226 Commonwealth was built in 1881-1882 by building contractor Asa Harden Caton on land owned by wallpaper merchant Charles Henry Hayden, probably for speculative sale. Asa Caton is shown as the owner in the index to the final building inspection reports for 1882 (the actual report is no longer available).
Charles Hayden purchased the lot for 226 Commonwealth on October 1, 1881, from Henry Detrick Yerxa, a grocer and tea dealer who lived in North Cambridge. It was the eastern 25 feet of a 26 foot wide lot he had purchased on November 1, 1879, from the National Bank of Commerce of Boston. He had sold the western one foot strip of land in March of 1881 to Charles W. Parker, who combined it with other land and built his home at 228 Commonwealth. The lot purchased by Henry Yerxa was 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 226 Commonwealth.
Charles Hayden was unmarried and lived at 12 East Brookline. He does not appear to have lived in the house once it was completed.
On June 5, 1883, 226 Commonwealth was was purchased from Charles Hayden by Martha Howard (Thurston) Carter, the wife of Charles Myrick Carter. They previously had lived at 47 East Newton.
Charles Carter was president of the Maverick Oil Company.
He died in March of 1897. Martha Carter and their two daughters, Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) Carter and Nellie Parney Carter, continued to live at 226 Commonwealth.
Martha Carter died in December of 1902. Lizzie and Nellie Carter continued to live at 226 Commonwealth during the 1910-1911 winter season, but moved thereafter to the Hotel Touraine (southeast corner of Boylston and Tremont).
Lizzie Carter died in 1912. Nellie Carter continued to live at the Hotel Touraine and then at the Ritz-Carlton, where she died in January of 1933. Left a large fortune by her parents and sister (on May 15, 1915, the Boston Globe reported that she had the “distinction of paying the largest individual personal tax in Boston for 1914”), she was known for her quiet generosity to her friends and to the working men and women with whom she came in contact. A March 25, 1933, in The Spokesman-Review article following her death claimed “every day she withdrew $1,000 from the bank; by sundown it was gone. … Everyone she came in contact with usually received a handsome gift. … at Christmas time, and often on other holidays, she gave every employee [of the hotel] down to the lowest bus-boy, gifts of gold which usually were about the equivalent of a week’s salary.” When she died, she left generous bequests to friends, employees and others who had helped her, and many public charities; she left her ten first cousins more nominal amounts and several of them challenged the will (they ultimately settled for unspecified amounts).
After Nellie and Lizzie Carter moved to the Hotel Touraine in 1911, 226 Commonwealth appears to have been vacant and was not listed in the 1912-1914 Blue Books.
On October 31, 1913, 226 Commonwealth was purchased from Nellie Carter and the estate of Lizzie Carter by Harriet (French) Swain, the wife of Dr. Howard Townsend Swain, an obstetrician. They previously had lived at 68 Marlborough. They also maintained a home in Cohasset.
Howard Swain died in December of 1936. Harriet Swain continued to live at 226 Commonwealth until about 1946, when she moved to an apartment at 401 Beacon.
On February 28, 1947, 226 Commonwealth was purchased from Harriet Swain by Winthrop Parkway, Inc., owned by attorney and real estate dealer Louis Theran. In March of 1947, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into six apartments. On April 15, 1948, Winthrop Parkway transferred the property to Theran Realty, Inc.
On January 7, 1959, 226 Commonwealth was purchased from Theran Realty by John Adam Sulmonetti. He and his wife, Geraldine (Goldsmith) Sulmonetti, lived in Wellesley.
On June 30, 1960, 226 Commonwealth was purchased from John Sulmonetti by Stanley Markow, trustee of the Parker Realty Trust.
On September 30, 1963, 226 Commonwealth was purchased from Stanley Markow by Helen (Helene) (Hios) Coste, the widow of Nicholas Coste. She lived in Westwood. On December 29, 1964, it acquired from Helen Coste by her son-in-law and daughter, Harry (Aristides) M. Angelus and Despina Tessie (Coste) Angelus. They also lived in Westwood.
On March 1, 1965, 226 Commonwealth was acquired from the Angeluses by James F. Thomson and his wife, Judith (Jarvis) Thomson, both professors of philosophy at MIT. They lived in one of the apartments.
The property changed hands and on August 1, 1978, was purchased by John V. O’Neil, trustee of the 226 Commonwealth Avenue Realty Trust.
In October of 1978, John O’Neil applied for (and subsequently received) permission to reduce the number of units from six to five.
On January 17, 1979, he converted the property into five condominium units, the 226 Commonwealth Condominium.