245 Commonwealth was designed by William Whitney Lewis, architect, and built by William H. Sayward, builder, in 1877-1878 for East India shipping merchant Nathaniel Henry Emmons, Jr., and his wife, Eleanor Gassett (Bacon) Emmons. They previously had lived in Jamaica Plain. They also maintained a home in Falmouth.
Nathaniel Emmons had purchased the land for 245 Commonwealth on December 1, 1870, prior to his marriage in June of 1871 to Eleanor Bacon, and transferred the land to her on May 17, 1877. He also owned the lot to the west, where 247 Commonwealth would be built. In March of 1878, as his home at 245 Commonwealth was nearing completion, he sold the lot at 247 Commonwealth to Uriah Coffin, who built his home there. Narhaniel Emmons purchased both lots from a real estate investment trust formed by John Templeman Coolidge, Franklin Evans, and Charles Henry Parker. The lot was part of one of several parcels the trust purchased from the Boston Water Power Company on January 29, 1866. The trust subsequently subdivided the parcels into lots, which it sold to investors and builders, who then frequently resold the lots to others.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 245 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Commonwealth and Alley 427, from Fairfield to Gloucester.
During the 1885-1886 winter season, the Emmonses were living elsewhere and 245 Commonwealth was the home of William Eliot Sparks and his wife, Harriet Augusta (Mason) Sparks. They had lived at 183 Commonwealth during the previous season. Their primary residence was in Taunton, where he was associated with his father-in-law’s machine works and where he died in September of 1886.
During the 1890-1891 winter season, the Emmonses were traveling abroad and 245 Commonwealth was the home of George Lombard Williams and his wife, Anna (Addicks) Williams. Their son, Gibson Tenney Williams, lived with them. George Williams was a leather merchant in Buffalo, and Gibson Williams was a student at Harvard in the Class of 1891.
Nathaniel and Eleanor Emmons were living at 245 Commonwealth again by 1891-1892 season.
Eleanor Emmons died in December of 1891. Nathaniel Emmons and their six children — Robert Wales Emmons, Eleanor Bacon Emmons, Susan Emmons, William Bacon Emmons, Nathaniel Franklin Emmons, and Mary Ann Wales Emmons — continued to live at 245 Commonwealth.
During the 1900-1901 winter season, the Emmons family was living elsewhere and 245 Commonwealth was the home of Richard Dudley Sears and his wife Eleanor (Cochrane) Sears. During the 1898-1899 winter season, they had lived at 257 Commonwealth.
Richard Dudley Sears was a real estate trustee. In 1881, he had been the first American men’s singles champion in lawn tennis, and was the winner of that title for each of the six following years.
In May of 1901, the Searses purchased and subsequently moved to 232 Beacon.
By the 1901-1902 winter season, Nathaniel Emmons and his five unmarried children were once again living at 245 Commonwealth.
Mary Ann Wales Emmons married in June of 1905 to John Parkinson, a stock and bond broker, and they subsequently lived with his father at 160 Beacon. Susan Emmons, married in October of 1907 to attorney Irvin McDowell Garfield, son of President James A. Garfield, and they moved to an apartment at 409 Marlborough and then to 355 Beacon. Nathaniel Franklin Emmons, a wool merchant, married in November of 1907 to Elizabeth Prescott Lawrence and moved to Concord. William Bacon Emmons moved to Pomfret, Connecticut, where he owned a farm.
Eleanor Emmons married in September of 1909 to Channing Chamberlain Simmons, a physician. After their marriage, they lived at 245 Commonwealth with her father, and he maintained his office at 317 Marlborough.
Nathaniel Emmons died in April of 1926, and Channing and Eleanor Simmons moved thereafter to Brookline.
On February 1, 1928, 245 Commonwealth was purchased from Nathaniel Emmons’s estate and heirs by real estate dealer Ray C. Johnson.
The property subsequently changed hands and appears to have been unoccupied. It was not listed in the 1927-1930 Blue Books, nor in the 1927-1930 Lists of Residents, and was shown as vacant in the 1930 City Directory.
On April 25, 1930, 245 Commonwealth was acquired by Ethel G. (Carmichael) Ball, the wife of real estate dealer Edward J. Ball.
In June of 1930, Edward Ball applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into six apartments, including expanding the fourth floor and modifying the roof. The remodeling was designed by architect Albert J. Carpenter. Architectural plans for the remodeling — including a front elevation and floor plans — are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston City Archives (reference BIN P-78).
On November 12, 1930, 245 Commonwealth was acquired from Edith Ball by Charles Hemenway, and on December 17, 1931, the Institution for Savings in Roxbury and Its Vicinity foreclosed on its mortgage to Charles Hemenway and took possession of the property.
By 1935, the bank had converted the property into four apartments.
On April 16, 1943, 245 Commonwealth was acquired from the Institution for Savings in Roxbury by Louis Lissack and his two brothers-in-law, Harry Philip Abromson and Onne Abromson. Louis Lissack and his wife, Rose Molly (Abromson) Lissack, lived in Brookline. On May 1, 1946, he acquired the Abromsons’ interests in the property.
In March of 1947, Louis Lissack filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from four to five apartments.
Louis Lissack died in March of 1953.
On February 14, 1955, 245 Commonwealth was purchased from Louis Lissack’s estate by Sylvan A. Goodman and his wife, Harriet (Wilinsky) Goodman. They had lived in one of the apartments since about 1937. He was an attorney and, from 1943, she was an executive with Filene’s department store, serving as fashion director and later as director of sales promotions.
They continued to live at 245 Commonwealth until about 1961, when they moved to 51 Beacon.
On February 28, 1961, 245 Commonwealth was purchased from the Goodmans by Ellen (Humphreys) Hackett, the wife of Philip (born Elias Philip) J. Hackett, a pharmacist. They lived in one of the apartments. They previously had lived in Cambridge.
On March 29, 1962, she transferred the property to herself and her husband as trustees of the 245 Commonwealth Avenue Trust.
Philip Hackett died in February of 1987, and on July 1, 2002, Ellen Hackett transferred the property back into her own name. She died in June of 2005.
On February 28, 2006, 245 Commonwealth was purchased from the Hacketts’ daughter, Linda S. Hackett, by Edward J. Tutunian, trustee of the Adams Street Realty Trust.
On December 3, 2013, 245 Commonwealth was purchased from from Edward J. Tutunian, by the 245 Commonwealth Mainsail LLC (James E. Keliher, manager of record).
On February 2, 2014, 245 Commonwealth was purchased from the 245 Commonwealth Mainsail LLC by the 245 Commonwealth Ave LLC (Koby Kempel, manager of record).
In March of 2014, it filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the house, converting it into two units. As part of the remodeling, the top floor front was modified to add a dormer and modify the roof in a manner sympathetic with the original design of the house. The remodeling was designed by architect Thomas Trykowski of Silverman Trykowski Associates.
In April of 2015, the 245 Commonwealth Ave LLC converted the property into two condominium units, The 245 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.
Below are architectural renderings of the front façade of 245 Commonwealth submitted to the Back Bay Architectural Commission in 2014, showing (on the left) the façade as it existed in 2014 (remodeled in 1930) and (on the right) the proposed new façade (subsequently approved by the Commission and constructed); courtesy of Silverman Trykowski Associates.