238 Commonwealth was designed by architect George A. Avery and built in 1879-1880 by William Hunt, carpenter, and Vinal & Dodge, masons, one of two contiguous houses (238-240 Commonwealth). As originally built, 238 and 240 Commonwealth were designed as a symmetrical pair, with 238 Commonwealth on a 20 foot lot and 240 Commonwealth on a 29 foot lot. 240 Commonwealth was demolished in 1903.
238 Commonwealth was built as the home of real estate agent Charles B. Wilson and his wife, Sarah Diana (Turner) Wilson. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated May 7, 1879.
Sarah Wilson purchased the land for 238 Commonwealth from the National Bank of Commerce of Boston on April 24, 1880, after the house was substantially completed. It was part of a parcel that National Bank of Commerce 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 238 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 433, from Exeter to Fairfield.
Charles Wilson died in July of 1885. Sarah Wilson continued to live at 238 Commonwealth.
From the 1888-1889 winter season, Sarah Wilson was living at the Hotel Vendôme and 238 Commonwealth was the home of iron and steel manufacturer Austin Augustus Wheelock and his wife, Fannie Smart (Coverly) Wheelock. They also maintained a home in Waltham. They had lived at the Hotel Vendome during the previous season and, before that, had lived at 232 Commonwealth until about 1886.
The Wheelocks continued to live at 238 Commonwealth during the 1890-1891 season. During the 1891-1892 season, Sarah Wilson had resumed living there, but the Wheelocks were living there again during the next season. They moved thereafter and Mrs. Wilson was there again by the 1893-1894 season. She continued to live there until her death in April of 1895.
On November 15, 1895, 238 Commonwealth was purchased from Sarah Wilson’s estate by George Robert White. He was managing partner in the Potter Drug and Chemical Company (manufacturers of Cuticura soap) and a real estate investor. He lived with his brother-in-law and sister, Frederick and Harriet (White) Bradbury, at 197 Marlborough and later at 285 Commonwealth. He also maintained a home, Lilliothea, at Smith’s Point in Manchester.
238 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1896-1899 Blue Books.
During the 1899-1900 winter season, it was the home of George White’s sister, Mary Emma (White) Sullivan. She was the wife of Edward Sullivan, a lawyer, from whom she was separated and who died in January of 1907.
The house was not listed in the 1901-1904 Blue Books, but by the 1904-1905 winter season, it was Mrs. Sullivan’s home once again (she had spent the previous season at the Hotel Vendôme).
She continued to live at 238 Commonwealth through the 1907-1908 winter season, but spent the next season at the Hotel Vendome (238 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1909 Blue Book). She returned to 238 Commonwealth for the 1909-1910 season, but by mid-1910 she was elsewhere and spent the 1910-1911 winter season at the Hotel Vendome.
By May of 1910, at the time of the US Census, 238 Commonwealth was the home of James Bailey Richardson, a judge of the Superior Court, and his wife, Lucy Cushing (Gould) Richardson. They had lived at 231 Newbury during the 1909-1910 winter season and were living there again by the 1910-1911 season (he died in Orford, New Hampshire, in August of 1911).
238 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1911 Blue Book.
Mary Sullivan had resumed living at 238 Commonwealth by the 1911-1912 winter season and continued to live there until her death in July of 1916.
On August 11, 1916, George White transferred 238 Commonwealth to his remaining sister, Harriet M. (White) Bradbury. He continued to live at 285 Commonwealth with her and her husband. That month, she applied for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the interior of 238 Commonwealth.
The house was not listed in the 1917 Blue Book.
By the 1917-1918 winter season, 238 Commonwealth was the home of Dr. George Hamlin Washburn, a physician. He was a widower and his mother, Henrietta Loraine (Hamlin) Washburn, the widow of George Washburn, lived with him. They previously had lived at 377 Marlborough.
By the 1926-1927 winter season, Dr. Washburn’s oldest son, George Edward Washburn, a bond salesman, had joined Dr. Washburn and his mother at 238 Commonwealth.
Henrietta (Hamlin) Washburn died in August of 1928. Dr. Washburn and his son continued to live at 238 Commonwealth during the 1929-1930 winter season. By the 1930-1931 season, Dr. Washburn was living at the Maryland Apartments at 512 Beacon.
The house was not listed in the 1931 Blue Book.
Harriet (White) Bradbury had died in April of 1930, and on March 2, 1931, 238 Commonwealth was acquired from her estate by Harriet Inez (Gray) Carberry, the wife of Clifton Benjamin Carberry. They previously had lived in Cambridge.
Clifton Carberry was managing editor of the Boston Post.
Clifton Carberry died in June of 1940. Harriet Carberry continued to live at 238 Commonwealth until about 1941.
The house was shown as vacant in the 1942 and 1943 City Directories.
On July 31, 1942, 238 Commonwealth was purchased from Harriet Carberry by real estate dealer Frederick E. Ordway, and on the same day he conveyed the property to real estate investor Miss Bertha Evelyn Cohen of Cambridge. The deed was not recorded until December 31, 1951, and he remained the assessed owner through 1951.
In August of 1942, Frederick Ordway filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a single-family dwelling and lodging house.
In May of 1946, Bertha Cohen also acquired 240 Commonwealth.
Bertha Cohen died in February of 1965. In her obituary, published February 2, 1965, and a profile article published on February 7, 1965, the Boston Globe noted that she had come to the United States from Poland as a young girl, first had worked as a milliner in Roxbury and then at Chandler’s Department Store, and then began buying property. She ultimately owned a large number of properties in Cambridge and Boston, and was “known as the woman ‘who owns Harvard Square.’“
On October 20, 1970, 238 Commonwealth and 240 Commonwealth were acquired from Bertha Cohen’s estate by real estate developer Max Wasserman, who transferred them on the same day to his affiliated organization, Jacet Construction Company.
On December 31, 1970, 238 and 240 Commonwealth were purchased from Jacet Construction by Anthony P. Baker and William C. Kobin, trustees of the 238-240 Trust.
On December 22, 1976, 238 and 240 Commonwealth were purchased from the South Boston Savings Bank by Joseph Jokton DeMarco. He and his wife, Ute D. (Brammer) DeMarco lived in Newton. They owned and operated the Boston School of Modern Languages, located at 1 Arlington.
In May of 1989, Joseph DeMarco filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 238 Commonwealth from a lodging house into five apartments. To implement the change, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission from the Rent Equity Board removing existing restrictions on the property, arguing that although it had been granted legal use as a lodging house in 1942, it had, in fact, consisted of eight units, each with its own bathroom and kitchen, and therefore functioned as an apartment house rather than as a lodging house.
Joseph Jokton DeMarco died in November of 1994, and 238 and 240 Commonwealth were inherited by Ute DeMarco. She continued as president of the Boston School of Modern Languages, by then located in Roslindale. In October of 1998, she married again, to Count Jochen von Haller.
On October 31, 2008, Ute De Marco Von Haller transferred 238 and 240 Commonwealth to herself as trustee of the Ute De Marco Von Haller Revocable Trust. She died in August of 2011.
238 Commonwealth remained an apartment house, assessed as a four- to six-family dwelling, in 2017.