215 Commonwealth

215 Commonwealth (2015)

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

Lot 28′ x 124.5′ (3,486 sf)

215 Commonwealth is located on the north side of Commonwealth, between Exeter and Fairfield, with 213 Commonwealth to the east and 217 Commonwealth to the west.

215 Commonwealth was designed by Rotch and Tilden, architects, and built in 1883 by David Connery & Co. and S. N. Chesley & Co., builders, as the home of James Lawrence and his wife, Caroline Estelle (Mudge) Lawrence.  They had lived at 82 Marlborough in 1882.

James Lawrence is shown as the owner of 215 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated January 17, 1883, and on the 1883 Bromley map.

James Lawrence owned and operated a farm in Groton.

The Lawrences continued to live at 215 Commonwealth during the 1884-1885 winter season, but moved thereafter.

During the 1885-1886 winter season, 215 Commonwealth was the home of John Forrester Andrew and his wife, Harriet (Thayer) Andrew.  He was a lawyer and future state legislator and US Congressman.  By the 1886-1887 season, they had moved to the new home they had built at 32 Hereford.

By the 1886-1887 winter season, 215 Commonwealth was the Boston home of Edward Livingston Davis and his wife, Maria Louisa (Robbins) Davis.  He is shown as the owner on the 1888, 1898, and 1908 Bromley maps.

Edward Davis was a manufacturer of railroad iron.  Their primary residence was in Worcester, where he had served as Mayor.  They also maintained a summer home in Prides Crossing.

The Davises continued to live at 215 Commonwealth until about 1908, when they made Worcester their year-round home.

215 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1909 and 1910 Blue Books.

215 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

In the fall of 1910, 215 Commonwealth was purchased from Edward Davis by Francis Lee Higginson, Jr., and his wife Mehitable (“Hetty”) Appleton (Sargent) Higginson.  The transaction was reported by the Boston Globe on September 4, 1910.  Hetty S. Higginson is shown as the owner on the 1912 and 1917 Bromley map.  They also maintained a summer home in Wenham.

Francis Lee Higginson was an investment banker with his family’s firm, Lee, Higginson & Company.  From 1906 until 1910, the Higginsons lived in London, where he was a member of Lee Higginson & Company’s London firm.

Hetty Higginson died in June of 1921.

Francis Lee Higginson continued to live at 215 Commonwealth and is shown as the owner on the 1928 Bromley map.

In October of 1930, he married again, to Aileen Muriel Johnstone (who had been listed at 215 Commonwealth in the 1930 US Census, before their marriage, as housekeeper).

Francis and Aileen Higginson continued to live at 215 Commonwealth until about 1936, but had moved to 129 Commonwealth by 1937.

In the spring of 1936, 215 Commonwealth was purchased from Francis Higginson by Gustav Rudquist, a delicatessen owner, and his wife, Ida S. (Lansahl) Rudquist.  The transaction was reported by the Boston Globe on May 3, 1936.  They previously had lived at 1 Bowdoin.

213-215 Commonwealth (2015)

213-215 Commonwealth (2015)

In May of 1936, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house.  He is shown as the owner of 215 Commonwealth on the 1938 Bromley map.

In November of 1936, soon after it was converted, the police arrested the residents of one of the apartments, Mrs. Irene Bostwick, alias Dr. Rene Cote, and Walter D. Simonson, alias Walter Cote, for running what a November 9. 1936, Boston Globe article called a “clearance house” for a large ring of call girls.

Gustav Rudquist died in February of 1950.  Ida Rudquist continued to live and operate a lodging house at 215 Commonwealth until about 1957.

By 1958, 215 Commonwealth had been converted into twelve apartments, although it continued to maintain its legal occupancy as a lodging house.

The property changed hands and by 1973 was owned by Gerald S. Gordon.  He continued to operate it as a lodging house.  In December of 1974, he was cited by the Building Department for failure to change the legal occupancy from a lodging house to twelve apartments.

The property changed hands again, and by March of 1975 was owned by Medanos Inc.  In January of 1979, Medanos Inc. sold the property to Modern Continental Enterprises Inc., and in July of 1979 (after selling the property) Medanos Inc. filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into six apartments, which it indicated was the existing condition.

In August of 1980, Modern Continental Enterprises converted the property into six condominiums.