25 Exeter (196 Commonwealth) is located on the SW corner of Commonwealth and Exeter, with 192 Commonwealth to the east, across Exeter, 198 Commonwealth to the west, 19 Exeter to the north, across Commonwealth, and 201 Newbury to the south, across Alley 433.
25 Exeter and 196 Commonwealth were designed by Peabody and Stearns, architects. Both were built in the early 1880s and remained separate properties until 2007, when they were combined into one single-family dwelling, with the address of 25 Exeter.
25 Exeter was built in 1882 by H. McLaughlin and McNeil Brothers, builders, for Nathan Matthews. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated May 29, 1882.
Nathan Matthews was a real estate investor, formerly the president of the Winnisimmet Company, which developed large areas of Chelsea, and (between 1860 and 1870) the president of the Boston Water Power Company, which developed portions of the Back Bay. He and his wife, Albertine (Bunker) Matthews, lived at 145 Beacon; it does not appear that they ever lived at 25 Exeter.
By 1885, 25 Exeter was the home of William Bliss and his wife, Margaret (Chapin) Bliss. They had lived in Springfield in 1880 and at the Hotel Cluny, 543 (233) Boylston, in 1884. Margaret Bliss is shown as the owner of 25 Exeter on the 1888 and 1895 Bromley maps.
William Bliss was president of the Boston and Albany Railroad.
Margaret Bliss died in March of 1895. William Bliss continued to live at 25 Exeter. By 1904, he was joined by his son-in-law and daughter, Hamilton Perkins and Elizabeth (Bliss) Perkins and their daughter, Margaret Bliss Perkins. A former career naval officer, Hamilton Perkins was freight agent for the Boston and Albany Railroad.
The Heirs of Margaret Bliss are shown as the owners of 25 Exeter on the 1898 and 1908 Bromley maps.
William Bliss died in December of 1907 and the Perkins moved soon thereafter to 415 Commonwealth.
By the 1908-1909 winter season, 25 Exeter was the home of paper manufacturer Charles Ellis Mason and his wife, Elizabeth (Andrew) Mason. They previously had lived at 8 Gloucester. Elizabeth Mason is shown as the owner of 25 Exeter on the 1912, 1917, and 1928 Bromley maps.
The Masons lived elsewhere for the next several years and appear to have leased the house to others.
During the 1909-1910 winter season, it was the home of Chester Whitin Lasell and his wife, Jessie Maude (Keeler) Lasell. He was a manufacturer of cotton machinery in Northbridge, where they made their permanent home.
By the 1910- 1911 winter season, 25 Exeter was the home of ornithologist John Eliot Thayer and his wife, Evelyn Duncan (Forbes) Thayer. They had lived at 251 Commonwealth during the previous season. They continued to live at 25 Exeter during the 1913-1914 season, but moved soon thereafter to 301 Berkeley.
By the 1914-1915 winter season, 25 Exeter was once again the home of Charles and Elizabeth Mason.
The Masons also maintained a summer home in Hingham on Martins Lane (probably the Andrew family home, inasmuch as Elizabeth Andrew and her sister, Cornelia, had lived there with their aunt, Edith Andrew, at the time of the 1900 US Census).
The Masons continued to live at 25 Exeter until about 1936, when they moved to 61 Marlborough.
In the spring of 1936, 25 Exeter was purchased from the Masons by real estate broker John Hamilton Morse and his wife Alice (Willard) Morse. The sale was reported by the Boston Globe on March 22, 1936.
The Morses appear to have attempted to use the property in a series of ways.
In April of 1936, Alice Morse filed for permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into ten apartments and, although the use was granted by the Board of Appeal, the permit was abandoned. In May of 1940, John Morse filed for permission to convert it from a single-family dwelling into a single-family dwelling and restaurant. Again, their proposal was approved by the Board of Appeal, but appears never have been realized.
The house was shown as vacant in the City Directories from 1937 through 1946, and was not listed in the Boston Lists of Residents for the same period.
In January of 1945, John Morse filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house into medical offices. The permit was once again abandoned.
In June of 1946, D & S Real Estate, Inc., filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house from a single-family dwelling into offices and two apartments.
By mid-1960s, 25 Exeter was the home of Rev. Ann Wigmore and the location of her Rising Sun Christianity, Inc., which probably purchased the property at about that time. It also continued to be the location of the Bible Research Library Society, a travel agency, and several apartments.
Ann Wigmore and Rising Sun Christianity promoted the medicinal value of sprouts, weeds, and wheat grass juice. In a February 17, 1994, article about her death, the Boston Globe described her career as follows: “Wigmore, 84, was well-known for espousing the healing value of foods such as sprouts and wheat grass juice. Although she was not a medical doctor, she was often called ‘Doctor Ann’ by many who attended her classes in the Back Bay or her operation in Puerto Rico. She taught, among other things, how to grow sprouts and wheat grass, and prepare ‘living foods’ such as ‘rejuvelac’ — a beverage made of the residue of sprouted wheatberries soaked in water for two days.”
In 1974, Rising Sun Christianity received Board of Appeal approval to convert the property into a church, holistic school, and ten lodging units, with a sunset provision of five years. In 1980, the Board of Appeal extended the use, with provisos that the use would expire if Ann Wigmore no longer was a director of the organization or if the title to the property were to change.
In June of 1982, Rising Sun Christianity also acquired 196 Commonwealth, and in October of that year it changed its name to the Hippocrates Health Institute, Inc.
The Institute continued to be located at both 25 Exeter and 196 Commonwealth until 1986, when it consolidated its activities at 196 Commonwealth
In April of 1986, Robert Banker and Alan E. Lewis, trustees of the Commex Realty Trust, purchased 25 Exeter from the Hippocrates Health Institute.
In May of 1987, Michael Correra purchased 25 Exeter from the Commex Realty Trust. In June of 1989, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as offices and two apartments located on the fourth floor.
The property changed hands and in November of 1991 was acquired by Gerald and Ann Zaltman. In December of 1991, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into three apartments. And in June of 1997, they converted the three apartments into condominiums.
Over the next ten years, the three condominiums were acquired by one owner, who also owned the single-family home at 196 Commonwealth.
196 Commonwealth was built in 1881 by A. Anderson and D. Connery & Co., builders, as the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Elliot (Torrey) Spooner, the widow of Daniel Nicolson Spooner. Their unmarried daughters, Ellen and Mary, lived with her. They previously had lived temporarily at 186 Beacon and, before that, at 23 Commonwealth.
Daniel Spooner had been a partner in the China shipping firm of Russell & Co. He and Elizabeth had resided in Canton from about 1852 until about 1857, when they returned from China to Boston and he became a merchant. By 1865, he was treasurer of the Great Falls Manufacturing Company, a textile mill in Somersworth, New Hampshire. He died in August of 1869.
During the 1888-1887 winter season, Elizabeth Spooner and her daughters were living elsewhere and 196 Commonwealth was the home of iron merchant and banker Eustace C. Fitz and his wife, Sarah J. (Blanchard) Fitz. They previously had lived in Chelsea. They continued to live at 196 Commonwealth through the 1888-1889 season (by which time the Spooners were living at 333 Beacon), but had moved to 253 Commonwealth by the 1889-1890 season.
Elizabeth Spooner and her daughters resumed living at 196 Commonwealth during the 1889-1890 winter season, but moved thereafter to The Huntington at the corner of Blagden and Huntington. By the 1892-1893 season, they were at the Thorndike at 230-240 Boylston. And by the 1893-1894 season, they were living at 341 Beacon.
During the 1890-1891 winter season, 196 Beacon was the home of Thomas Reed Wheelock and his wife, Edith Haswell (Clarke) Wheelock. They previously had lived at 367 Beacon. He was a ship broker doing business in Shanghai. By the 1891-1892 season, the had moved to 283 Commonwealth.
196 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1892 Blue Book.
By the 1892-1893 winter season, 196 Commonwealth was the home of George Fordyce Blake and his wife, Martha Jane (Skinner) Blake. They previously had lived in Belmont. Their unmarried daughters — Jennie Maria Blake and Alice Norton Blake — lived with them. He is shown as the owner of 196 Commonwealth on the 1895 and 1898 Bromley maps. They also maintained a summer home at Phillips Beach.
George Blake was a manufacturer of brick-making equipment and steam pumps.
Jennie Blake married in April of 1895 to Arthur Stoddard Johnson. He was trustee of his family’s estate and various other properties. After their marriage, they lived at 258 Commonwealth.
Martha Blake died in June of 1897. George Blake continued to live at 196 Commonwealth with their daughter, Alice.
Alice Blake married in June of 1901 to attorney James Montgomery Newell, After their marriage, they lived at196 Commonwealth with her father.
George Blake died in July of 1904. James and Alice Newell continued to live at 196 Commonwealth after his death, and Alice Newell is shown as the owner on the 1908, 1917, 1928, and 1938 Bromley maps. They also maintained a summer home in Nahant.
James Newell died in December of 1939. Alice Newell continued to live at 196 Commonwealth until her death in September of 1957.
By 1959, 196 Commonwealth had become Hebron House, a religious center of the Max Isaac Reich Memorial Foundation devoted to “promoting Christianity among the Jews”.
In January of 1960, the Foundation filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a religious office and single-family dwelling. The application indicated that on the first floor would be a small chapel, reception room, and reading room; on the second floor there would be a library and prayer-conference room; on the third floor there would be offices, a conference room, and a guest room and bath; and on the fourth floor would be a small apartment for single occupant.
In March of 1967, Dr. Kenneth Warren Steere, a physician, and his wife, Ruth Ellen (Hanson) Crawford Steere, purchased 196 Commonwealth. Hebron House continued to be located there in 1970, but by 1972, 196 Commonwealth had become the Steeres’ home and his medical office. They continued live (and he to maintain his medical offices) there in 1981.
In June of 1982, 196 Commonwealth was purchased from the Steeres by Rising Sun Christianity, Inc. controlled by Ann Wigmore. Her organization had been located at 25 Exeter, next door, since the early 1960s. Kenneth Steere died one month later, in July of 1982.
In October of 1982, Rising Sun Christianity changed its name to the Hippocrates Health Institute, Inc. It continued to be located in both 25 Exeter and 196 Commonwealth until 1986, when it consolidated its activities at 196 Commonwealth and sold 25 Exeter. 196 Commonwealth became Ann Wigmore’s home as well as the location of her classes.
In October 1992, the Institute changed its name again, to The Ann Wigmore Foundation, Inc.
On February 16, 1994, 196 Commonwealth damaged by a fire which resulted in Ann Wigmore’s death, the victim of smoke inhalation. The house was sold by the Foundation in September of 1994.
The property subsequently changed hands and in July of 1996 was purchased by Vincent D. Mignosa. In October of 1996, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property back into a single-family dwelling.
The property subsequently was acquired by the owner of the three condominiums at 25 Exeter and in October of 2007, 196 Commonwealth and 25 Exeter were combined into one single-family dwelling, with the address of 25 Exeter.