198 Commonwealth was designed by Allen and Kenway, architects, and built in 1880 by Hewitt & Webster and William Welch, builders, as the home of housewares merchant William A. Matthews and his wife Annie Bolton (Fay) Matthews. Annie Matthews is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated July 15, 1880, and on the 1883, 1888, 1898, 1908, and 1917 Bromley maps.
William Matthews died in December of 1885.
Annie Matthews continued to live at 198 Commonwealth with their daughters, Anna (Nanna) Bolton Matthews and Alice Maria Carter Matthews, and her unmarried stepsons, William A. Matthews, a real estate dealer, Francis (Frank) H. Matthews, a wool dealer, and Edward Clark Matthews, a wallpaper merchant. William and Frank Matthews were William Matthews’s sons with his first wife, Elizabeth Ryder (Carter) Matthews, who had died in November of 1854; Edward Matthews was his son with his second wife, Caroline Adams (Clark) Matthews, who had died in January of 1862.
Frank Matthews married in August of 1892 to Louise E. Lewis. After their marriage, they lived in Milton.
From about 1897, the Matthews family was joined by Annie Matthews’s nephew, Leroy Burgess Fay, a wool salesman, the son of her deceased brother, William Fay. Leroy Fay continued to live with them until his marriage in January of 1906 to Elizabeth Murphy. After their marriage, they moved to Newton.
Alice M. C. Matthews died in May of 1897 while traveling in Paris. Anna B. Matthews married in August of 1898 to Wallace Bryant. He was a portrait artist and she became a noted artist and sculptress. After their marriage, they moved elsewhere, and by 1901 were living at 9 Exeter, which was owned by her mother.
Edward Matthews married in January of 1914, to Mary Louise Shannon and they moved to Jamaica Plain.
After Annie Matthews’s death, William Matthews moved to 140 Pinckney and 198 Commonwealth became the property of her son-in-law and daughter, Wallace and Annie (Nanna) Bryant. They separated at about this time and Annie Bryant continued to live at 9 Exeter.
Annie Bryant appears to have converted 198 Commonwealth into a lodging house. In December of 1916, a Building Department inspection indicated that alterations had been made in the house and an application had been filed to convert it into a “high class boarding house,” but that no permit had been issued because there was no second means of egress from the fourth floor.
By the 1917-1918 winter season, 198 Commonwealth was the home of Mrs. L. E. Barry, who probably operated it as a lodging house.
By January of 1920, at the time of the US Census, the residents of 198 Commonwealth were all employees of a private school, probably the Guild & Evans School for Girls located at 200 Commonwealth. The school had recently been acquired by Miss Augusta Hortense Minerva Choate, who lived at 200 Commonwealth. Later in 1920, she moved the school to the Eben Jordan estate at 1600 Beacon Street, renaming it the Choate School for Girls. It remained there until 1950.
By 1922, 198 Commonwealth had been converted into the medical offices of Dr. William Phillips Graves and Dr. Frank Pemberton, both of whom were physicians. Dr. Graves, who also was a professor at Harvard Medical School, lived at 244 Marlborough and had maintained his office there in 1921. Dr. Pemberton lived in Brookline and had maintained his offices at 311 Beacon in 1921.
The Annie Matthews Estate continued to be shown as the owner of 198 Commonwealth on the 1928 Bromley map.
Dr. Graves continued to maintain his offices there until his death in January of 1933. After his death, his son, Sidney Chase Graves, also a physician, maintained his practice there until about 1936. Dr. Pemberton and several other physicians also maintained offices there until about 1936.
By 1934, 198 Commonwealth also was the home of Dr. Marshall Kinne Bartlett and Dr. Hugh Carroll Donahue. both physicians. They previously had lived at 524 Commonwealth. Dr. Bartlett maintained his office at 264 Beacon, and Dr. Donahue maintained his office at 520 Commonwealth. By 1935, they had been joined by Dr. Jack Spencer, also a physician.
Marshall Bartlett married in about 1935 to Barbara Hume and they moved to Dedham. Dr. Donahue moved to the Hotel Fensgate at 534 Beacon in about 1937 and Dr. Spencer moved to 129 Bay State Road at about the same time.
By 1937, 198 Commonwealth was owned by the Boston Nursery for Blind Babies. located at 147 South Huntington in Jamaica Plain. The property was left to the Nursery by Annie Matthews, to be transferred to them upon the deaths of her sister, Sarah Maud Fay, who died in January of 1921, and her daughter, Annie (Matthews) Bryant, who died in June of 1933.
In the spring of 1937, 198 Commonwealth was purchased by real estate dealer Edward W. Fuller. The transaction was reported by the Boston Globe on March 21, 1937.
Soon thereafter, he sold the property to Mrs. Jennie J. Gegan, the widow of Charles Gegan, who operated it as a lodging house. She is shown as the owner on the 1938 Bromley map. She previously had lived at 226 Huntington.
She continued to live there until about 1941.
The property changed hands, remaining a lodging house until about 1963.
By the fall of 1963, 198 Commonwealth owned by Newbury Halls, Inc. In September of 1963, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into a dormitory for Newbury College.
By 1968, Back Bay Dormitories owned 198, 200, 202, 204, and 206 Commonwealth and 138 Marlborough. In December of 1986, Back Bay Dormitories transferred all of these properties to Newbury College and liquidated its operations effective the end of the year. Newbury College continued to operate the properties as dormitories.
In the 1990s, Newbury College moved its operations from the Back Bay to Fisher Avenue in Brookline.
In June of 1996, Newbury College sold 198-200-202-204 Commonwealth to 202 Commonwealth, Inc.
In December of 1996. Ronald L. O’Kelley and his wife, Lesley B. O’Kelley, purchased 198 Commonwealth from 202 Commonwealth, Inc. 202 Commonwealth, Inc., retained 200-202-204 Commonwealth, combined the properties, and converted them into eight condominiums in January of 1998.
In April of 1997, the O’Kelleys applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a dormitory into a single-family dwelling. In December of 2002, Ronald O’Kelley transferred his interest in 198 Commonwealth to his wife.
In December of 2003, Lesley O’Kelley entered into a “Preservation Restriction Agreement” with the National Architectural Trust for the purpose of ensuring the preservation of 198 Commonwealth’s exterior.
198 Commonwealth remained assessed as a single-family dwelling in 2014.