240 Commonwealth was designed by Chapman and Frazer, architects, and built in 1903-1904, replacing an earlier townhouse on the same site.
Architectural plans — including elevations, piling plans, floor plans, and framing plans — are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN A-81).
The new house was built as the home of Rollin Heber Allen and his wife, Sarah Bartlett (Spencer) Allen. They previously had lived at 179 Newbury. Rollin Allen is shown as the owner of 240 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated October 13, 1903, and Sarah B. Allen is shown as the owner on the 1908, 1917, and 1928 Bromley maps.
Rollin Allen was a real estate investor and broker. He was the owner of the Castle Square Theatre on Tremont and the managing director of the Castle Square Opera Company.
The Allens’ two children, Herbert Spencer Allen, a lawyer, and Ruth Allen, lived with them. Herbert Allen married in May of 1920 to Katherine (Kathryn) E. Sheehan; after their marriage, they lived at 240 Commonwealth with his parents and sister.
Rollin Allen died in October of 1925.
In the mid- to late 1920s, Herbert and Katherine Allen operated Mansfield Laboratories, manufacturers of medicinal crackers (including Agar Agar Wafers, a laxative). Herbert Allen also operated the Hotel Arlington at 423 Tremont (at Arlington).
In 1929, Herbert and Katherine Allen separated and she sued him for separate maintenance. They had were living together again by mid-1930 and had moved to an apartment at 405 Marlborough. By 1931, however, it appears they were separated again, and he was again living at 240 Commonwealth with his mother and sister, Ruth.
They moved soon thereafter, and the house was shown as vacant in the 1932 City Directory.
In mid-1932, 240 Commonwealth became the Boston School of Interior Decoration and the home of William B. Summers, the school’s director. He previously had lived at 140 Newbury. The school offered professional interior decoration courses, homemaking and cultural courses, and European travel courses.
The School continued to operate at 240 Commonwealth until about 1937.
By 1938, 240 Commonwealth was owned by Jeanette E. Lerner. In February of 1938, she filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into nine apartments. In August of 1939, she applied for (and subsequently received) permission to increase the number of units from nine to ten.
240 Commonwealth was shown as vacant in the 1938 and 1939 City Directories.
As of 2014, 240 Commonwealth continued to be an apartment house, the Buckingham Business Apartments, offering studio, one bedroom and two bedroom furnished units for rent on a weekly, monthly, and longer-term basis.
240 Commonwealth (Demolished)
When 240 Commonwealth was built in 1904, it replaced an earlier townhouse designed by architect George A. Avery and built in 1879 by William Hunt and Vinal & Dodge, builders, one of two contiguous houses (238-240 Commonwealth). It was built as the home of Dr. William Henry Baker, a physician, and his wife, Charlotte Ann (Ball) Baker. They previously lived at 24 Worcester Square, the home of her mother, Emeline Ball, the widow of Jonas Ball.
William Baker is shown as the owner of 240 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated May 7, 1879. The estate of Jonas Ball is shown as the owner on the 1883 Bromley map.
In October of 1883, 240 Commonwealth was acquired from the Bakers by Henry G. Parker and his wife, Lucy Josephine (Brown) Parker. They previously had lived at 235 Beacon. Lucy J. Parker is shown as the owner of 240 Commonwealth on the 1888 and 1898 Bromley maps.
Henry Parker was editor and publisher of the Saturday Evening Gazette.
Henry Parker died in May of 1892. Lucy Parker continued to live at 240 Commonwealth until her death in October of 1902.
The house was razed soon thereafter and replaced by the new home built for Rollin H. Allen.