220 Commonwealth was built in 1879 by Goldthwait & Chapin, builders, one of four contiguous houses (214-216-218-220 Commonwealth). 214 and 220 Commonwealth probably originally were matching houses before the upper story addition at 220 Commonwealth, and 216 and 218 Commonwealth probably also were matching houses before the one-story addition at 216 Commonwealth.
The original permit applications for 214 and 220 Commonwealth are dated May 28, 1879, and do not indicate the architect; the permit application for 216-218 Commonwealth (one application for both houses), dated March 28, 1879, indicates “A. S. Bither” (Alfred S. Bither) was the architect.
220 Commonwealth was built in 1879 as the home of Robert C. Mackay and his wife, Charlotte Laura (Lodge) Mackay. They previously had lived at 176 Beacon. He is shown as the owner of 220 Commonwealth on the original building permit application and on the 1883 Bromley map.
Robert Mackay was a shipping merchant in the East India trade, in the firm of Mackay and Coolidge.
Robert and Charlotte Mackay moved to 220 Commonwealth by the 1880-1881 winter season. Their son and daughter-in-law, George H. Mackay and Maria (Starbuck) Mackay, moved to 218 Commonwealth at about the same time. They previously had lived with Robert and Charlotte Mackay at 176 Beacon.
Robert Mackay died in April of 1887. The Heirs of R. C. Mackay are shown as the owners on the 1888 Bromley map.
Charlotte Mackay continued to live at 220 Commonwealth until her death in October of 1891.
220 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1892 and 1893 Blue Books.
By the 1893-1894 winter season, it was the home of George A. Plummer and his wife, Etta (Deland) Plummer. They previously had lived at 72 Huntington. He was a dealer in cloaks and capes.
They continued to live at 220 Commonwealth until his death in March of 1898. By 1899, Etta Plummer and their son, George Amos Plummer, were living in an apartment at 199 Marlborough.
By 1900, 220 Commonwealth was the home of John Franksford Tarbell, a retired naval officer, and his wife, Annie A. (Tower) Tarbell, and Annie Tower’s mother, Mrs. Abigail T. (Belcher) Tower, the widow of Isaac H. Tower. In 1899, they had lived at 377 Beacon. Annie T. Tarbell is shown as the owner on the 1908, 1917, 1928, and 1938 Bromley maps.
John Tarbell died in May of 1905. Annie Tarbell and her mother continued to live at 220 Commonwealth.
Abigail Tower died in February of 1910.
Annie Tarbell continued to live at 220 Commonwealth. At some point prior to 1942, an additional story was added. She also maintained a home in Marblehead Neck.
By 1945, 220 Commonwealth was the home of Robert Bigelow Chapin, Jr., a mining engineer, and his wife, Anne Claire (Malone) Dickens Chapin. They had been married in August of 1944 and 220 Commonwealth probably was their first home together.
In January of 1946, Mrs. Edna Mae (Reynolds) Candage Lovejoy Walsh Grant filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling and doctor’s office into four apartments and a doctor’s office. Edna Grant did not own 220 Commonwealth and real estate dealer Thomas J. Diab was shown as her agent on the filings. Edna Grant was the former wife of Henry (Harry) Wells Candage, the widow of Everett John Lovejoy and Dr. William Martin Walsh, and the former wife of Wallace Edwin Grant.
Shirley T. Shea was the assessed owner of 220 Commonwealth in 1946.
By 1947, 220 Commonwealth was owned by Francis (Frank) G. MacCausland, who was the assessed owner that year. He was an automobile salesman and lived in Reading, where Edna Grant also lived. In 1948, both he and Mrs. Grant moved to 470 Beacon where she operated a lodging house.
By 1948, Edna Grant was the owner of 220 Commonwealth, and was the assessed owner from that year through 1951. She also was the assessed owner of 470 Beacon from 1949 through 1951.
In about 1951, Edna Grant moved from 470 Beacon to one of the apartments at 220 Commonwealth.
On October 1, 1951, Mrs. Grant was arrested and charged with arranging for illegal abortions. Three physicians, including Dr. Luis A. Mendoza, who maintained his offices at 220 Commonwealth, also were arrested.
On November 15, 1951, Edna Grant transferred 220 Commonwealth and her other properties to a trust she established for her benefit with Anna Louise (Day) Hicks as trustee.
Louise Day Hicks was a real estate investor and operator of lodging houses. She and her husband, John Edward Hicks, an engineer, lived in South Boston. She later would become a well known Boston politician. She was elected to the Boston School Committee in 1961 and was an outspoken opponent of using busing to integrate Boston’s schools. In 1967, she was an unsuccessful candidate for Mayor, but in 1969 was elected to the City Council. In 1970, she was elected to the US Congress, but was defeated for re-election in 1972. She was reelected to the City Council in 1973 and 1975, but then lost two successive bids in 1977 and 1981.
By 1953, 220 Commonwealth was owned by Joseph Greenberg. In December of 1953, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from four units and a doctor’s office into five units.
The property subsequently changed hands and by 1984 was owned by real estate investor and broker George P. Demeter. In May of 1984, he converted the property into five condominiums.
In December of 1985, G & S Associates filed for (and subsequently received) permission to combine the units on the first floor and in the basement, and to reduce the number of units from five to four.