220 Commonwealth was built in 1879-1880 by Samuel T. Goldthwait & C. E. Chapin, masons, one of four contiguous houses (214-216-218-220 Commonwealth). As originally built, 214 and 220 Commonwealth were matching houses and 216 and 218 Commonwealth were matching houses. All four houses are shown as the being same height on the 1887 Sanborn map. Additional stories were added to 216 Commonwealth and 220 Commonwealth by the late 1890s, as shown on the 1898 Bromley map.
The original permit applications for 214 and 220 Commonwealth, dated May 28, 1879, do not indicate the architect; the permit application for 216-218 Commonwealth (one application for both houses), dated March 28, 1879, indicates Alfred S. Bither was the architect. It appears likely that he also designed 214 and 220 Commonwealth.
220 Commonwealth was built in 1879 as the home of Robert Caldwell Mackay and his wife, Charlotte Langdon (Lodge) Mackay. He is shown as the owner of 220 Commonwealth on the original building permit application.
Robert Mackay purchased the land for 220 Commonwealth on April 26, 1879, from the National Bank of Commerce of Boston. That same month, his son, George Henry McKay, acquired the land to the east on which he built 216-218 Commonwealth. Both lots were part of a parcel the bank had acquired on May 18, 1876, from Nathan Matthews, which, in turn, was part of a larger tract originally purchased by Nathan Matthews on January 2, 1871, from David Sears, Jr., Frederick R. Sears, and Knyvet Sears.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 220 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 1880-1881 winter season, Robert and Charlotte Mackay had made 220 Commonwealth their home. George Mackay and his wife, Maria (Starbuck) Mackay, moved to 218 Commonwealth at about the same time. They all previously had lived at 176 Beacon.
Robert Mackay was a shipping merchant in the East India trade, in the firm of Mackay and Coolidge.
He died in April of 1887 and 220 Commonwealth was inherited by his two sons, William Mackay and George Mackay. On May 26, 1887, they transferred their interests to their mother, who 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.
On November 5, 1892, 220 Commonwealth was purchased from Charlotte Mackay’s estate by George Amos Plummer, a dealer in cloaks and capes. He and his wife, Etta (Deland) Plummer, made it their home. They previously had lived at 72 Huntington.
The Plummers did not move to 220 Commonwealth until the 1893-1894 winter season, and it appears likely that they remodeled the house to add another story, prior to taking up residence (the additional story had been added by 1898).
The Plummers 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.
On April 1, 1899, 220 Commonwealth was purchased from Etta Plummer by Annie A. (Tower) Tarbell, the wife of John Franksford Tarbell, and her mother, Abigail (Abby) T. (Belcher) Tower, the widow of Isaac H. Tower. They all previously had lived at 377 Beacon. John Tarbell was a retired naval officer.
John Tarbell died in May of 1905. Annie Tarbell and her mother continued to live at 220 Commonwealth.
On March 16, 1909, Abby Tower transferred her interest to her daughter.
On January 2, 1945, 220 Commonwealth was purchased from Annie Tarbell’s estate by real estate dealer Howard S. Cosgrove, and on January 22, 1945, it was acquired form him by Robert Bigelow Chapin, Jr., a mining engineer, and his wife, Anne Claire (Malone) Dickens Chapin. They had married in August of 1944. By 1946, they had moved to 291 Beacon.
On November 30, 1945, 220 Commonwealth was acquired from the Chapins by Shirley T. Shea. On the same day, it was acquired from her by Francis (Frank) Greene MacCausland of Stoneham.
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. She 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. She lived in Reading and real estate dealer Thomas J. Diab is shown as her agent on the filings.
On June 27, 1947, Frank MacCausland transferred 220 Commonwealth to Edna Grant. He continued to live in Stoneham, but by 1948 had moved to Reading. In that year, both he and Mrs. Grant moved to 470 Beacon, where she operated a lodging house.
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.
On November 26, 1952, 220 Commonwealth was acquired from Louise Day Hicks by Joseph M. 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 changed hands and on November 25, 1968, 220 Commonwealth was acquired by real estate dealer George P. Demeter.
On May 29, 1984, he converted the property into five condominium units, the 220 Commonwealth Condominium.
In December of 1985, G & S Associates, owners of the two units on the ground floor and first floor, filed for (and subsequently received) permission to combine the units and to reduce the number of units from five to four.