264 Commonwealth was designed by architect Samuel D. Kelley, one of two contiguous houses (264-266 Commonwealth) designed in the same style and built in 1882-1883 by Antoine (Antonio) Xavier, mason, for building contractor John W. Shapleigh, for speculative sale. Samuel Kelly previously had designed three contiguous houses for John Shapleigh and his brother, Samuel M. Shapleigh, also a builder: two at 258-260 Commonwealth in 1879-1880, and a third at 262 Commonwealth in 1880. 262 Commonwealth was designed in a style closely similar to 264-266 Commonwealth.
John Shapleigh is shown as the owner on the original building permit application for 264 Commonwealth, dated October 30, 1882. He purchased the land for the house on September 30, 1882, from Charles H. Mann. It 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 264 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 1, 1883, 264 Commonwealth was purchased from John Shapleigh by Sarah Frances (Crosby) Hitchcock, the wife of John Hitchcock. They previously had lived at 20 Union Park.
John Hitchcock formerly had been a wholesale dry goods merchant and boot and shoe dealer, and until 1880 had served as president of the Commonwealth Insurance Company. By 1883, he was president of the Flexible Shoe Nail Company.
John Hitchcock died in November of 1884. Sarah Hitchcock continued to live at 264 Commonwealth with their son and daughter, John Hitchcock, Jr., an attorney, and Frances Emily Hitchcock.
John Hitchcock, Jr., married in April of 1893 to Esther Mary Baker. After their marriage, they lived at 117 Commonwealth with her mother, Mary Ann (Martyn) Baker, the widow of Ezra Howes Baker, Jr.
Frances Emily Hitchcock married in May of 1894 to William David Hunt, treasurer of the Suffolk Company, manufacturers of harnesses. Prior to their marriage, he had lived at 308 Beacon with his parents, David and Antoinette (White) Hunt. After their marriage, William and Frances Hunt lived at 264 Commonwealth with Sarah Hitchcock until about 1898, when they moved to Brookline.
In about 1901, Sarah Hitchcock was joined at 264 Commonwealth by her nephew, Horace Chenery, a real estate dealer. A widower, he was the son of Sarah Hitchcock’s brother and sister-in-law, Richard Chenery and Anna Marie (Crosby) Chenery. In December of 1901, he married again, to Julia Hendrie Lloyd. After their marriage, they lived at 264 Commonwealth with Sarah Hitchcock and also maintained a home in Belfast, Maine.
Sarah Hitchcock continued to live at 264 Commonwealth during the 1904-1905 winter season, but moved thereafter. Horace and Julia Chenery continued to live there during the 1905-1906 season, after which they moved to 490 Commonwealth.
On March 7, 1907, 264 Commonwealth was purchased from Sarah Hitchcock by the Boston Academy of the Sacred Heart. It acquired 266 Commonwealth on the same day. The Academy subsequently moved its school and convent from Chester Square to 264-266 Commonwealth.
On December 3, 1925, the Academy of the Sacred Heart sold 260-262-264-266 Commonwealth to Helen M. (Leland) Towle, the widow of real estate dealer Loren Delbert Towle, who had died in September of 1923. In exchange, the Academy acquired the recently completed Towle estate in Newton, where it moved, becoming the Newton Country Day School.
On March 14, 1927, 260-262-264-266 Commonwealth were purchased from Helen Towle by David Shikes and Philip Boris Long, real estate dealers, who converted the buildings into a lodging house. In February of 1927, they filed for (and subsequently received) permission to make interior improvements. The current and proposed use was stated as “lodging house and dormitories.”
By 1928, the lodging house at 260-262-264-266 Commonwealth was operated by Miss Helen M. Catlin and Miss Edith Ray Clapp. They previously had lived at 122 Newbury. The four buildings were operated as one property, with the address of 262 Commonwealth.
David Shikes died in August of 1937. His estate and Philip B. Long continued to own the buildings until 1942.
On June 2, 1942, Helen Towle foreclosed on the mortgage given by David Shikes and Philip Long when they purchased the property and took possession of 260-262-264-266 Commonwealth.
Helen Catlin and Edith Ray Clapp continued to operate the lodging house at 260-262-264-266 Commonwealth until about 1946, and probably until Helen Catlin’s death in February of 1947. Edith Ray Clapp moved thereafter to an apartment at 31 Fairfield.
In May of 1947, Morton Archer applied for (and subsequently received) permission to cut openings in the party wall with 260 Commonwealth to provide additional egress. In June of 1949, he applied for permission to install a fire balcony connecting with 258 Commonwealth. In that filing, the name “Goldberg” was crossed-off and replaced by Morton Archer’s name, as treasurer of M & N Hotels, Inc. (at 57 Bernard in Dorchester, Jacob Goldberg’s address).
On July 29, 1949, 260-262-264-266 Commonwealth were acquired from Morton Archer by Miss Josephine Mary Ward. She lived there and continued to operate the four buildings as a lodging house with the address of 262 Commonwealth. She previously had lived in Saugus with her parents, Philip Walter Ward and Ellen M. (Brennan) Ward.
Also living at 262 Commonwealth was Miss Helen Bridget Walsh, a former nurse, who may have assisted Josephine Ward in managing the lodging house.
In January of 1954, she applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 260 Commonwealth from a lodging house into a lodging house and one apartment, and to convert 266 Commonwealth from a lodging house into a lodging house and two apartments. 262-264 Commonwealth remained lodging houses.
Josephine Ward’s father died in 1954 and in about 1958 her mother, Ellen (Brennan) Ward, joined her at 262 Commonwealth. She previously had lived in an apartment at 470 Beacon and, before that, in Saugus.
Josephine Ward and her mother continued to live at 262 Commonwealth until about 1960, when they moved to 29 Hereford. Helen Walsh moved with them.
In October of 1960, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 264 Commonwealth from a lodging house into a dormitory.
In May of 1962, Chamberlayne purchased the former Professional Building at 270 Commonwealth and converted it into a dormitory. It purchased 274–276 Commonwealth at the same time, and in June of 1966 it acquired 278–280–282 Commonwealth.
Chamberlayne went bankrupt in the mid-1970s and sold many of its properties.
In February of 1977, George J. Brennan, Jr., Rocco Losano, Louis Musco, and Frank Carroll (doing business as Commonwealth Management Associates, also known as Garden Halls Dormitories) purchased 260 and 262 Commonwealth from Chamberlayne.
264-266-270 Commonwealth remained the property of the Stratford Foundation, successor to Chamberlayne School and Chamberlayne Junior College, and continued to be dormitories in the 1980s.
On November 6, 1989, 264-266-270 Commonwealth were purchased from the Stratford Foundation by Berklee College of Music.
264-266-270 Commonwealth remained Berklee College dormitories in 2021.