234 Commonwealth was designed by architect William Whitney Lewis and built in 1889-1890 by E. H. Cushing, builder, as the home of hide and leather dealer Horace W. Wadleigh and his wife, Mary (Willian) Alden Wadleigh. They previously had lived at 236 Commonwealth, also designed by Lewis, which they had built in 1879. Horace Wadleigh is shown as the owner of 234 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated August 12, 1889, and on the final building inspection report, dated June 4, 1890. They also maintained a home in Cohasset.
Mary Wadleigh purchased the land on which 234 Commonwealth on June 19, 1889, from Emma Frances (Ober) Perkins, the wife of investment banker Aaron Ward Perkins. They lived at 26 Greenwich Park. Emma Perkins had purchased the land on April 14, 1880, from the National Bank of Commerce of Boston. It was part of a parcel of land the bank had acquired on May 18, 1876, from Nathan Matthews, 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 234 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 433, from Exeter to Fairfield.
William L. Alden, Mary Wadleigh’s son by her first marriage, to Warren Alden, lived with them until his death in November of 1905.
Mary Wadleigh died in March of 1911. Horace Wadleigh continued to live at 234 Commonwealth until his death in December of 1913. In his will, he left a bequest of $100 to each of the 90 leather merchants in Boston as a “token of remembrance.”
On June 11, 1914, 234 Commonwealth was purchased from Horace Wadleigh’s estate by Miss Elizabeth Marshall Garritt. Her mother, Elizabeth (Marshall) Garritt, the widow of William B. Garritt, lived with her. They previously had lived at 128 Newbury. They also maintained a home in York Cliffs, Maine.
Mrs. Elizabeth (Marshall) Garritt died in March of 1929.
Miss Elizabeth M. Garritt continued to live at 234 Commonwealth until her death in December of 1942.
On June 28, 1943, 234 Commonwealth was acquired from Elizabeth Garritt’s estate by Miss Lillian Gilbert Bates of Hingham.
A lifelong friend of Elizabeth Garritt, Lillian Bates was the daughter of textile manufacturer and merchant Benjamin Edward Bates and Sarah Chapman (Gilbert) Bates. He was founder of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and the principal donor for the construction of the Central Congregational Church (later Church of the Covenant) at 67 Newbury.
On August 5, 1943, Lillian Bates donated 234 Commonwealth to the Church of the Covenant in her parents’ and Elizabeth Garritt’s memory.
234 Commonwealth was shown as vacant in the 1943 and 1944 Boston City Directories.
In October of 1943, the Church filed for permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a meeting house and lodgings for members of its congregation. It subsequently abandoned the application. In April of 1944, it filed again for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into an assembly hall and lodgings, including the installation of fire escapes to meet egress requirements.
The house was finally occupied by the Church in mid-1945. A June 11, 1945, Boston Globe article described its dedication, noting that it would be “used by 11 organizations in the church as a gathering place for young working and professional people.”
On March 15, 1947, 234 Commonwealth was acquired from The Church of the Covenant Fund by Beta Gamma Epsilon Alumni Incorporated.
It continued to be the Beta Gamma Epsilon fraternity house in 2017.