265 Commonwealth was designed by Peabody and Stearns, architects, and built in 1880 by Vinal & Dodge and Andrew Anderson, builders. It was built as the home of Francis Henry Appleton and his wife, Fanny Rollins (Tappan) Appleton. He is shown as the owner of 265 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated April 17, 1880, and on the 1883 Bromley map.
Plans for house are included in the Peabody and Stearns Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference PS/MA.015). The plans refer to an April 12, 1880, contract with the firms and individuals who built the house, including Andrew Anderson (carpenter), A. C. Sanborn & Co. (granite), Jacob Wolf & Son (freestone), Vinal and Dodge (masons), John Kelley (plasterer), G. W. & F. Smith (iron works), Daniel G. Finnerty (plumber), Page & Littlefield (stair builders), Charles S. Parker & Sons (roofers), and James I. Wingate (painter).
Click here to view the original plans for 265 Commonwealth.
Francis Henry Appleton served in the First Corps Cadets from 1870, rising to the rank of Captain in 1879. In 1897, he was named Commissioner General of Massachusetts, retiring in 1900 with the rank of Major General. He also maintained a farm in Peabody.
Fanny Appleton’s mother, Elizabeth (Rollins) Tappan, the widow of Sewall Tappan, lived with them. She previously had lived at 155 Beacon. The Appletons had lived there with her during the previous season, and before that at 167 Beacon.
The Appletons and Mrs. Tappan continued to live at 265 Commonwealth during the 1885-1886 winter season, but moved soon thereafter to a new home they had built at 251 Marlborough.
By the 1886-1887 winter season, 265 Commonwealth was the home of leather merchant Thomas Owen Richardson and his wife Mary Rich (Baker) Richardson. They had married in June of 1885 and lived briefly at 131 Marlborough. Before their marriage, he had lived at 319 Dartmouth and she had lived with her mother, Ellen M. Baker (the widow of shipping merchant Richard Baker, Jr.) at 152 Commonwealth.
The house had been acquired by the estate of Mary (Baker) Richardson’s father: Ellen M. Baker et al, trustees, are shown as the owners of 265 Commonwealth on the 1888 and 1898 Bromley maps.
The Richardsons continued to live at 265 Commonwealth in 1893. They also maintained homes in Petersham, New Hampshire, and York Beach, Maine, and also spent summers at the Bakers’ home, Westcliff, in Newport.
In May of 1893, Thomas Richardson’s leather business failed, and in September he was charged with defrauding a number banks and merchants (most notably Baring Brothers & Co. of London and their Boston representatives, Kidder, Peabody & Co.). He disappeared from Boston and in November was seen by an acquaintance, traveling (apparently on pleasure) in China and Japan. He does not appear to have returned to New England.
At the time the warrant for his arrest was announced, Mary (Baker) Richardson was living at her family’s summer home in Newport. She appears not to have returned to Boston for several years (probably living in Newport), but continued to own 265 Commonwealth: Ellen M. Baker et al, trustees, continued to be shown as the owners on the 1908 Bromley map (even though Ellen Baker had died in 1896), and Mary R. Richardson is shown as the owner on the 1912 and 1917 maps. She continued to own the house until her death in October of 1924.
During the 1894-1895 winter season, it was the home of Abbott Lawrence Rotch, professor of meteorology at Harvard, and his wife Margaret Randolph (Anderson) Rotch. They had been married in November of 1893 and 265 Commonwealth probably was their first home together. Prior to their marriage, he had lived at 3 Commonwealth with his mother, Annie Bigelow (Lawrence) Rotch, the widow of Benjamin Smith Rotch. By the 1895-1896 winter season, A. Lawrence and Margaret Rotch had moved to 235 Commonwealth.
By the 1895-1896 winter season, 265 Commonwealth was the home of Mrs. Mary (Vinton) Clark, the widow of Randolph Marshall Clark, who had been treasurer of the Boston Elastic Fabric Company, and their daughters, Eleanor Vinton Clark and Ethel Randolph Clark.
Ethel Clark married in June of 1898 to Ezra Ripley Thayer, an attorney and later Dean of Harvard Business School, and they moved to 7 Fairfield. Mary and Eleanor Clark continued to live at 265 Commonwealth during the 1898-1899 winter season, but had moved to Pomfret, Connecticut, by 1900.
During the 1899-1900 winter season, 265 Commonwealth was the home of Alfred Bowditch and his wife, Mary Louisa (Rice) Bowditch. He was a trustee. They had lived at 312 Marlborough during the previous winter season. They also maintained a home on Pond Road in Jamaica Plain.
By mid-1900, Mary Richardson was once again living at 265 Commonwealth, listed alone (with her servants) in the 1900 US Census and shown as “Miss Richardson” in the 1901 Blue Book.
By the 1901-1902 winter season, 265 Commonwealth was the home of Ezra Charles Fitch and his wife, Helen Louisa (Stevens) Fitch. They previously had lived at the Hotel Touraine (southeast corner of Boylston and Tremont). Ezra Fitch was president of the American Waltham Watch Company.
They continued to live there during the 1911-1912 season, but moved soon thereafter to 246 Beacon.
By the 1912-1913 winter season, 265 Commonwealth was the home of Philip Leffingwell Spalding and his wife, Katherine Hobart (Ames) Spalding. They previously had lived in Philadelphia. He was president of the New England Telephone & Telegraph Company. By 1914, they had moved to 283 Commonwealth.
By the 1913-1914 winter season, 265 Commonwealth was the home of Mrs. Alice (Greenwood) Howe, the widow of George Dudley Howe. She previously had lived at 59 Commonwealth. She also maintained a summer home in Manchester.
Alice Howe was a close friend of the author, Sarah Orne Jewett, who dedicated her book, The Country of the Pointed Firs, to her.
By the 1924-1925 winter season, 265 Commonwealth was the home of attorney Frederic Sprague Goodwin and his wife Juliet Borland (Higginson) Goodwin. They previously had lived at 390 Beacon.
The Goodwins first leased the house from the estate of Mary Richardson (who died in October of 1924) and then purchased it from the estate. The transaction was reported in the Boston Globe on October 23, 1925. Juliet B. H. Goodwin is shown as the owner of 265 Commonwealth on the 1928 and 1938 Bromley maps, and was the assessed owner through 1941. They also maintained a home in Manchester (in 1927, and probably before), and later in Wenham (from 1928).
They continued to live at 265 Commonwealth until his death in May of 1941.
The property changed hands and by 1943 was owned by Dikran Manoog Shooshan and his wife, Lillian Maud (Writer) Shooshan. They previously had lived at 12 St. Botolph. Lillian Shooshan was the assessed owner of 265 Commonwealth from 1943 through 1945. In February of 1943, she filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into a lodging house. Dikran Shooshan died in 1943. Lillian Shooshan continued to live at 265 Commonwealth until about 1945.
By 1945, 265 Commonwealth was owned by the Longwood Engineering Company. In August of 1945, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into nine apartments.
The property changed hands and in March of 1959 was acquired by Miss Frances Garufo. In December of 1981, she transferred the property to Carmen M. Garufo and Phyllis Anzalone, trustees of the Frances Garufo Family Trust.
In June of 2007, Phyllis Anzalone filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as seven units, which was the existing condition.
In August of 2007, Robert A. Vigoda, trustee of the 265 Commonwealth Avenue Nominee Trust, purchased 265 Commonwealth from Carmen M. Garufo and Phyllis Anzalone. In October of 2007, the Trust filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from seven units into a two-family dwelling.
It remained a two-family dwelling in 2014.