20 Gloucester is located on the NW corner of Commonwealth and Gloucester, with 14 Gloucester to the north, across Alley 428, 284 Commonwealth to the south, across Commonwealth, 17 Gloucester to the east, across Gloucester, and 283 Commonwealth to the west.
20 Gloucester (281 Commonwealth) was designed by Peabody and Stearns, architects and built in 1886 by Woodbury & Leighton, builders, for Charles Francis Adams, Jr., and his wife, Mary Hone (Ogden) Adams. He was an attorney and president of the Union Pacific Railroad. During the 1886-1887 winter season, they had lived at 261 Clarendon. They also maintained a residence in Quincy and then in South Lincoln.
Mary Adams is shown as the owner of 20 Gloucester on the original building permit application, dated February 15, 1886, and on the 1888 and 1895 Bromley maps.
In the fall of 1896, 20 Gloucester was purchased from Charles Francis Adams by Washington Butcher Thomas and his wife, Caroline (Wadleigh) Thomas. They previously had lived at 285 Commonwealth.
The October 1, 1896, Boston Globe article on the sale of 20 Gloucester noted that Charles Francis Adams sold the house “for the purpose of erecting for himself a handsome new house on land owned by the Riverbank company on Commonwealth av, just beyond the ‘three roads,’ as the former dwelling was not suited to his present needs.” The article continues to note that the new house will be “planned to give him the large library accommodations and other things which Mr. Adams is desirous of obtaining.” It appears that this new house was not built, inasmuch as, from 1897, Charles Adams only listed his residence in South Lincoln in the City Directories.
Washington Thomas was an executive of the Standard Sugar Refinery, owned by his father, Joseph B. Thomas, and later would become president of the American Sugar Refining Company. A major investor in real estate, in 1895, he built The Marlborough apartment house at 416 Marlborough, and in 1898-1899, he built the Hotel Cambridge at 483-485 Beacon.
20 Gloucester remained the Thomases’ home for the rest of their lives. He is shown as the owner on the 1898, 1908, 1917, and 1928 Bromley maps.
During the 1900-1901 winter season, the Thomases lived elsewhere and 20 Gloucester was the home of rubber manufacturer Robert Dawson Evans and his wife, Maria Antoinette (Hunt) Evans. They previously had lived at The Westminster (southeast corner of St. James and Trinity Place). In the fall of 1901, Evans purchased to 17 Gloucester, across the street, and the Thomases once again were living at 20 Gloucester.
During the 1909-1910 winter season, the Thomases were once again living elsewhere and 20 Gloucester was the home of Walter Denis Denègre and his wife, Bertha (Cobb) Armour Denègre. He was an attorney in New Orleans, where they maintained their primary residence; they also maintained a summer home in Manchester. Walter Denègre had been a classmate of William Thomas at Harvard.
During the 1919-1920 and 1920-1921 winter seasons, the Thomases were joined at 20 Gloucester by their son-in-law and daughter, Samuel Dennis Warren, III, and Helen (Thomas) Warren, and their three children. Samuel Warren was a paper manufacturer in his family’s firm. They previously had lived at 282 Marlborough, and had resumed living there by the 1921-1922 season.
Washington Thomas died in May of 1929. Caroline Thomas continued to live at 20 Gloucester until her death in May of 1939. From about 1936, she was joined there by Miss Helen S. Neil.
The Heirs of Washington B. Thomas are shown as the owners of 20 Gloucester on the 1938 Bromley map.
20 Gloucester was shown as vacant in the 1940 City Directory.
In the spring of 1940, 20 Gloucester was purchased from the Thomas family by St. Philip’s Preparatory School. The transaction was reported in the Boston Globe on May 5, 1940. It continued to be located there until about 1945.
In the fall of 1945, 20 Gloucester was acquired by Thomas N. McDonald and Christine McDonald. The transaction was reported in the Boston Globe on October 14, 1945. Thomas McDonald was president of Webber Dental of Canton, Ohio. In October of 1945, the McDonalds filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into eight doctor’s offices. In July of 1946, they amended their application to add an owner’s suite along with the doctor’s offices.
The property changed hands and in November of 1959, Hunneman & Company, as agents for the owner (who was not identified), filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into eight apartments and one doctor’s office.
By 1969, 20 Gloucester was owned by real estate developer Edward L. Britt. In November of 1969, he converted the property into eight condominium units, the Twenty Gloucester Condominium. It was the first conversion of a residential building into condominiums in Boston.