265 Commonwealth was designed by Peabody and Stearns, architects, and built in 1880-1881 by Vinal & Dodge, masons, and Andrew Anderson, carpenter, as the home of Francis Henry Appleton and his wife, Fanny Rollins (Tappan) Appleton.
Francis Appleton is shown as the owner of 265 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated April 17, 1880. He purchased the land for the house on February 21, 1880, from Thomas Jefferson Coolidge, part of a larger parcel T. Jefferson Coolidge had assembled through several purchases. The land originally was part of one of several parcels purchased on January 29, 1866, from the Boston Water Power Company by a real estate investment trust formed by John Templeman Coolidge, Franklin Evans, and Charles Henry Parker. The trust had 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 265 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Commonwealth and Alley 427, from Fairfield to Gloucester.
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. In addition to Vinal & Dodge, masons, and Andrew Anderson, carpenter, who were named on the original building permit application, the plans also name A. C. Sanborn & Co. (granite), Jacob Wolf & Son (freestone), 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 and Fanny Appleton had made 265 Commonwealth their home by the 1881-1882 winter season. Fanny Appleton’s mother, Elizabeth (Rollins) Tappan, the widow of Sewall Tappan, lived with them. The Appletons had lived with Mrs. Tappan at 155 Beacon and, before that, at 167 Beacon.
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.
The Appletons also maintained a home and farm on Suntaug Lake in Lynnfield/Peabody where he bred Ayrshire cattle.
The Appletons and Mrs. Tappan continued to live at 265 Commonwealth during the 1885-1886 winter season, but moved thereafter to a new home they had built at 251 Marlborough.
On November 24, 1885, 265 Commonwealth was purchased from Francis Appleton by a trust established under the will of shipping merchant Richard Baker, Jr. It became the home of his son-in-law and daughter, Thomas Owen Richardson and 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 at 152 Commonwealth with her widowed mother, Ellen M. (Whittemore) Baker.
Thomas Richardson was a leather merchant.
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 of 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 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 home in Newport. She appears not to have returned to Boston for several years (and probably was living in Newport). The trust established under her father’s will continued to own 265 Commonwealth and lease it to others.
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 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 Mary (Vinton) Clark, the widow of Randolph Marshall Clark, who had been treasurer of the Boston Elastic Fabric Company. She had lived at 139 Beacon during the 1891-1892 season. She also maintained a home, Glen Elsinore, in Pomfret, Connecticut.
Her daughters, Eleanor Vinton Clark and Ethel Randolph Clark, lived with her.
Ethel Clark married in June of 1898 to Ezra Ripley Thayer, an attorney and later Dean of Harvard Law School, and they moved to 7 Fairfield. Mary and Eleanor Clark continued to live at 265 Commonwealth until January of 1899, when they moved to Washington DC. In July of 1900, Eleanor Clark married to Dr. Thomas Morris Murray, a physician in Washington.
For the remainder of the 1899 winter season, 265 Commonwealth was the home of Thacher Loring and his wife, Margaret Fuller (Channing) Loring. He was president and treasurer of the National Dock and Warehouse Company, founded by his father, Elisha Thacher Loring. The Lorings’ usual residence was in Brookline, where they continued to live until 1905, when they purchased and moved to 35 Marlborough.
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 and manager of trust properties. They had lived at 312 Marlborough during the previous season. They also maintained a home on Pond Road in Jamaica Plain.
By mid-1900, Mary (Baker) 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). They also maintained a home, Riverhouse, in Manchester, Massachusetts. Ezra Fitch was president of the American Waltham Watch Company.
The Fitchs’ four surviving children lived with them: Mary Augusta Fitch, Conover Fitch, Ezra Charles Fitch, Jr., and Helen L. Fitch.
Mary Fitch married in May of 1903 to Frank Northen, a barrister in London; they lived in England after their marriage.
Conover Fitch joined the Waltham Watch Company after graduating from Harvard in 1901. He continued to live with his parents at 265 Commonwealth until his marriage in September of 1909 to Gladys Bogert. After their marriage, they lived in Brookline.
Ezra Fitch, Jr., also joined the Waltham Watch Company and worked in the Montreal and Chicago offices, maintaining his Boston home with his parents. He married in November of 1906 to Mrs. Ethel (Tucker) Lindsay, the former wife of Archibald L. Lindsay. After their marriage, they lived in Montreal and then, by 1910, in Brookline. In August of 1917, he enlisted in the Fifth Royal Highlanders of Canada (Black Watch). He died in October of 1917 in Hartford while working as a recruiter for the Canadian and British armed services.
On October 11, 1910, the trust established under Richard Baker, Jr.’s will transferred 265 Commonwealth to Mary (Baker) Richardson.
Ezra and Helen Fitch and their daughter, Helen, 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 Alice (Greenwood) Howe, the widow of George Dudley Howe. She previously had lived at 59 Commonwealth. She also maintained a 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. They also maintained a home, Mill Farm, in Dover, Massachusetts, which they sold in January of 1925 to Miss Amelia Peabody of 120 Commonwealth. The Goodwins subsequently summered in Manchester and then, by 1928, in Wenham.
Mary (Baker) Richardson died in October of 1924 in Florence, Italy, and on October 1, 1925, 265 Commonwealth was purchased from her estate by Juliet Goodwin.
The Goodwins continued to live at 265 Commonwealth until Frederic Goodwin’s death in May of 1941.
On December 1, 1941, 265 Commonwealth was purchased by Lillian Maud (Writer) Shooshan, the wife of Dikran Manoog Shooshan. They previously had lived at 12 St. Botolph. In February of 1943, Lillian Shooshan 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.
On August 6, 1945, 265 Commonwealth was acquired from Lillian Shooshan by Hans Rudolph (Rudolf) Giger and Richard W. Langenbach, partners in the Longwood Engineering Company. In August of 1945, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into nine apartments.
On July 22, 1946, 265 Commonwealth was acquired from Longwood Engineering by Byron Randlett Switzer, a civil engineer, and his wife, Catherine (Rauser) Frick Switzer. They lived in Wellesley and later in Salem, New Hampshire. On December 13, 1955, they transferred the property to B. R. Switzer, Inc.
On March 27, 1958, 265 Commonwealth was acquired from B. R. Switzer, Inc., by Paul Lepoutre and his wife, Corinne Berthe Lepoutre. They lived in one of the apartments. They previously had lived in Wiscasset, Maine.
On March 16, 1959, 265 Commonwealth was acquired from the Lepoutres by Frances (Francesca) (DiTavi) Garufo, the widow of Carmelo Garufo. She previously had lived at 408 Hanover. She was a dressmaker and lived in one of the apartments.
On December 9, 1981, she transferred the property to her children, Carmen (Carmelo) M. Garufo and Phyllis (Philomine) (Garufo) Anzalone, as trustees of the Frances Garufo Family Trust.
On June 6, 2007, Phyllis Anzalone filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as seven units, which was the existing condition.
On August 31, 2007, 265 Commonwealth was purchased from the Frances Garufo Family Trust by Robert A. Vigoda, trustee of the 265 Commonwealth Avenue Nominee Trust. 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 2020.