233 Commonwealth

233 Commonwealth (2015)

Lot 27' x 124.5' (3,362 sf)

Lot 27′ x 124.5′ (3,362 sf)

233 Commonwealth is located on the north side of Commonwealth, between Exeter and Fairfield, with 231 Commonwealth to the east and 235 Commonwealth to the west.

233 Commonwealth was designed by Rotch and Tilden, architects, and built in 1886-1887 by George G. Nichols, builder, one of two contiguous houses (231-233 Commonwealth).

233 Commonwealth was built as the home of banker and former East India shipping merchant William Crowninshield Rogers, a widower.  He previously had lived at 205 Beacon.

He is shown as the owner of 233 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated July 30, 1886.  He lived there until his death in July of 1888.

His brother, Jacob Crowninshield Rogers, who had built 231 Commonwealth in 1885 as his home, is shown as the owner of both 231 and 233 Commonwealth on the 1888 Bromley map.

233 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1889 Blue Book.

By the 1889-1890 winter season, it was the home of Catherine (Delano) Ditson, the widow of music store owner and music publisher Oliver Ditson.  Prior to her husband’s death in December of 1888, they had lived on East Brookline Street.  Charles Henry Ditson (their son) et al, trustees, are shown as the owners on the 1890 and 1898 Bromley maps.

Their daughter, Mary Frances (Ditson) Porter, the widow of lawyer Burr Porter, lived with her.

Catherine Ditson continued to live at 233 Commonwealth until her death in August of 1899.  After her death, it continued to be Mary Porter’s home.  Charles Henry Ditson is shown (no longer as a trustee) as the owner on the 1908 and 1917 Bromley maps.

By 1904, Mary Porter had been joined there by Miss Laliah B. Pingree, who continued to live there with Mrs. Porter until her death in October of 1906.

Mary Porter died in March of 1921.

After Mary Porter’s death, the house was acquired by William Morgan Butler and his wife, Mary Lothrop (Webster) Butler.  They owned and lived at 231 Commonwealth from 1922 and probably acquired 233 Commonwealth at about the same time, probably using it as an annex to their home.  Mary Butler is shown as the owner of both 231 and 233 Commonwealth on the 1928 and 1938 Bromley maps.

William Morgan Butler was a cotton manufacturer and served briefly as a US Senator in 1925 and 1926.

233 Commonwealth is not listed in the 1922-1937 Blue Books, and was shown as vacant in the 1930-1938 City Directories.

In December of 1933, 233 Commonwealth was offered for sale at auction.

233 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

233 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

Architectural rendering of proposed front elevation of 233 Commonwealth (1937), by Henru W. Gore, Jr.; courtesy of the Boston Public Library Arts Department, Blueprint Collection

Architectural rendering of proposed front elevation of 233 Commonwealth (1937), by Henru W. Gore, Jr.; courtesy of the Boston Public Library Arts Department, Blueprint Collection

By 1937, 233 Commonwealth was owned by Sadie E. Green of Dorchester.  She was treasurer of the Reliable Store (women’s furnishings) in South Boston.  In July of 1937, she applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into twelve apartments, including creating a full fifth floor and rebuilding the front with a new façade using red brick and “cast stone.”  The remodeling was designed by architect Henry W. Gore, Jr., and constructed by Meshon and Green, probably a consortium of Barnard Meshon, who was a contractor, and members of the Green family (the address given for Meshon and Green was the same address as for Mrs. Green: 53 Adams, Dorchester).  Plans for the remodeling — including elevations and floor plans — are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN R-2).

As constructed, the façade was made of yellow brick and a complaint was filed by the Park Department.  An agreement was reached that the brick would be painted red, with the joints between the bricks left natural or painted a dark grey in contrast with the brick.  In June of 1938, the Park Department filed another letter of complaint, noting that the entire façade (bricks and joints) had been painted red, and not in the color of red that had been stipulated in the agreement.  The work was subsequently redone and later the paint was removed and the yellow brick allowed to show.

The property changed hands and in November of 1975 was purchased by Betty Bishop and Albert Kasarjian.  In May of 1976, they converted the property into twelve condominiums.