from 35 to 44.
The property subsequently changed hands and in April of 1952 was purchased by Murray R. Fine, trustee of the Abbotsford Realty Trust. In March of 1954, he filed an affidavit with the Building Department verifying that the occupancy of 190 Commonwealth was ten units when he purchased the property, and had been leased as such ever since.
The property changed hands and in May of 1979 was purchased by Kevin O’Reilly and Stephen V. Miller, trustees of the 174-178 Commonwealth Renewal Trust, who transferred the property to themselves as trustees of 184-190 Commonwealth Renewal Trust.
In October of 1979, they converted the property into fifty condominium units: 41 in 184-186-188 Commonwealth and nine in 190 Commonwealth.