227 Commonwealth was designed by Peabody and Stearns, architects, and built in 1884-1885 by Woodbury & Leighton, masons, one of two contiguous houses (225-227 Commonwealth).
225-227 Commonwealth were built in the same basic design, with a three story bow on the west side, a rusticated stone façade on the basement and first story, and a heavy parapet at the roof. 229 Commonwealth, also designed by Peabody and Stearns and built slightly earlier and by a different builder, followed the same basic design. Three houses were distinguished by the use of different materials and different details for the entrance, fenestration, and parapet, variations on the same theme.
227 Commonwealth was built as the home of Mary Eliza (Meads) Bartlett, the widow of shipping merchant Matthew Bartlett. She is shown as the owner of 227 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated June 24, 1884.
Mary Eliza Bartlett’s son and daughter-in-law, Nelson Slater Bartlett and Isabel Hazard (Bullock) Bartlett, lived across the alley at 272 Marlborough. He purchased the land for 227 Commonwealth as trustee under his father’s will. He bought the western 22 feet on March 12, 1884, from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and combined it with a two foot strip to the east, which was part of a 26 foot wide lot he had purchased on March 5, 1884, from Henry Saltonstall (half of a 52 foot wide parcel Henry Saltonstall had purchased from the Commonwealth on November 27, 1880). Nelson Bartlett sold the remaining 24 feet in May of 1884 to Dr. William L. Richardson, who built his home at 225 Commonwealth.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 227 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Commonwealth and Alley 426, from Exeter to Fairfield.
By the 1885-1886 winter season, Mary Eliza Bartlett had made 227 Commonwealth her home. Her unmarried daughters, Fannie Bartlett and Mary Foster Bartlett, lived with her. They previously had lived at 133 Beacon. They also maintained a home in Manchester, Massachusetts.
Mary Eliza Bartlett died in January of 1909. Fannie Bartlett and Mary Foster Bartlett continued to live at 227 Commonwealth and in Manchester.
Fannie Bartlett died in May of 1915. The trust established under Matthew Bartlett’s will continued to own 227 Commonwealth. Matthew and Mary Bartlett’s three children – Nelson, Mary, and Fannie – each held a one-third interest as beneficiaries of the trust. Fannie Bartlett had no children, and, under the terms of the trust, her beneficial interest was allocated equally to Nelson and Mary Bartlett.
Mary Bartlett continued to live at 227 Commonwealth. Nelson Bartlett died in December of 1921. He was a widower and had made his primary residence in Manchester since about 1910, but was living at 227 Commonwealth with his sister at the time of his death.
Nelson Bartlett’s beneficial interest in 227 Commonwealth was divided into five shares. One share was allocated to his sister and remained in the trust, and the other four shares (one-tenth interest each) were distributed to his four children: Elvira (Bartlett) Boardman, the wife of Edwin Augustus Boardman; Matthew Bartlett; Nelson Slater Barlett, Jr.; and Augustus George Bartlett.
Mary Bartlett continued to live at 227 Commonwealth and in Manchester until her death in 1934. Upon her death, the trust distributed her beneficial interest to Nelson Bartlett’s four children.
In September of 1935, prior to taking title to 227 Commonwealth, the Marlborough School filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a secretarial school.
On December 30, 1939, 227 Commonwealth was acquired from Marlborough Schools, Inc., by the Chandler School for Women. It acquired 245 Marlborough, 247 Marlborough, and 261 Marlborough on the same day.
In January of 1944, Chandler School leased 227 Commonwealth to the Philippine government for use as the Philippine Centre. A February 25, 1944, circular described the facility as the official New England information center of the Philippine Commonwealth, an entertainment and recreational center for Filipino service men in the US armed forces and merchant marine, and an educational and social center for Filipino civilian residents of New England. The Center also wrote to the Building Department inquiring as to the procedure for providing temporary lodging for Filipino service men, but it is unclear whether that proposal was pursued.
In May of 1946, Chandler School filed for permission to construct a new fire escape at the rear of the building, indicating that the building’s use would be changed from the Philippine Center back to a private school. The permit was abandoned.
On October 13, 1946, 227 Marlborough was purchased from Chandler School by the Massachusetts Dental Society. In August of 1949, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from “Residence – Philippine Consul General” to offices, with the basement, first, and second floors to be used by the Dental Society, and the third and fourth floors to be leased to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
By 1954, the Dental Society had leased the fourth floor to the Home Life Insurance Company. Following a complaint by a private citizen, the Building Department cited the Society for violation of use, and in March of 1954, it filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy of the fourth floor for use as insurance offices.
In March of 1956, the Society filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the third floor for use by Home Life Insurance. And in December of 1957, the Society filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert half of the second floor for use by Home Life Insurance.
Home Life Insurance continued to lease space at 227 Commonwealth until about 1959, but had moved by 1961.
227 Commonwealth continued to be the Massachusetts Dental Society’s headquarters until about 1967.
On August 15, 1967, 227 Commonwealth was acquired from the Massachusetts Dental Society by the Veterans Association of the First Corps of Cadets, which installed its museum in the basement and upper floors. The museum previously had been located in the First Corps’ armory at Columbus and Arlington, which it sold in 1965.
The property remained the Museum of the First Corps of Cadets in 2016.