200 Commonwealth was designed by Allen and Kenway, architects, and built in 1882-1883 by Leander Greeley, carpenter, and James Smith, mason, one of two contiguous houses (200-202 Commonwealth) with unusual rectangular bays with curved sides topped with conical roofs (the conical roof at 202 Commonwealth has been removed).
200 Commonwealth was built as the home of John James French, a wholesale dealer in dyestuffs and paints, and his wife, Frances Maria (Stratton) French, and 202 Commonwealth was built as the home of his mother-in-law, Sarah Hollis (Piper) Stratton, the widow of Charles Edwin Stratton. John French is shown as the owner on the original building permit application for 200 Commonwealth, and Sarah Stratton is shown as the owner on the original application for 202 Commonwealth. Both permit applications were dated June 23, 1882.
200 Commonwealth was built on a lot 26 feet wide originally sold by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by a privately negotiated contract (not at public auction) in 1880. The contract probably was with Annie (Fay) Matthews, the wife of William A. Matthews, Jr., who had purchased the 26 foot lot to the east in June of 1880. In December of 1880, she purchased the eastern six inches of the lot at 200 Commonwealth so that the party wall for her house at 198 Commonwealth would be entirely on her land. On July 24, 1882, John French purchased the strip of land, with the western half of the party wall on it, from Annie Matthews. He subsequently built 200 Commonwealth and on October 2, 1883, after the house was completed, he purchased the remaining 25 feet 6 inches of land from the Commonwealth (presumably having acquired the right to purchase it from Annie Matthews).
Click here for an index to the deeds for 200 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 433, from Exeter to Fairfield.
By the 1883-1884 winter season, John and Frances French had made 200 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived at 171 West Brookline.
On January 30, 1884, John French transferred 200 Commonwealth to his brothers-in-law, Charles Edwin Stratton and Solomon Piper Stratton, as trustees.
John French died in January of 1885 and the trust established before his death was merged with a trust established under his will for the benefit of his wife and children, with his brother and business partner, Frederick William French, named as an additional trustee. Frederick W. French also moved to 200 Commonwealth. He was unmarried and previously had lived at 5 Mt. Vernon Place.
Frances French continued to live at 200 Commonwealth with her brother-in-law and her five children: Hollis French, Allen French, Charles Stratton French, Philip French, and Helen French.
Hollis French, a consulting engineer, married in June of 1896 to Helen Goodwin and they moved to 159 Newbury. Allen French, an author, teacher, and historian, married in April of 1898 to Ellen Richmond Dorrance and they moved to Concord, Massachusetts.
Frederick W. French died in July of 1990. Frances French and her unmarried children – Charles, Philip, and Helen – continued to live at 200 Commonwealth.
Charles French, a lawyer, married in March of 1905 to Isabel Rockwood Mauro and they moved to Brookline. Helen French married in April of 1907 to John Edward Brooks, a note broker, and they moved to Milton.
Philip French continued to live with his mother at 200 Commonwealth. He was vice president of the Wire-Bound Packing Case Company and later a real estate and insurance broker.
Frances French died in September of 1911. Philip French continued to live at 200 Commonwealth during the 1911-1912 winter season, but moved thereafter to 845 Boylston.
200 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1913-1915 Blue Books.
On May 31, 1913, 200 Commonwealth was acquired from the trust created under John French’s will by Mrs. Susan (Fitzpatrick) Sherry, former wife of Thomas Sherry (Sharey). She was a real estate conveyancer and lived at 386 Newbury.
In September of 1915, the Foster Wharf Company filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into a school.
On October 16, 1916, 200 Commonwealth was acquired from Caroline Foster by the Harvard Mutual Foundation, formed in 1913 to provide funds for general purposes in support of Harvard College.
By 1916, 200 Commonwealth had been leased by the Guild & Evans School for Girls, operated by Miss Fannie Carleton Guild and Miss Jeannie (Jennie) Carter Evans. It previously had been located briefly at 255 Newbury and before that at 29 Fairfield. Miss Guild and Miss Evans continued to live at 29 Fairfield.
By 1920, the school had been acquired by Miss Augusta Hortense Minerva Choate, who had been the assistant principal at Guild & Evans. At the time of the 1920 US Census, taken in January of 1920, she was living at 200 Commonwealth, and the school’s non-teaching staff (enumerated as servants) are shown as living both there and at 198 Commonwealth. Later that year, she moved the school to the Eben Jordan estate at 1600 Beacon Street in Brookline, renaming it the Choate School for Girls. It remained there until 1950.
In June of 1920, 200 Commonwealth was leased by the Boston Masonic Club as its headquarters. In July of 1921, it purchased and subsequently moved to 448 Commonwealth.
By the 1922-1923 winter season, 200 Commonwealth was the home of Elizabeth Wakefield (Cleaves) Storrs, the widow of attorney Leslie K. Storrs, and their daughter, Helen Emma Storrs. They previously had lived in Jamaica Plain. The continued to live at 200 Commonwealth during the 1927-1928 winter season, but moved thereafter to Brookline.
On October 25, 1929, 200 Commonwealth was acquired from the Harvard Mutual Foundation by Mrs. Eva Elizabeth (Locke) Stanton, the former wife of Lyle F. Stanton, who operated it as a lodging house for college and working girls. She previously had lived at 88 Gainsborough. She continued to live and operate a lodging house at 200 Commonwealth until about 1933, when she moved to 117 Marlborough.
On July 15, 1933, the Home Savings Bank foreclosed on its mortgage to Susan Sherry, which had been assumed by subsequent owners of 200 Commonwealth, and took possession of the property.
200 Commonwealth was shown as vacant in the 1934 City Directory, and was not listed in the 1935 directory.
By 1936, 200 Commonwealth was the home of William J. Lowery and his wife, Agnes J. (Johnston) Lowery, who operated it as a lodging house. They previously had lived at 336 Commonwealth. They continued to live at 200 Commonwealth in 1937, but had moved to an apartment at 362 Commonwealth by 1938.
By 1938, 200 Commonwealth was the home of Gertrude Evelyn (Vincent) Copeland Newcomb, the former wife of Robert Fredrick Copeland and the widow of William Newcomb, who operated it as a lodging house. She previously had lived in Quincy. She continued to live at 200 Commonwealth until about 1940.
The house was shown as vacant in the 1941-1943 City Directories and was not listed in the 1941-1943 Lists of Residents.
On April 5, 1943, 200 Commonwealth was acquired from the Home Savings Bank by Irving John Kennedy, Jr., and his wife, Mary Beryl (Smith) Kennedy, who continued to operate it as a lodging house. They previously had lived in Revere.
In April of 1947, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into a lodging house and two apartments. In March of 1949, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to add more kitchens and bathrooms, and convert the property into a lodging house with four apartments. And in November of 1954, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert it into eleven apartments.
In about 1959, the Kennedys separated. Beryl Kennedy continued to live in an apartment at 200 Commonwealth until about 1962.
On October 31, 1963, 200 Commonwealth was acquired from James Ross by Arnold Samuel Schutzberg, a defense industry engineer, and his wife, Frances Poger (Leve) Schutzberg. In June of 1965, they applied for permission to convert the property from eleven apartments into a lodging house for 48 people (probably a dormitory).
On August 19, 1965, before completing the conversion, the Schutzbergs sold the property to Back Bay Dormitories, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Newbury College, which converted the house into a dormitory for 38 students and an apartment for the house director.
By 1968, Back Bay Dormitories owned 198, 200, 202, 204, and 206 Commonwealth and 138 Marlborough. On December 29, 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.
On June 28, 1996, Newbury College sold 198-200-202-204 Commonwealth to 202 Commonwealth, Inc. (Enrique Darer, president, and Arthur Scheinholz, treasurer).
202 Commonwealth, Inc., sold 198 Commonwealth in December of 1996. It retained 200-202-204 Commonwealth and combined them into a single building.
On January 16, 1998, it converted the combined property into 8 condominium units, the 202 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.