252 Commonwealth was designed by architect Samuel D. Kelley and built in 1879-1880 by Samuel M. Shapleigh, builder, for speculative sale.
Samuel Shapleigh is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated April 1, 1879, and on the final building inspection report, dated October 5, 1880. He purchased the land for 252 Commonwealth on March 19, 1879, from George B. Hyde. The lot was part of a larger parcel George Hyde had acquired on November 19, 1875, from a real estate investment trust that his nephew, Henry Dwight Hyde, had formed with Nathan Matthews and Grenville T. W. Braman. The land had changed hands several times and was part of a parcel previously owned by Nathan Matthews, part of an even larger tract he had purchased on January 2, 1871, from David Sears, Jr., Frederick R. Sears, and Knyvet Sears.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 252 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 432, from Fairfield to Gloucester.
On September 25, 1879, 252 Commonwealth was purchased from Samuel Shapleigh by Annie A. (Ober) Richardson, the wife of retired iron merchant George R. Richardson. They previously had lived at 75 Rutland. They also maintained a home in Swampscott. Their two sons, George Ober Richardson and Jeffrey Richardson, lived with them.
Jeffrey Richardson married in September of 1895 to Caroline Louise Davis. He was cashier of the West End Street Railway Company. After their marriage, they lived in Brookline.
George Richardson died in May of 1897. Annie Richardson continued to live at 252 Commonwealth with their son, George.
George Ober Richardson, a real estate trustee, married in October of 1897 to Lucy Taylor Allen of 387 Commonwealth. After their marriage, they lived at 252 Commonwealth with his mother.
They all continued to live there during the 1908-1909 winter season, but moved thereafter, Annie Richardson to The Charlesgate at 535 Beacon, and George and Lucy Richardson to Jamaica Plain.
On September 7, 1909, 252 Commonwealth was purchased from Annie Richardson by real estate dealer Augustus H. Ellis. He was unmarried and lived at 252 Commonwealth with his sister, Angeline S. (Ellis) Josselyn, the widow of Francis R. Josselyn. They previously had lived at 371 Beacon.
Angeline Josselyn continued to live at 252 Commonwealth until her death in January of 1929, and he continued to live there until his death in November of 1939.
On March 29, 1940, 252 Commonwealth was acquired from Augustus Ellis’s estate by James F. O’Brien, Jr.
The property subsequently changed hands and was acquired on December 18, 1940, by Harold Horatio Cram. He was treasurer of the Fenway Storage Warehouse Company. He and his wife, Louise Helen (Sarnie) Cram, lived in Medford.
On March 2, 1942, the Home Owners Federal Savings and Loan foreclosed on its mortgage to Harold Cram and took possession of 252 Commonwealth.
The house was shown as vacant in the 1940-1942 City Directories.
On May 4, 1942, 252 Commonwealth was acquired from Home Owners Federal Savings by Pearl Lois (Workman) Burnley, the wife of Walter H. Burnley. They previously had lived at 249 Newbury. Walter Burnley was a house painter, then a machinist, then a salesman, and then a tool maker.
In May of 1942, Pearl Burnley applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house.
The Burnleys continued to live at 252 Commonwealth and operate it as a lodging house until the early 1970s.
On February 1, 1971, 252 Commonwealth was acquired from Pearl Burnley by Miss Florence Beth Pockwinse. She lived at 31 Brimmer and owned several other properties in the Back Bay, most of which she operated as lodging houses.
On July 12, 1978, 252 Commonwealth was purchased from Florence Beth Pockwinse by Roy Nick McPherson, Jasenka Diminic, Mary Alice Boelter, and Steven J. Fugarazzo. That same month, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into six apartments.
On August 1, 1979, they converted the property into six condominium units, the 252 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.