223 Commonwealth was designed by Cabot and Chandler and built in 1883 by Weston & Shepard, masons, and Benjamin. D. Whitcomb & Co., builders. It was built for George Higginson, who is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated May 9, 1883.
George Higginson purchased the land for 223 Commonwealth on April 10, 1883, from Henry Saltonstall, the eastern half of a 52 foot wide parcel that Henry Saltonstall had purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on November 27, 1880.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 223 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Commonwealth and Alley 426, from Exeter to Fairfield.
George Higginson was a retired investment banker, having been a partner in the firm of Lee, Higginson & Co., which he founded with Henry Lee (his brother-in-law) and John C. Lee. He lived at 39 Brimmer Street and appears never to have lived at 223 Commonwealth.
On August 11, 1884, 223 Commonwealth was purchased from George Higginson by Charles Elliott Perkins. He and his wife, Edith (Forbes) Perkins, made it their home. They also maintained homes in Westwood, Massachusetts, and in Burlington, Iowa.
Charles Perkins was president of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad until he retired in 1901.
He died in November of 1907, and on July 21, 1909, his estate and heirs transferred 223 Commonwealth to Edith Perkins. She continued to live there until her death in June of 1925, killed in an earthquake in Santa Barbara, California.
On March 31, 1926, 223 Commonwealth was acquired from Edith Perkins’s estate by the Algonquin Club. In April of 1926, the club applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into an annex to its main clubhouse next door, at 217 Commonwealth, including cutting connecting doors in the party wall between the two buildings.
It remained an annex to the Club until the mid-1970s.
On March 24, 1978, 223 Commonwealth was purchased from the Algonquin Club by Thomas P. McCann and his wife, Joan McCann. They lived in Newton.
As part of the purchase and sale agreement, the McCanns agreed that the Club would have the right of first refusal to repurchase the property or to rent all or part of the property from the McCanns, and also agreed that upon the death of the surviving spouse, the property would be reconveyed to the Club for specified price. On March 14, 2000 (recorded July 20, 2017), the Club and the McCanns agreed to cancel these provisions.
In July of 1978, the McCanns applied for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the property into five apartments, and in April of 1979, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to change the legal occupancy from a club to a five unit apartment building.
The property was assessed as a four-to-six family dwelling until 1992, when it was designated as a combination residential and commercial building. No record of change in use was recorded in the Building Department files through 2016.